Grievance against Tennessee school says special education students isolated | The Jackson Sun |

CLINTON (AP) — A former worker at Anderson County’s alternative school has filed a grievance with the Tennessee Department of Education alleging that special education students are illegally isolated.

The Knoxville News Sentinel ( ) reports Dale Martin said in his complaint that he was a member of a three-person crisis team at The Learn Center from 2004-2012.

Martin lists 28 special education students that he contends were isolated at the school. He says three students were put in a room more than 20 times each and one student placed in isolation more than 50 times.

Students were not kept under observation and no one kept track of how long they were there, Martin said in his complaint.

He also said parents and administrators were not told about the isolation. And he claims that two elementary students and two middle school students were barricaded in an isolation room and prevented from leaving.

Human Resources Director Anna Hurt said the district allows students to go into a separate room by choice if they feel they need to calm themselves down.

“They can say, ‘Teacher, I’m really stressed out. I need to de-escalate,’” she said.

But Hurt said no one is ever barricaded into the room.

“We never hold them against their will,” she said.

Sue Voskamp, director of special education for the county school system, said an education department employee would be evaluating the program, which is now part of the new Clinch River Community School, to determine whether an investigation is warranted.

Martin said he chose to retire last year because of the hostile work environment he had to endure for refusing to isolate students.

via Grievance against Tennessee school says special education students isolated | The Jackson Sun |

Bankruptcy judge says Memphis can take over Beale Street management » The Commercial Appeal

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jennie Latta ruled Tuesday that Performa Entertainment Real Estate Inc., the company that has run the Beale Street Entertainment District since 1982, can assign its sublease to the city of Memphis.

The initial ruling would allow Performa to hand over the day-to-day management of the four-block strip of music clubs, restaurants and shops to the city if Latta approves the overall settlement reached between the city and Performa in 2010.

The city owns the entertainment district and Beale Street Development Corp. (BSDC) holds the master lease, subletting management of the properties on Beale to Performa.

Under the 2010 settlement the city reached with Performa when the company filed for reorganization in bankruptcy court, Performa agreed to assign its Beale Street lease to the city.

BSDC, the private firm that originally was supposed to develop the street, argued against that arrangement, contending that Performa had defaulted on its sublease.

Latta said Tuesday that BSDC failed to prove that Performa had violated its sublease. “I think this settlement is in the best interest of the creditors of this estate,” said Latta. “I think it’s in the best interest of our city, frankly. I think it allows the project to move forward.

“I think it allows Beale Street Development Corp. to continue to have conversations about its role going forward, which is important. We’ve been stuck for a long time. It’s time for this project to get unstuck.”

BSDC argued that Performa president John Elkington should not have paid himself a salary in addition to the fees he earns for managing and leasing to businesses on the street, and that Performa should have turned over revenues to BSDC and the city.

Performa and the city reached the settlement following a bruising legal battle that cranked up four years ago, in the last months of former mayor Willie Herenton’s administration.

The city hired Philadelphia-based Parente Randolph to investigate Beale Street finances. The firm reported that Performa had commingled funds from Beale Street with other projects, charged for expenses that were never incurred and charged expenses from other business ventures to Beale Street. Parente Randolph concluded that $6.4 million in profits the entertainment district generated between 2002 and 2008 were never turned over to the city and BSDC.

Performa then hired the Watkins Uiberall accounting and consulting firm to conduct an audit of the company’s finances and Bill Watkins testified Monday that according to his calculations Performa was owed $1.4 million for funds the company spent on the development of the street promoted around the world as the “Home of the Blues.”

BSDC was not allowed to use the Parente Randolph report commissioned by the city because the city now sides with Performa. BSDC was also unable to call expert witnesses to dispute the Watkins Uiberall report.

“Obviously, Judge Latta made the right decision,” said Elkington, of Performa. “It vindicates us with the $6 million that was lied (about) and it’s taken a long time, and I’m glad it’s reached a final conclusion. We’ve agreed to turn over Beale Street.”

Tuesday’s ruling is one hurdle cleared for the city and Performa. After Latta rules on the overall settlement between the two, a long-running Chancery Court case between BSDC and the city, which at one time also included Performa, will resume.

Mayor A C Wharton, who made disposing of the legal dispute with Performa a priority when he became mayor in October 2009, said Tuesday that the ruling paved the way for a new chapter in Beale Street history.

