Mar 5 2008
10:21 am

I've been told that McGriff was on the up and up with our School Board on her discussions with Knox County. These things are sensitive so I understand why it wasn't public knowlege.


I agree with WC

I was given information from a source in a private communication (hence it shall remain private) that I trust absolutely that this was the case. I'm glad she was on the up and up with the school board. She would have about HAD to be, really, or she would probably lose their support.

Yet I am sympathetic to what is expressed by Anonymous above.


Dr. McGriff is a puzzle to

Dr. McGriff is a puzzle to me. I guess I express it by saying that she's 90% good and 10% horrible. When I take her administration as a whole, I have to say she's done some really good things...but in what appears from the ouside as an autocratic manner that antagonizes folks.

As for her chioce of principals, some I like and some I don't. But when I think about it...I felt the same way under the previous DOS.

Anon, that sounds like

Anon, that sounds like campaign rhetoric. McGriff has stepped on some good old boy toes while doing some good things for us. The current School Board is far better than we deserve for having the courage to try to do the right things by our schools.

This mentality of "Throw the bums out" is unwarranted and frankly silly. Why are you trying to villify someone instead of offering examples of decisions you disagree with?

Tyler and Earl comment

Tyler and Earl comment regularly, and I appreciate their openness. I would like to hear from others on the School Board regarding these issues.

School Calendar

For each of my ten years on the Board, I voted for the calendar as submitted by the Educational Council everytime – except on the first vote this year. The reason I voted for the alternate calendar this year (with a later starting date and shortened fall break) was because of the immense temperature we had last August and how that affected our students and staff. We had bus drivers come to our Board meeting saying that the seats were so hot that kids couldn’t sit down. In some situations teachers could not teach effectively and students could not learn.

After the vote and feedback began to come in, did I find how passionate our staff, students and families were about the benefits of a fall break. It was clear most would rather put up with heat early in the year in order to have a fall break. There was feedback from many sources that stated that academically a fall break benefits everyone. Then someone mentioned to me that by removing the full fall break week the Board was taking away a “perk”. After thinking about it, they were right. We had in fact, had a fall break for the past two years and to take that away is a loss of what I would consider a perk. I try to think through and study each item that is voted on by the Board and sometimes, even then you can miss something. I do not mind saying that I sometimes make a mistake.

When the calendar came up for further discussion and debate, I changed my vote to go with the Ed. Council – as I had always done in the past.

Changing my vote had nothing to do with politics, nor anything to do with an election. I have never one time voted for anything on the Board that I didn’t think was best for Roane County. If some want to make this an election issue that is their choice. I however, know that I have always been honest, sincere and up front with anything I have ever done on this Board.

I'm late to this party!

I apologize for not visiting more frequently.

I can tell from some of these comments it's soon to be election season.

For the record, we need bright intelligent people to run for office. One would hope having a large pool of candidates would bring many benefits to consider when voting to populate the board. Also, note that my votes aren't always popular and likely considered counter-productive if all I was focused on was being reelected. Would I like to be reelected, yes I would.

But having only people who agree w/you isn't the best for our county. Every community has a "good ole boy network" and we would be naive to think otherwise, but in respect to our school system, your board, we have a diverse group of individuals who frequently debate the merits of issues facing the board. We don't always agree but we do what we feel is in the best interest of our district and the county as a whole. At the end of the day, we make every effort to be fair and do what is in the very best interest of our students. That isn't always pleasing to parents or staff. It certainly doesn't make you popular in the community either. I'm appreciative that some readers recognize we have difficult choices to make and often our options are limited.

I'm on the Educational Council with the teachers and principals across the county Anonymous referenced. Yes, the Ed Council includes BOE members too. We look at various options regarding the start date of school. The other members will confirm I am an advocate of the latest possible start date as long as it does not negatively impact our students and families, first and foremost. I value long summers with families and that is a personal preference. I've belabored the late start date issue in our meetings. But after we all have our speak, we vote (democracy in action) and it goes to the BOE for final approval or disapproval. That’s the option of the Board. I'm also the one on the BOE who recently made the motion for an August 15/18 start date when we decided to reconsider the calendar. I did that to tie their hands in at least starting school after August 15. I was wrong. In researching the facts and collaborating with our Ed Council, I have been convinced that realities like mandated testing dates, block schedule conflicts, and semester end dates are more important than starting school 5 days later in the summer. You may have a difference of opinion. I came back to the Board this past month and made a motion to reconsider my previous motion (8/15or18/2008 start date) and the board voted 7-2 to start school earlier and include a Fall Break. I see here where Mr. Nall spoke to the various facts influencing this action so I will not.

In a nutshell, schools could start on August 15/18 (at the very latest) without a Fall Break and still end the first semester by Christmas holidays. Many people actually enjoy the benefits of a Fall Break. I heard from dozens of parents and teachers on this issue. I spent one long weekend researching calendars from around the state and nation and then composing several sample calendars for the Ed Council to consider. The majority of people who called, emailed and spoke to me favored a Fall Break. And I heard from many, many folks on this issue. (More voiced their opinion on this issue than on our need to improve our facilities, the often cited "building plan.") My local research found Elementary & middle schools parents more than our high school parents favored the fall break, high school parents and students in general were mostly indifferent to the start date issue.

