Guest column: Technology in the classroom

In 2012, the scientific community was shocked to see six Italian scientists arrested and placed on trial for the manslaughter of 309 people. How did they manage to kill 309 people? Easy: They failed to predict an earthquake.

As insane as it sounds, two years later these scientists are still stuck in an appeal process, and they are still facing a potential six years in prison. Now long off everyone’s radar, the questions this prosecution poses to Western civilization have faded from our memory.

At stake and at issue are the underlying ideologies of what our machines and the data they generate actually mean to us as human beings. Unfortunately, these ideologies remain in the background of our educational and technological decision-making. The lives and the minds of our students are rapidly becoming intertwined with their technologies and the haste we feel in harnessing this cultural phenomenon is driven by a competitive economic desire to “stay ahead” of the technological curve.

With the exception of perhaps a few hold-over “Luddites,” no one I know is against the use of technology in the classroom. On the flip side, however, I must say that in all my conversations about classroom technology, I have never—not even once—heard a citizen or educator discuss what the use of that technology actually means to a human being. [Read more...]


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Letter: Wells would bring conservative values, ethics to school board

To the Editor:

Aaron Wells is holding a fundraiser this Thursday night, September 25, between 6 and 8 p.m. at Razzleberry’s in Jackson Square. He is running for a non-partisan seat on the Oak Ridge Board of Education. Congressman Fleischmann and Lawrence Hahn will be attending the event, and Anne and I would love to see you there.

Aaron values the importance of inspiring, high quality teachers in education. He wants to help Oak Ridge schools maintain their superb reputation in the future, especially since his own child will be going through this school system. [Read more...]

Guest column: Oak Ridge—moving ahead!

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

In December of 2013, the City of Oak Ridge was given a Christmas present: a strong, viable prospective property owner that would help reclaim the center of our precious city. Crosland Southeast, well-respected developers from North Carolina, came to our city and said they could help us redevelop the crumbling mall within our city. This mall, newly named Main Street Oak Ridge, had come to symbolize the ultimate development challenge for our city.

Now, 10 months later, the time has come for the details of our work to begin to come out in the open. This project has taken several courses. First, the City of Oak Ridge and Anderson County said that they would support the development of this project with what is known as a tax increment district, or TIF. The governments would continue to receive their marginal values in property taxes, but the “new” value created by the private investment in Main Street Oak Ridge would be used to pay for public improvements on the project such as new traffic configurations, road improvements, and building demolition. In return, the private developer would borrow money at his own risk and develop major new retail shopping, with a potential hotel and residential development on the 65-acre site.

This effort has been successful, and major retail tenants have been lined up for filling a targeted 260,000 square feet of new facilities. Our Belk store will receive a facelift, and JCPenney will continue to perform. At present, stores are in the initial inquiry stages of building and will be moving to make announcements by the first of the year or shortly thereafter. I would love to tell you the names of the stores (which I have seen), but we need to honor the wishes of the companies as they make their expansion announcements. I believe the Oak Ridge community will be pleased! [Read more...]

Letter: Urges voters to meet Callison, a ‘proven strong leader’

To the Editor:

I want to personally invite you to come to Razzleberry’s Ice Cream Lab and Kitchen in Jackson Square on Wednesday, September 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. to meet and support Kelly Callison, who is running for Oak Ridge City Council in the upcoming election.

I’ve worked personally with Kelly on the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission and on several boards in Oak Ridge. Kelly is a proven strong leader who understands the problems facing Oak Ridge. He is results-focused and has shown his ability to work with and lead teams of leaders to solve problems. Kelly is chief operating officer for Information International Associates here in Oak Ridge.

I’m convinced that Kelly will be a great asset for the City of Oak Ridge as a Council member. I urge you to come spend some time with Kelly on September 24, and I think you too will find him to be just the kind of Council member Oak Ridge needs.

I look forward to seeing you on September 24!

Austin Lance

Oak Ridge

Letter: Encourages candidate forum groups, objects to ‘harassment’

While state and federal elections (at least here in Oak Ridge) are somewhat uninspiring this year, with many races either uncontested or practically so, our municipal election has drawn an unusually high number of candidates. That there are several open seats where incumbents chose not to run—two on City Council and two on the Board of Education—is probably the reason for the larger number of candidates.

Ten are running for four seats on City Council, while eight are competing for three seats on the Board of Education.

The League of Women Voters is doing its usual outstanding job of hosting candidate forums, but despite standing-room-only attendance at the first of those, it’s inevitable that not everyone was able to attend. Fortunately, several other interested groups have also scheduled candidate forums or meet-and-greet events: the Oak Ridge Schools’ PTA/PTO Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and Democracy for East Tennessee.

It’s important to get to know the people who seek to represent you, to hear their views on issues of interest, and to see how they respond to questions.

Unfortunately, one member of Council who is not up for election this year is seeking to eliminate some of these opportunities, based on the fact that they’re scheduled to be held on city property. The Chamber of Commerce is situated on land leased from the city, although they own the building. The PTA/PTO forums will be held at Oak Ridge High School, and have been promoted through the schools (as most PTA/PTO activities are). [Read more...]

Guest column: Community officials make advances in preventing underage drinking

By Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) of Anderson County

The Anderson County Underage Drinking Task Force is completing its first year of existence, one which proved to be quite productive.