“The key thing now is we get back to turning Beale Street into a thing of fun and entertainment as opposed to just a source of litigation in which the only people having fun were the lawyers getting paid,” said Wharton. The dispute cost the city about $3 million in legal fees.

In 2010, Wharton appointed a 31-member Beale Street panel headed by former Downtown Memphis Commission president Jeff Sanford to explore the street’s future management.

“I want to say to the public right now, A C Wharton does not want to run Beale Street,” the mayor said. “We will not be running Beale Street. Professionals will be running Beale Street.”

via Bankruptcy judge says Memphis can take over Beale Street management » The Commercial Appeal.

WTVC NewsChannel 9: Chattanooga News, Weather, Radar, Sports, Lottery

CLINTON, Tenn. (AP) — A former worker at Anderson County’s alternative school has filed a grievance with the state Department of Education alleging that special education students are illegally isolated.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports ( Dale Martin said in his complaint that he was a member of a three-person crisis team at The Learn Center from 2004-2012.

Martin lists 28 special education students that he contends were isolated. He says three students were put in a room more than 20 times each and one student placed in isolation more than 50 times.

Martin said he chose to retire last year because of the hostile work environment he had to endure for refusing to isolate students.

Anderson County’s Director of Special Education Sue Voskamp said the allegations were false.

Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel,

via WTVC NewsChannel 9: Chattanooga News, Weather, Radar, Sports, Lottery.

Government Unions are Different

With our various levels of government grappling with revenues falling short of expenses, there is a long overdue focus being put on the state of government labor.  The recent Chicago teachers strike should be seen as an example of the excesses of government unions.  Reporting lumps all unionization into one category, and there is no distinction expressed between private and public unions. Public sector unions are different from private unions in that they have no “Free Market” competition to keep their demands in line.  In addition, the cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and public unions create a conflict of interest for elected officials.

In the private sector there are market restraints on what a union can demand.  If UPS (union) workers demand too much in compensation as to render their company non-competitive with FedEx (non-union), they will lose business.  This puts a “real world” restraint on what these unions can demand in terms of compensation and benefits.  Corporations can go out of business, which obviously would hurt the union employees.  GM & Chrysler notwithstanding, this market mechanism works well.  Government has no competition, and is in effect a monopoly in terms of the services that it supplies.  Therefore, there is no similar control placed upon public sector union demands.  If government workers go on strike, where else can consumers go to get their drivers licenses?

With the lack of market forces, taxpayers must rely exclusively upon management to say no to costly demands.  The managers who are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table are elected officials.  There is a political party, however, that is beholden to the very government unions they are supposed to be negotiating with.  The Democratic Party receives an overwhelming amount of money in political donations from public sector unions.  In fact, their top 4 donors are various government unions.  Many candidates go to union sponsored events, and pledge their support for union causes.  If a candidate for office received a donation from a corporation, then after being elected, gave a lucrative no-bid contract to that corporation it would be called corruption. How is this situation any different?

Considering most government entities (other than federal) must balance their budgets every year, you would think that politicians would be restricted from offering paybacks to the unions. They can’t give what they don’t have, right?  The problem with this argument is that the official has the ability to promise, and get passed into law, retirement and health benefits that will be paid for in the future. This takes away any current budgetary restraint that may exist, and puts us in the situation we find ourselves today all across the nation.

Our country is reaching a tipping point with all of the debts we have built up, and there needs to be a sober national conversation on these problems.  Without market forces, and the taxpayer representatives beholden to the unions, what chance do we have?  Nobody wants to talk about cutting pay or benefits, but the costs have simply gotten out of hand.  The taxes that will need to be levied to support this kind of uncontrollable spending will hit all Americans.  This issue is at the core of what kind of country, and opportunities we will pass on to our children.

via Government Unions are Different.

Fourth educator files grievance | The Tennessean |

Another Cheatham County educator has filed a grievance over former director of school Tim Webb’s failure to conduct state-mandated evaluations during the 2011-2012 school year.

Shannon Schliwa, who was removed as the principal at Harpeth Middle School by Webb in June, filed the grievance in mid-July. However, the grievance was denied by current director Stan Curtis.

Schliwa is scheduled to teach at Pegram Elementary School this year.

