The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Had Enough, How 'bout you?

by JC Bowman

Most of my readers expect me to comment on the debacle that occurred when Bob Taylor, Director of Schools resigned, then criticized several school board members. This subsequently led to a call to oust Taylor by Mark Grissom, and then a special called meeting which served solely as a vehicle to reveal Grissom's alleged transgressions by other school board members. As Taylor exits stage left, he should be free to speak his mind, and serve out the remainder of his term in a professional manner. But I do consider it inappropriate that he should be part of any transition as we move forward. We must not be content with merely replacing one guy in a suit with another guy in a different suit. The special called board meeting on January 15, 2008 was an absolute embarrassment to this county. It was everything that is wrong in small town politics. I cannot imagine a business that wishes to relocate to this community will take Bradley County serious, as long as we have board members exposing their personal dirty laundry for the entire world to see. Director Taylor made mistakes during his tenure, but he has also done some things rather well. History will be the judge of his tenure.

Whenever I look at education, I speak as a parent first. I know what I wanted for my own children, and that is what I expect other parents to want and our job should be to help them to get it, not to stand in the way of them and say we know better than you what's good for your child. I have had several people ask me if I was applying for the Director of Schools' position. The long and the short answer is NO.

I have no doubt that I could do the job. Very few people in the community have the resume that I have in education or the business background needed for this job. I have a decade of experience as a classroom teacher. I am recognized as an education policy expert at the state and federal level. I worked intimately on the No Child Left Behind Legislation with members of the President's team and then US Representative Van Hillary. I was even invited to the signing. The day after the signing I was with President Bush in Townsend, Tennessee. I have worked with numerous state commissioners of education, as well as current US Secretary of Education Margaret LaMontagne- Spellings. Secretary Spellings liked me so much she

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator. Is a freelance public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN. Prior to this, he was Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University.  He served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.



recommended me to Governor Jeb Bush in Florida, where I served as Chief Education Policy Analyst and helped oversee a $17 Billion Budget and we did a complete revision of the state education code. Later I served the state of Florida as Director of School Choice, where I oversaw a groundbreaking voucher program, 2000 Private Schools, 230 Charter Schools, and 40,000 home school children. Then I served on the faculty of The Florida State University. I could go on, but you get the point. I have the background.
But I know how the process has been designed, and it is skewed toward getting the candidate of a few, to serve the many. That is why I support an elected Superintendent of Schools, like most in this community. I think the voters should select the one person they want to lead our education effort. Bradley County is not going to get the best candidate for Director of Schools by appointed means, no matter who is on the selection committee and no matter what chosen candidate emerges. If you, my friends and neighbors in Bradley County, could vote I might entertain the prospects of running. You, the voters, would be part of the selection committee. I could lay out my experience, credentials and vision and you could vote me in or not. I might get a fair deal that way. I think it is important we elect, not select our leaders. This includes the school board positions as well. You may not like who serves in that position, but people have a voice. I would like to see school board positions elected every two years.

If I were a candidate for Superintendent/Director of Schools I would work toward a significant reduction in district administrative overhead costs and a redirection of those funds to classroom instruction and teacher salary increases and retirement. In fact, I would take no salary that exceeds that of the highest paid teacher in the system. Teachers are the backbone and children are the heart of the education system. Every position at the central office would exist to serve the needs of teachers and students.

I would work toward consolidation of services with Cleveland City Schools, with the ultimate aim of

school consolidation of both systems. It is ridiculous the amount of money we waste operating two separate school systems. If you want better performance, we should eliminate duplication and focus on all children in the community equally. Under any administration I would lead schools and students would be focused on academic achievement. Any school that did not make Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) would see that Principal replaced. Excellent principals would also be rotated to schools with the greatest needs. Principals would be on campus during the day, not out making the lunch rounds. In my administration, mediocrity would not be tolerated, and social promotion would end. Any child not reading on grade level would be retained in grades 3-8. In addition, underperforming students would be required to attend summer school and receive extra help. The research demonstrates this strategy yields lasting improvements, especially for younger students, according to a recent study in the Review of Economics and Statistics.

In addition, it is critical we work with local business and industry to make sure we are coordinating our graduates with their needs. I would like to see a guaranteed diploma. Students who graduate under the Bradley County Schools banner under my leadership would receive re-training if the local workforce finds them unqualified at our expense in evening classes. We would align some career-technical institutes with the needs and projected needs of our community. We would expand the number of students taking AP Courses and those who earn college/university credits. This would be my objective if I were Superintendent of Schools. I would also have an analysis done which accurately measures the current dropout rate. The number is much higher than reported. I would love to conduct a research study on the last decade of attendance and see the actual figures. School districts report whatever numbers they like, however they want to report them, and there's nobody outside checking to see if these are true or accurate. Why does it matter? Because kids matter. Who is graduating with their class? How do they capture transfers in or out? As a result, we may be ignoring students who drop out before the senior year when they calculate high school completion rates, resulting in inflated graduation rates.

I would pledge to the citizens of Bradley County that I would actually work with the Bradley County Commission. In fact, one of the great travesties has been the failure of the current administration to build bridges with our commission, which I would change significantly. You can change School Board Chairmen all you want; as long as the attitude persists the problems will continue. I would hold Principal meetings when students are not in class, and possibly even on Saturday. Under my leadership, the Principal would be given greater responsibility and freedom, but would be held to a higher level of accountability. Most importantly, Principals would be in their assigned school and not called up for frivolous meetings at the Central Office during the school day. In my administration, Bradley County's communication system would not be used for political activity, nor would political petitions be tolerated. Every memorandum, letter or e-mail sent or received by a system employee would be public record, outside of those dealing with confidential matters of personnel. The school board would function as a school board, and exercise appropriate oversight of the system's finances and policies, not personnel. At times I would disagree with them and try to persuade them of what I believe is in children's best interest. However, I would understand that there would be disagreements. I can live with that fact. Then I would go eat with those interested, and pay for my own meal. If I were a candidate for Superintendent of Schools, I could humbly ask for your vote and support.

Unfortunately we cannot vote for Superintendent of Schools in Bradley County. We must all wait to find out who, the appointed committee of the few, will select. I know I cannot gain the appointment, so why bother? How many other potential candidates feel the same way? But we can change the rules of the game and make our voices heard. We can demand from our state officials a return to an elected Superintendent of Schools. Our legislators need to sponsor this bill every year until it passes. We can also attend school board meetings. I started attending school board meetings in the late 1980's. I became disgusted with the politics and eventually quit attending. It is time I start attending again. I invite everyone to join me at the meetings. We can even have a discussion afterward at Logan's Roadhouse, but it will be pay your own way. I believe it is time school board member's return to acting like public servants, and lay down their personal agenda. The Cleveland City School Board may even want to create a mentor program for the counterparts on the Bradley County Board. As a 2nd District Bradley County Resident (as well as 5th District Cleveland City Resident), I am going to take a new, harder look at increasing my involvement. I have had enough, how about you?

--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN..
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