Commissioner’s event brings lively school discussion

Betsy PickleSouth Knox

You never know what will be on the menu when Knox County Commissioner Carson Dailey holds one of his “Ask the Commissioner” events at a SoKno eatery.

Sometimes it will be a complaint about roads. Or overgrown grass in a right-of-way. At the latest “Ask,” things got spirited and in-depth when the subject of school testing came up.

Dailey has been inviting the South Knox school board member, Amber Rountree, to headline the sessions with him, and her presence paid off when Dailey and a group of SoKno residents settled in at a table at G&D Deli, 612 Tipton Station Road.

Matt Myers, a SoKno resident and director of procurement for Knox County, gets ready to dig into a brownie sundae delivered to him by G&D Deli co-owner Jeremiah Roberson.

It had been all fun and games – and brownie sundaes – until George Johnson showed up. Johnson, who also likes to keep City Council member Nick Pavlis on his toes at his quarterly Coffee With the Councilman events, wanted to complain about school testing, and he came equipped with figures and questions.

“It’s a big business, to the tune of millions and millions of dollars,” said Rountree.

Johnson suggested that the Precision Testing model, which uses a rotating bank of questions, would be an improvement over the current one.

Johnson also (jokingly, sort of) noted that data on third-grade reading levels in Tennessee indicates future academic failure and said he “got a wild hair” and prodded state Rep. Eddie Smith and state Sen. Becky Massey about what could be done.

“I told Smith and Massey, why don’t we make it illegal for students to graduate from third grade if they can’t read, and we’ll fine everybody from the governor on down? They agreed.”

Rountree, who is working on her doctorate in education, specializing in literacy, said the problem begins earlier, as soon as students start in pre-K and kindergarten. One of the reasons is that so many children are living in poverty and aren’t starting at the same level as other kids, she said.

“For the first time ever in Knox County Schools, we have 50 percent of our kids receiving free and reduced lunch,” she noted as an economic indicator.

The exchange went on at length and included input from most of the attendees. It was the longest and possibly most productive “Ask” Dailey has held so far.

Dailey schedules his events for the fourth Tuesday of each month, from 5-7 p.m. The next will be July 25 at “Love” That B-B-Q, 1901 Maryville Pike.

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