According to Schliwa’s grievance, she maintains that evaluations were not done “correctly and never finished. No scores were given and no data entered. I never received any verbal or written feedback from Dr. Webb.”

By not having the evaluations finished, she maintains it is violation of Tennessee State Board of Education policy and Cheatham County School Board policy.

She also asked that a letter be placed in her personnel file acknowledging that the evaluations were not done.

Schliwa had a hearing with Curtis on July 23.

In Curtis’ response to Schliwa, he wrote that a letter stating, “The grievant’s transfer from principal at Harpeth Middle School to a teacher at Pegram Elementary School was not based on an administrator evaluation matrix score” would be placed in her personnel file.

She can appeal Curtis’ decision to the Cheatham County School Board.

Schliwa was the fourth Cheatham County educator to file a grievance over Webb’s failure to conduct state-mandated evaluations or provide feedback following the evaluations.

Jenny Simpkins, Tim Ray and Angela McCarthy filed similar grievances, and Curtis denied all three of them.

Simpkins was removed by Webb as principal at Sycamore High School. She is returning to the classroom at Cheatham County Central High School.

Ray was removed as the supervisor at Cheatham Academy. He is returning to the classroom at Cheatham Academy this year.

McCarthy was removed as the assistant principal at Harpeth Middle School. She is the new assistant principal at William James Middle School.

via Fourth educator files grievance | The Tennessean |

No condemnation for Larson from Planning Commission | The Leaf Chronicle – Clarksville, Tenn., and Fort Campbell |

CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Regional Planning Commission members decided not to take any disciplinary action against one of their own during a Tuesday meeting.

The RPC was meeting to consider a grievance and allegations of ethical misconduct that faced RPC Vice Chair Mabel Larson.

Instead of pursuing disciplinary action, Chair Mike Harrison said, the RPC and planning staff would work to improve ethics rules and office procedures.

“We’re going to look at strengthening our ethics policy and our bylaws so that maybe things like this in the future won’t happen,” he said, also adding, “I think it’s good for everybody to be over with and move on.”

Planning employee John Spainhoward filed a grievance against Larson because he said that she repeatedly insinuated that he sent an email accusing her of ethical misconduct, including one heated exchange in his office.

The email alleges Larson voted in favor of several planning requests that benefited her or her close acquaintances.

The findings

An investigation by Nashville lawyer H. Rowan Leathers III looked at the grievance and the email separately.

The commissioners hired Leathers to investigate the issue for $7,500

Larson did not violate Planning Commission policy during her interaction with Spainhoward, Leathers said.

“The issues that Mr. Spainhoward complained about … don’t violate any policy that’s in place that concerns the Planning Commission,” Leathers said.

He added that only one of the alleged ethics violations, involving a McDonald’s, had merit, but that her vote “wouldn’t have affected the outcome.”

Leathers recommended tweaks to policies related to ethics and staff interaction with commissioners.

“You want to make sure those issues are above reproach,” he said.


Spainhoward, who has remained silent throughout the grievance process, made a brief statement during the meeting.

“I did not write an email,” he told commissioners. “If I have an issue with anyone, I’ll address it through the proper procedures.”

Larson has also stayed mum, but talked to The Leaf-Chronicle after the meeting, denying any wrongdoing.

“I never accused anybody,” she said. “I just asked questions.”

She also said she had turned over ownership of the McDonald’s to her son, which isn’t a technical ethical violation.

Although she said she had not spoken to Spainhoward, she said she would be able to work with him in the future.

“It’s over and done with,” she said of the issue.

via No condemnation for Larson from Planning Commission | The Leaf Chronicle – Clarksville, Tenn., and Fort Campbell |

Educator files grievance against Webb | The Tennessean |

Tim Ray, who was removed as Cheatham Academy principal by former Cheatham County director of schools Tim Webb, filed a grievance Monday against the school district.

In his grievance, which was filed on behalf of the Tennessee Education Association, Ray maintains that Webb never conducted an evaluation on him during the 2011-2012 school year.

“He didn’t do his job,” said Ray, who has been with the district for 27 years.

By not having an evaluation, Ray maintains his removal is in violation of Tennessee State Board of Education policy and Cheatham County School Board policy.

According to the grievance, Tennessee State Board of Education policy states a state-trained local evaluation facilitator is compelled to complete an evaluation process on every teacher and administrator in the school district.