Here's some history from only my perspective on the calendar. Our calendar is becoming more balanced as years go by. It is spreading out from late May to early August. Times change and rarely are our students working long hours on the farm to help families survive as we did we decades ago when calendars were constructed to accommodate long summers. Never-mind the lack of federal mandates imposed today that dictate so much of what must be done in a school system that obtains federal dollars. We can’t operate our school systems without those dollars. It just isn't as simple as it looks and sounds. Families don't use summers as they did decades ago. I see the spread will eventually force a discussion of the calendar in terms of what is known as a balanced or alternative schedule of attending school. For insight on what I mean check out this example/link: (link...) IMO, this discussion is the real issue and just looking at if we do or don't have a Fall Break or when we start school is putting off the inevitable and a distraction. I think it is a "core value" issue that should be of interest in our community. Remember, I'm speaking for me and absolutely not representing the BOE in my comments.

To see what schools across the sate are doing go here: (link...) and then search for your interest.

From WBIR website: 10News

From WBIR website:
10News has learned that a Roane County School employee has been suspended without pay.
When asked about the issue that led to the employee's suspension, Roane County School Superintendent Dr. Toni McGriff confirmed that the employee "may have been under the influence of prescriptions and possible other things."

She added that her understanding is that the employee was never with children.

Dr. McGriff declined to offer any further information into the incident, saying, "I disagree with you the public needs to know more details."

To me: The last paragraph doesn't read well. I think she was disagreeing with the reporter and the reporter "saying" that the public needs to know more details.

This is a classic "McGriff".

This is a classic "McGriff". She does exactly the right thing, yet frames it in exactly the wrong words.

Or...It may be that it was simply reported that way and that she did tell the reporter that there are federal laws protecting employee's rights, no matter who they work for.

Dr. McGriff needs a communications advisor in a really big way.

I would have suggested she point out that it is premature to say more, but even though we may not like it, even suspended employees have rights. She will have more to say later, but be assured that students were not affected in any way and that the School system will protect them first and foremost.

But she doesn't have a communications advisor and she didn't say something like that. Disappointing.

90/10 comment, a "McGriff"ism

The 90/10 comment above is worth noting, as is this classic "McGriff" comment. Perhaps she'll read this and take it for insight. That would be my advice because perceptions are very important.

I'd like to think if someone does a 90% good job then one could easily overlook the 10% but that is an error in logic because often times the 10% or even 1% is too much in a direction to be avoided.

"Rather than be defensive about these unflattering observations it might be wise to include such consideration in one's own evaluation."

All that being said, I know her heart is focused on caring for our students academic progress so they will enter the world of employment capable of competing with anyone around the world for any job. For that, we should be grateful! Life is tough, we all know that, and I know she desires, and most importantly, works daily toward the betterment of our school system.

If using a poor choice of wording is a "McGriff" then I am an expert at it. Being so, I can point out she often is so "to the point" and direct in an extremely efficient manner that her delivery impedes the message. Never-the-less, you don't waste time on an issue w/her. My advice to her, which I have shared privately and now publicly, is to polish with the cloth of diplomacy. Or as my clinical psych professor once said, "you can catch more files with honey than you can with vinegar." That's also a two-way street. Being critical without offering solutions helps in what way? That's not addressed to WhitesCreek but to Anon.

BTW, a perfect and without flawed DOS (OR PERSON) is a fantasy and if such a person did exist, who could afford their 16 gallizion dollar salary?

A Tylerism is wordiness!

We don't know what her

We don't know what her original statements were, for sure. I suspect she was short with the reporter, though. There are ways to do this that work, protect everybody from bad info, and give out the information the public deserves.

A Communications Officer

That would be a better description of the position I think the School system (and the Board) is in need of.

Currently we have such cramped communications and stilted flow of information that people get incredibly wrong headed ideas about what is actually going on in our schools.

Symptoms of this include the continuing beligerance of the County Commission's refusal to fund capital projects to improve our buildings... Either nothing short of dereliction of duty, or just plain ignorance of the sad state of our facilities.

Part of the problem may be that we have a shocking number of school kids being sent out of the county to private schools, and some of the decision makers simply don't care what happens to our public schools or the education of the children that attend them.

The county electorate as a whole is disconnected from our schools and this can only change with education, not of the kids in the school, but of the adults who are responsible for them...That would be US!

What you're talking about is a PIO...

A Public Information Officer.

They're useful in many, many situations, and necessary in some.

When a disaster or emergency happens, the DOE, Emergency Management organizations, and many folks have a SINGLE point person that is the ONLY person who will be releasing information to the public and to the media. The media know not to bug anybody but the PIO for any information about anything. Take the shooting at the courthouse when the corrections officer was killed: big vans of gazillions of people wanting to know stuff, the TBI bus was there. ONE person put out info for the TBI - their PIO.

Disaster strikes Roane County so the EOC is activated? ONE person puts out information to the public: the PIO.

Maybe this method could be instructive to the Board of Education?

There is all kind of training available for the PIO position, and we even have somebody in Roane County who has been trained at the advanced level and is qualified to train people to be PIOs. Scott Stout.


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