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McIntyre addresses FHS parents, students

Farragut High School’s PTSA hosted Knox County Schools superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre at the FHS library for an informational meeting concerning the proposed staffing cuts projected for the high school Tuesday evening, March 3.

McIntyre said his main reason for attending the meeting was to listen to parents and teachers and gain strategic input toward the vision for the future of Knox County Schools.

“You all know what is going on with our national economy and our local economy. You have all read about Goody’s and The University of Tennessee. You have all read about some of the economic woes that our local institutions and organizations are facing … and we are not immune to that. We are going to feel some of that in this coming fiscal year,” he said.

“But everything we do must revolve around students and it must be about high expectations and high standards,” he said.

“And you, here at Farragut High School, have really mastered that,” he added.

One of the biggest concerns FHS parents and teachers voiced was the ratio used by McIntyre and KCS to determine from which schools staff cuts will come.

According to McIntyre, the formula is based on a pupil-to-teacher ration of 20 students to one teacher, except in areas of high poverty, in which the ratio changes to 17 or 18 students per teacher.

“What we believe is that the formula allows us to make what we believe is a rational, equitable and transparent allocation of resources to schools,” McIntyre said.

Another determining factor is student population.

McIntyre said the projected student population of FHS is expected to dwindle next school year to less than 1,800 students.

Parents were concerned that in an effort to ensure fairness across the board, FHS was being penalized, in effect, for being among the more affluent communities in Knox County.

One parent said, “Our interpretation is that we are now on a trajectory to raise Knox County Schools at the expense of Farragut.”

McIntyre responded that in the past schools such as Austin-East always have received more in terms of resources than schools such as Farragut because of the economic disparity between the two communities.

He reiterated that the loss of 16 FHS positions still comes down to the decreased student population.

“This is not a budget control exercise. We are, overall, making reductions in schools. Enrollment has gone from 2,300 students to 1,779 students and you can’t expect to lose a substantial number of students without making adjustments on the staffing side,” McIntyre said.

Many parents felt McIntyre and the Board failed to take into consideration the fact that schools with higher poverty levels also have a lower attendance rate — around 82 percent versus FHS’s 94 percent average attendance rate.

Several parents said this meant that FHS teachers actually had more students day-to-day than schools such as Austin-East and Fulton high schools and should, therefore, retain its staff.

McIntyre disagreed, saying the Board had to staff schools based on enrollment, not attendance.

Several students came out to ask questions about the continuing quality of their education.

One such student, Valentino Constantinou, said he felt one aspect of the pupil-to-teacher ratio was being overlooked — behavior.

Valentino said he believed one reason students of schools with higher poverty rates typically do not do as well as their counterparts from more affluent communities has a lot to do with behavior.

“And that starts at home,” he said.

“It is almost futile to believe you can change behavior in schools without changing their home environment. Teachers are not qualified to be counselors. Counselors should be added to these schools and teachers should be kept at schools where students [are achieving],” he added.

McIntyre said he respectfully disagreed and asked the community to remember that these budget cuts were not an exercise in pitting community against community.

“We need to remember that our futures are inexplicably linked. The future of our success is linked to every student at Austin-East, at Fulton, at Halls,” he added.

FHS student A.J. Baker, pictured right, spoke on behalf of the Leadership Initiative Club and asked, “Given the current economic situation and the school budget crunch, how can we, as students, ensure our educational experience is of the same caliber Farragut has provided us in recent years?”

McIntyre answered, “By doing what you are doing right now. By challenging yourselves, by being part of your school community, by continuing to advocate for your education, by keeping us honest and by continuing to demand that great and proud tradition of academic excellence that Farragut has always had.”

McIntyre vowed to take into consideration the concerns with attendance versus enrollment before the scheduled budget forum to be held at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 12, at Central High School that the public is encouraged to attend.

“I have heard it about four times tonight and when I hear something that many times, I know I need to think about it,” he said.


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