“At no time did my evaluator, director Tim Webb, conduct any portion of the state-mandated evaluation procedure,” the grievance states.

In addition, Ray also maintains that Webb’s action violates a Cheatham County School Board policy that states, “The director of schools is responsible for ensuring that all administrative and supervisory personnel are evaluated annually.”

The grievance is now in the hands of new director of schools Stan Curtis, who now must decide whether to uphold it. Curtis has 15 days to respond.

Ray is asking that his name be removed from any quantitative data on the RandaSolutions site, which is tied to his evaluation.

In addition, Ray is asking that a letter from School Board chairman Dianne Proffitt stating Webb’s dereliction of duty concerning the evaluation and the letter be placed in Ray’s personnel file.

Ray said the Tennessee State Board of Education policy was developed while Webb served as the state commissioner of education.

“It was good enough for everyone to do across the state, but not good enough for him to do in Cheatham County,” he said.

Webb, who served as the director of schools for 18 months, resigned in May to take the principal’s job at Richland School in Giles County.

Before he left, Webb made a number of personnel changes, including appointing Jo Jones as the new principal at Cheatham Academy. Ray was returned back to the classroom at the alternative school.

via Educator files grievance against Webb | The Tennessean |

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero: Knoxville voters should support proposed pension reform plan » Knoxville News Sentinel

Six months ago today I was sworn in as Mayor of Knoxville. One of the first challenges my administration faced was dealing with a major unfunded liability in the city employees’ pension plan.

Most simply, this unfunded liability was the result of substantial investment losses in 2008 and previous costly enhancements to the plan.

During my campaign for mayor, I promised to tackle this issue by reducing pension costs and market risk for taxpayers while maintaining competitive benefits in order to recruit and retain qualified and experienced police officers, firefighters, and general government workers.

We accomplished this goal with a hybrid pension plan that I proposed and City Council adjusted before voting this week to send it to the Pension Board for review. \

This plan was arrived at through months of often difficult discussions with City Council, city employee groups and the public. I am grateful to all of them for coming to the table and recognizing the importance of dealing with this issue for the long-term health of our city. In particular, I would like to thank Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis for his leadership in guiding the process through City Council.

For future employees, the hybrid plan will:

n Move the city from the current defined-benefit plan, in which the city assumes all the risk of market performance to pay for plan benefits, to a hybrid in which the risk is shared evenly between the city and its employees.

n Raise retirement ages.

n Double the pension vesting period from five years to 10 years, which means an employee will have to work for the city for a decade before becoming eligible for pension benefits.

n Control cost-of-living increases by tying them to the Consumer Price Index and capping them at a maximum of 3 percent.

After the Pension Board’s review, the plan will come back to City Council to be placed on the ballot this November. If it is approved by voters, it will take effect for all new employees beginning in 2013, and put the pension plan on the path toward long-term sustainability.

Regardless, in the near term, the city is expected to face yearly obligations of tens of millions of dollars to pay for benefits promised to retirees and current city employees under the existing plans.

These pension obligations were proposed by past mayors, supported by past City Councils and approved by Knoxville voters. Several major enhancements were added by referendum as recently as 2000.

The Tennessee Supreme Court and recent state Attorney General opinions have made clear that benefits earned by vested employees cannot be reduced. We will have to make tough choices in coming years, but we will make good on our commitments to our retirees and our employees.

In Knoxville, we employ about 1,600 men and women who patrol our streets, respond to emergencies, pave our roads, build our sidewalks, pick up our waste, maintain our parks and greenways, and in many other ways safeguard our quality of life. These are difficult jobs often performed under very difficult circumstances.

A great number of these jobs require significant training investments. The Knoxville Police Department estimates that it spends about $100,000 to recruit and train a new officer. The Fire Department estimates those same costs at about $50,000. As we reduce city costs, it’s imperative that we continue to offer a pension plan that results in the retention of highly-trained, experienced personnel.

The proposed reduction in our pension system strikes the right balance. It significantly reduces future costs and protects taxpayers. It also ensures that our city has dedicated, well trained, and fairly compensated employees to provide the great service that Knoxville residents expect.

Failure to act this year on pension reform will continue to add employees to the current, unsustainable plan for at least two more years — the next opportunity for a referendum.

