Guest column: Council member offers summary of events related to ORPD investigation

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

By Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn

Given that there is some confusion over recent events, I offer the following summary about where we are, how we got here, and where we are headed with regards to the Oak Ridge Police Department investigation.

The ORPD has seen a total turnover rate of 45 percent in the last four years, having lost 34 of our 76 employees. Five of those individuals have departed in the last four months. Since February, all Council members have received communications from at least seven former officers, three current officers, and countless citizens expressing concerns about leadership and a potentially hostile work environment. Others have communicated anonymously citing similar concerns and attributing their anonymity to fears of retaliation.

On February 9, during a five-hour televised meeting, and in front of the largest audience any of us had ever seen, City Council formally committed to investigate the root causes behind the turnover, morale, and policy issues in the Police Department.

The resolution that was ultimately approved was brought forward by Council member Kelly Callison who stated that “We think that’s a broad, a very broad term that allows an investigator, an independent investigator to look at the issues that might be present…”  At the end of the meeting, councilmember Chuck Hope stated, “The investigation that we’ve come to an agreement among the seven of us was reached unanimously…there’s enough information that it warrants an investigation…”

During this same meeting, Council committed to ensure that the investigation would allow for the anonymity of all participants and would include both current and past employees. Mr. Callison also suggested that council select Municipal Technical Advisory Service, specifically Rex Barton, to perform the work. Council did not select MTAS at the time, but agreed to hold a special meeting to select an entity to conduct the investigation and define its parameters. Information regarding the other resolutions that Council rejected can be found here. [Read more…]

Guest column: 2015 OREA salary, benefits proposal

Note: This is a copy of comments by Oak Ridge Education Association Co-President Steve Reddick during a March 30 meeting of the Oak Ridge Board of Education, when teachers and principals requested a 4 percent salary increase in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

2015 OREA Salary and Benefits Proposal

Good evening,

On behalf of the certified teaching staff of the Oak Ridge Schools, OREA is honored to present to you our FY ’16 salary and benefits proposal.

As in years past, we make this proposal with eyes wide open and without illusions: [Read more…]

Guest column: Increasing personalized learning in Oak Ridge Schools

By Oak Ridge Schools

We have all heard the phrase “going one-to-one,” but what is one-to-one all about? And why are Oak Ridge Schools interested in one-to-one?

The overall idea behind one-to-one is not about having specific devices; rather, it’s about providing personalized learning experiences to students aligned to the Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness in which students can collaborate, learn, reflect, and solve problems in ways that engage and motivate them. Highly effective teachers are essential in the development of personalized learning; they facilitate learning experiences both within their content area and spanning beyond the classroom and into the community. With personalized learning under the direction of highly effective teachers, student engagement increases, discipline problems decrease, attendance increases, and students become even more prepared for college and careers.

Most importantly, students who may not have access to technology due to financial or other considerations will have equal opportunities as their peers. [Read more…]

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Guest column: Imperial religion has no place in the Kingdom of God

Preparing for the greatest day of the year, Easter, was a bit harder this year than last. On Thursday, the night we remember how Jesus was betrayed and handed over to both the religious and political empires of his day, I happened to read of the new bill that seeks to designate the Bible as the state book of Tennessee.

There are a ton of ways to scream “no” to this legislation, starting with the both the Tennessee Constitution and the United States Constitution. There is also the objection that the bill places the transcendental and eternal qualities of the Bible on the same footing as the lily (our state flower) or the raccoon (our state animal). Of course, then there’s just downright common sense: The laws I use to influence my neighbor’s religion (or lack of) can easily be the same laws by which my neighbor one day attempts to subjugate me.

Those are fine ways to oppose this bill, but they are of lesser concern to me as a Christian pastor of 25 years. I am most deeply concerned at the way in which an action like this stands in stark opposition to the actions and words of the Bible itself, most especially as revealed in the person of Jesus. [Read more…]

2014 in Review: Accomplishments, continued improvement, but big challenges ahead 

Chris Phillips and Terry Frank

Chris Phillips, left, director of Anderson County Accounts and Budgets, and County Mayor Terry Frank are pictured above. (Submitted photo)

 

 

By Chris Phillips, director of Anderson County Accounts and Budgets, and County Mayor Terry Frank

We recently finished our Popular Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, and we wanted to share a snapshot of Anderson County’s financial health. While there are many factors that go into evaluating our county’s overall ability to promote prosperity for the people of our county, our financial health as a county government has a direct impact on the lives of families who live here and the business and industry that operates here.

Noteworthy accomplishments from 2014: [Read more…]

Guest column: The last insult

By Joan Berry and District Attorney General Dave Clark

The law in Tennessee has recently changed in a way that insults the memory of murder victims. Not a single photo of a victim prior to their murder is allowed to be shown during their killer’s trial. This problem needs to be solved, and voters can help.

Sadly, the gruesome photos of a corpse are the only presence homicide victims are granted during a trial. The defendant is allowed to be present and to be “cleaned up” and “dressed up” for the jury; but no picture of the victim can be presented.