The Task Force kicked off last September when it assembled key stakeholders from beer boards, law enforcement agencies, government officials, and businesses across different jurisdictions in Anderson County to identify barriers to compliance with underage drinking laws, with a focus on developing local solutions. Over the last year, the Task Force has worked to review alcohol policies of all jurisdictions in Anderson County.

As part of the review process, the Task Force identified a need for consistency throughout the county on alcohol regulations. Through collaborative dialogue, members discovered that many business owners have locations in two or even three different municipalities, each regulated by different rules. [Read more...]

Opinion: Commissioner proposes small payment for some county employees

Myron Iwanski

Myron Iwanski

Note: This is a copy of a Tuesday email from Anderson County Commissioner Myron Iwanski to the Budget Committee and commissioners.

Budget Committee and Commissioners:

I think we were all pleased that for the fourth year in a row our year-end fund balance increased over the previous year. We owe a big thank you to our county employees for helping making this happen.

Four years ago, our fund balance was heading down to less than $500,000, and our credit rating was being effected. Beginning four years ago, by being more cautious with how we spend fund balance money and with the help of all our elected officials and employees, we increased the fund balance to the current $4,290,000.

One of the many things we did to turn this around was not giving our employees a salary increase for several years—except to cover the annual increases in health insurance cost. County-wide office holders, meanwhile, were given state-mandated increases in salaries.

I propose using a small portion of this fund balance to provide a small lump sum payment to those county general fund employees that did not get a state-mandated salary increase. [Read more...]

Opinion: Fleischmann comments on passage of government funding bill

U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann

Chuck Fleischmann

By U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a critical continuing resolution which will keep the government open until the end of the fiscal year and maintain funding for significant government operations.

“Today, I am happy to announce that the House of Representatives has passed a responsible and fiscally sound funding measure, which will prevent a government shutdown,” U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann said directly after passage. “By crafting a clean continuing resolution that maintains current funding levels, we have provided the American people and crucial parts of our government, such as the armed forces, with needed certainty. However, I am disappointed that the Democrat-controlled Senate could not manage to undertake its constitutional responsibility and pass a single appropriations bill. It is imperative that Congress returns to regular order and eliminates the need for these constant stopgap measures.”

In addition to keeping the government open, the bill also included the McKeon Amendment. This provides authorization for the president’s request to arm and train carefully vetted factions within the Syrian opposition in order to combat ISIS while providing for congressional oversight.

Chuck Fleischmann represents Tennessee’s District 3, which includes Oak Ridge, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Guest column: IRS warns of continuing scam phone calls

NASHVILLE—The IRS continues to warn the public to be alert for telephone scams. The callers often claim to be with the IRS and usually demand money.

Based on the most recent figures released, there have been at least 90,000 complaints about these phone scams and about 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million.

“Be suspicious of anyone who calls demanding your money or your private information,” said IRS spokesman Dan Boone. “These con artists can sound very convincing and will probably try to intimidate you into giving them what they want.”

Boone said the callers may know a lot about you and usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request. [Read more...]

Guest column: Council looks to future in policy, planning meetings

Note: This is a brief report to the town on Oak Ridge City Council meetings on policy and planning.

Following a vote in June to do so, City Council has been having two policy and planning meetings each month.

At our first meeting, we agreed to follow the general outline of the Comprehensive Plan in order to give ourselves focus. We added a section for the U.S. Department of Energy. Council members Chuck Hope, Trina Baughn, David Mosby, Charlie Hensley, and Anne Garcia Garland have been attending. City attorney Ken Krushenski, a couple of interested citizens, and the press have attended also.

The most encouraging outcome so far has been that the five have begun to operate as a team. We are looking at ways to improve the council’s effectiveness.

Those who follow the Council agenda online will have noticed that Monday’s agenda included a resolution from Council to have four things occur: [Read more...]

Letter: CONTACT Care Line helps those in need by phone, chat, text

To the Editor:

Many articles in recent weeks have been reflecting on the suicide of Robin Williams and providing national help lines.

For over 40 years, right here in our community, CONTACT Care Line has provided a listening ear to those who are lonely, in crisis, having a bad day, or just need someone to talk to. CONTACT Care Line, serving the 865 area code and beyond, is a local nonprofit staffed by trained volunteers who are available to listen seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The number to call to reach a listening ear is (865) 584-4424. All calls are confidential.

CONTACT recently added a local chat service (CONTACTCareLineTN.org/chat) and a text service ((865) 407-2TXT) available Monday-Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Chat/text specialists also take Suicide Prevention Line crisis chats from across Tennessee between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays. [Read more...]

Letter: We should be in this together

Note: This is a copy of an August 20 letter sent to city officials.

Dear Mayor Beehan, Mr. Mark Watson, respected Council Members,

I’ve written to you several times in the past regarding the implementation of community gardens in, or rather starting in, the Highland View neighborhood, where I currently reside. Because of my desire to help eliminate hunger in my community, you appointed me to the Anderson County Community Action Commission, which I’ve accepted as a great honor.

My sole focus was on getting food, easy sustainable food, into this area so that families, despite their circumstances, could build something together which, in turn, would increase the sense of community and bonding that comes with dirt under the fingernails and a cold beer after for those old enough.

It is with regret that I inform you that the grant we’d hoped so fervently for from the Lowe’s Community program did not go through. We are, instead, sitting on an acre-and-a-half of land that could have been centrally located, cleared for the sole purpose of raised gardens being built and established, educating anyone that wanted to learn about gardening food, the installation of fruit trees to add better variety to the tables more commonly filled with processed foods, and the naive ideal of success. [Read more...]