We must act now. I urge all Knoxvillians to support this pension reform.

via Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero: Knoxville voters should support proposed pension reform plan » Knoxville News Sentinel.

Alexander contract approved for second time – Elizabethton Star

Alexander contract approved for second time

By Ashley Rader

The Elizabethton Board of Education Thursday for the second time approved Director of Schools Ed Alexander’s contract by a vote of 3-2. The board had to revisit the contract after it was questioned whether adequate public notice was given on last month’s contract vote.

The board had originally approved extending Alexander’s contract during the April meeting even though the current contract does not expire until Sept. 11. However, after the vote was taken at that meeting, board member Connie Baker questioned if enough public notice had been given that they would be voting on the contract. State statutes require that a public notice be posted at least 15 days before the vote will take place.

To be certain the vote on the contract was legal, the board voted again on the contract during Thursday’s meeting. Everything about the contract remained the same as last year. Alexander will be paid a minimum annual salary of $87,279.48. He will receive a $400 monthly automobile allowance and the board will cover the expenses for his personal health insurance premium. He will also be reimbursed for any unused vacation days. He is allowed 12 vacation days each year and one sick day for each contracted month of employment. The contract was for one year.  read more…

via Alexander contract approved for second time – Elizabethton Star.

New Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning Director ready to get past controversy » Clarksville, TN Online

Montgomery County, TN – When Dr. David Ripple applied for the position of Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning Director in Clarksville Tennessee, he had know idea that one, he was not the first choice, and two, he was walking into the biggest controversy the Regional Planning Commission has ever seen.

Dr. Ripple, 65, was very excited about the opportunity to live in Clarksville because of it’s proximity to Evansville Indiana, where he still has a son, and where he calls home.

“I love the opportunity to come to a growing community that has so much to offer.  I look forward to helping provide some direction in the way Clarksville grows and develops” Ripple said.

Ripple was not the first choice of the search committee that was formed after the retirement of David Riggins.  Jason Blalock was the front runner, but after some political wrangling, he was thrown back in the pool and the committee went back and found other candidates to consider.

For the record, chairman Mike Harrison wanted Ripple all along because of his qualifications and certifications, but after being accused of doing a “poor job” according to Montgomery Mayor Carolyn Bowers, the committee began interviewing other candidates.

That’s when it all hit the fan.

Planning commission employee John Spainhoward filed a grievance against board member Mabel Larson claiming she threatened his job and accused him of writing an anonymous email that claimed Larson violated ethical standards while on the planning commission.

Welcome to Clarksville Dr. Ripple.

In an exclusive interview with Clarksville Online, I asked Dr Ripple what he thought about not being the committee’s first choice?

“Both mayors have expressed confidence in me and the job I’m expected to do.”

On the grievance that’s been dominating the news since his arrival:

“I’m not interested in delving into it, or fanning any flames at this point.  It happened before I arrived and I have confidence that the commissioners will figure out how to resolve it.”

Have you spoken to Spainhoward about his grievance?

“No, and I don’t know what he wants”

There appears to be an indication that Mayor Bowers is wanting more of a say in the operation of the regional planning commission.  She’s on record several times as reminding you and others,  that both the city and the county fund you and should have a say in the decisions.  Is it your understanding that’s the case?

Ripple: “The Regional Planning Commission is run by the planning director.  We submit our budget to both governments for their approval, but ultimately I determine what we do with that money, and with the personnel that work here.”  Now, I feel that the mayors deserve any information they request, and I certainly want to have a strong relationship with them, but I’m focused on handling this department, not the politics.”

Have you spoken to Mabel Larson?

Ripple: “No.”

What’s the first thing you want to do to get familiar with your surroundings?

“I need to get familiar with the staff, get to know the commissioners, then see what work we have before us and get going.  They had good leadership here before me, and I hope to provide the same leadership moving forward.  I told the committee I was committed to being here at least five years, and I look forward to that.”

The Planning Commission just recently hired a Nashville law firm to investigate the grievance of John Spainhoward, and once that’s completed, it remains to be seen just what the commissioners can actually do.

Meanwhile, we welcome Dr. David Ripple to Clarksville.  As he said, “It’s one fine community you got here.

via New Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning Director ready to get past controversy » Clarksville, TN Online.