For decades, it was a common practice for prosecutors to introduce into evidence a reasonable likeness of the victim prior to their murder in addition to crime scene photos. However, due to recent high-court rulings, trial judges now do not allow the practice for fear of having a verdict overturned. [Read more…]

Guest column: Changing the future of our community, one child at a time

There are some exciting things on the horizon for our local Boys and Girls Clubs! The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Clinch Valley operates two campuses: the Lawrence A. Hahn Club in Oak Ridge and the Roane County Club located at Harriman Middle School.

Each club offers affordable after-school and summer programming, and the Oak Ridge Unit offers the city’s only independent athletic leagues. The clubs charge a nominal annual membership and weekly fee; however, no child is turned away for an inability to pay.

The organization’s mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. [Read more…]

Guest column: What do ‘vouchers’ mean to Tennessee taxpayers?

By Tammy Grissom

A school voucher is a publicly funded credit or certificate whereby a student may be enrolled in a private school and apply the credit to tuition.

So, why should Tennessee taxpayers care?

  1. Vouchers use your money to help pay for a student to go to a private school that answers to private administrators and not you, the taxpayer. Public schools must answer to the people and are held accountable for the use of local, state, and federal educational tax money.
  2. Article XI, Section 12 of the Tennessee Constitution specifically states, “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance, support, and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools.” Nowhere in our Constitution is the General Assembly directed to take taxpayer money and use it for a voucher system so parents can use public money to send their children to private schools.
  3. Private schools are not public institutions, and without proper oversight, the “qualifications and standards” for students may fall short of expectations and undermine the fundamental idea of equality in education.  Vouchers require the public to supplement these standards even if they are contrary to state and federal education law.
  4. Vouchers force the public to support two drastically different educational systems, one over which the public has no oversight.

[Read more…]

Guest column: Moving forward in Oak Ridge

With the recent uproar centered around the Police Department in our rear view mirrors, I think it is important to review what was accomplished and why.

The decision to perform a functional audit on the Police Department is a good step especially when taken in context. These kinds of audits focus on best practices, applied over the department’s field of responsibility that need to be reviewed periodically depending on a department’s complexity and size. Besides just by a calendar rotation, other events to trigger such reviews may include leadership turnover in the department to give incoming management a clean slate of actions and priorities.

I believe that since this door has been opened, it would be wise to broaden it city-wide. Think about whether such an audit could have raised awareness of our lack of proper sewer maintenance over the decades and prevented the rush and financial inconvenience that the mandate from the EPA imposes. [Read more…]

League Issues—Making Democracy Work: Immigration

In April 2008, the League of Women Voters of the United States announced its League position on immigration.

The League supports immigration policies that promote reunification of immediate families; meet the economic, business, and employment needs of the United States; and are responsive to those fleeing persecution or humanitarian crisis. The League supports federal comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship. The League agrees that the deportation of unauthorized immigrants who have no history of criminal activity is inappropriate.

What does the executive action on immigration mean?

The executive action taken by President Barack Obama on November 20, 2014, is consistent with the League’s position as are the 39 similar executive orders issued by every president over the last 60 years in orders that have affected as much as 40 percent of the undocumented immigrant population.

The League supports the president’s action and believes this action is within the executive authority of the president. [Read more…]

Guest column: Sen. Yager asks for constituent input

Ken Yager

Ken Yager

NASHVILLE—The 109th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee convened at noon on January 13, 2015, for an organizational session. Among other items on the agenda, the Senate and House of Representatives elected their speakers and adopted rules for the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. At the end of the week, on January 17, we will inaugurate the state’s 49th Governor, Bill Haslam, to begin his second four-year term. After a short recess, we will reconvene on February 2 and remain in session until mid to late April.

State spending in a tight budget year will be the predominant driver for legislative action in 2015. Other significant issues expected to be on the legislature’s agenda in 2015 are jobs, healthcare, education, taxes, and legislation stemming from the ratification of the constitutional amendments passed by voters in November. It is very important that I hear from my constituents on these issues as some of them will be controversial.

I will continue the practice of sending out weekly Senate reports during session and appreciate the local papers who publish them. We now send video updates to local papers and audio statements to radio stations during the legislative session which I hope you will access. [Read more…]

Guest column: Next six-month challenges in Roane County

Ron Woody

Ron Woody

By Ron Woody, writing in the January 2015 “County Executive’s Newsletter to the County Commission”

“Next Six Month Challenges”

As we begin the next calendar year, we thought it would be appropriate to identify some challenges which will come before commission in the next six months. As always, the beginning of the calendar year starts the annual budget process. Commission has made many major steps over the last number of years in establishing a more formal budget development process as budget focus has been divided into operating budgets and capital budget. We are not to the point we should be yet in both funding and understanding, but much as been accomplished and that I call a success.

Now to our six-month challenges:

  1. More deployment of capital budget. We plan on working on this in February and March. The questions to be answered are: Are we setting aside enough funds for replacement of our assets? Where do these set-aside funds come from and how do we protect these funds from competing services?
  2. Insuring that the county has a successful reappraisal program which includes not only accurate value but an understanding of the reappraisal impact.
  3. Funding of operational budgets which are either strained (general government) or suffering major loses (schools).
  4. Educational plans of capital improvements and related funding whether consolidation of schools are considered or not.

[Read more…]