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Town to get into ‘school business’

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a committee to serve as liaison to Knox County Schools system by a 4-1 vote at its meeting, Thursday, Sept. 10.

“It has been said for far too long ‘we are not in the business of schools,’” Vice Mayor Dot LaMarche said.

“I think the formation of this committee represents the perception and understanding of the Board and the Mayor that we are in the education business, and that our schools are very important to our community,” Alderman Bob Markli said.

“The fact is, Knox County runs the schools, but to say we have no stake in it is a misrepresentation,” Mayor Ralph McGill said.

Case in point, Alderman John Williams said, was the controversial rezoning of west Farragut students to Hardin Valley Academy.

“The rezoning of the high school zones destroyed the Farragut-centric nature of the way we view the schools. We can no longer think of these as Farragut schools,” Williams said.

He asked if a certain number of school committee members should be representatives of HVA.

“I’m somewhat concerned that, since the Hardin Valley zone is such a small portion of the Town, we could have a committee comprised of people who don’t even live in that zone.

“And I’m worried about unintentional bias on that basis,” he added.

However, he said that as the zones evolved or changed over time, any such requirements would have to be amended, or even added, if middle school or elementary students were rezoned. He also worried HVA parents may not step forward to be on the committee anyway.

McGill said he hoped the committee would talk to all schools Farragut students attend, regardless of membership.

Heather Marshall, later appointed to the committee, pointed out she was zoned for HVA. The Board decided not to require committee members to be zoned to certain schools initially, but to monitor the situation.

Williams said he would like the committee to provide recommendations on the Town’s yearly donations to schools Farragut students attend, including the amount donated and how the money could be spent.

“I think if we had a committee of diverse citizen representatives, in particular if they represent every school zone comprising the town of Farragut, that we’d get useful input,” Williams said.

“I can see them handling these requests that come into us, specifically about funding things like chemistry labs and soccer stadiums and whatever,” he added.

“I think that’s something we have grappled with as a Board ... I think that would be a very appropriate thing to put in there as their responsibilities,” Markli said.

The Board appointed seven at-large members to the committee: Thomas Deakins, Carla Lyle, Shannon Warden, Carol Littlejohn, Margaret Johns, Heather Marshall and Elizabeth Malm Clemens.

The Board appointed Johns, Marshall, Littlejohn and Lyle to the initial two-year terms because those four were in attendance at the meeting. Other committee members will serve initial one-year terms.

LaMarche seemed concerned that the charter called for a Board representative, and eventually voted against the charter.

“That would be another meeting every month,” LaMarche said.

Interim Town Administrator Gary Palmer said the reason he built a Board representative and the Town Administrator into the committee was for an overlap, so the Board always would be informed of school goings-on.

“These are issues that are highly political ... I thought political representation on these committees [school and economic development] would be important,” Palmer said.

“There is great opportunity for [this committee] to do great things, but [it] also is in a potentially sensitive area,” Alderman Jeff Elliott said.

Later, LaMarche nominated Williams for Board representative to the committee, a motion Elliott seconded. That was approved unanimously.

McGill said his intention in creating the committee was for it to find ways the Town and its citizens could “enrich the education” of Farragut students.

“There are many, many ways we could do that,” McGill said, not necessarily monetarily.

“We have many, many people who live in our community who could go into the schools and teach,” LaMarche said.


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