Hill expects budgets ‘woefully inadequate’

Sandra ClarkGet Up & Go, Karns

Terry Hill will be joining the Knox County Commission in September 2020, leaving her elective position on the Knox County Board of Education midway through her second term. The county commission will select somebody from District 6 to fill out her term.

Hill is unopposed for commission, replacing Brad Anders. She sees budget trouble ahead.

“All the new people (coming into office in September) will be looking at a budget that’s already made and is woefully inadequate.”

Both the school board and the commission will adopt a budget this summer, based on sales tax projections that include a six-weeks business shutdown.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Hill urged residents to stay strong. “Those of us with the luxury of being at home with our children should look for personal growth. (The shutdown period) will be what people choose to make it be.”

A school social worker before resigning to run in 2014, Hill says most of the school system’s 60,000 students “have secure homes where they feel safe. And that support system is still there for them.” But, of course, the students who lacked security before the shutdown are still in that position. And the social distancing rules and daycare closures have made it harder for volunteers to plug in to help them.

Knox County Schools has instituted a 10-noon Wednesday food and curriculum packet distribution at selected schools. Hill has noticed some volunteers there. One group handed out crayons and coloring books.

“The kids are excited to see familiar faces,” she said. “The public and private sectors have stepped up. There’s just no reason for a kid to be hungry in Knox County.”

County Commissioner Brad Anders and school board chair Terry Hill are happy to represent Northwest Knox County, which is experiencing a population boom that makes the case for a new elementary school. (File photo)

School board legacy: Hill came onto the board with Patti Bounds and Amber Rountree – two former teachers who had problems with the administration of then-Superintendent Jim McIntyre, including state-mandated teacher evaluations and excessive testing. Looking toward 2016, McIntyre saw former teachers Tony Norman (unopposed) and Jennifer Owen, plus Susan Horn likely to replace his allies Doug Harris, Tracie Sanger and Karen Carson. McIntyre negotiated a severance deal and left in July 2016.

Bob Thomas, a finalist for the top job when McIntyre was hired in 2008, was appointed superintendent in March 2017.

Hill is pleased with his leadership. “Bob has done a very good job. In many ways he has tried to do for the system what I did for the board – return civility and find middle ground. … And during the last few weeks, he and his team have absolutely worked themselves silly.”

Thomas has imposed a hiring freeze except for hard-to-fill positions such as special ed, math and science teachers. He opted to honor contracts and pay teachers, bus contractors and support staff through the shutdown – a move Hill says was the right thing.

She is disappointed that anticipated initiatives and a sizable pay raise just won’t happen. Rosy revenue projections quickly turned gray with the shutdown.

Looking ahead: Hill expects to study and learn about land use, budgeting and other issues handled by Knox County Commission. She plans to spend time with Anders saying, “He knows specific needs in the district. I’ve got big shoes to fill but will do my best to make the right decisions for the most people.”

Sandra Clark looks for volunteers and community activists to feature each Wednesday. If you’ve got a suggestion, email her at sandra.clark@KnoxTNToday.com.

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