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PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OR SECRECY

BY: PAT HUNTER

 

How do Loudon County Schools disseminate information to parents and the taxpaying public? If its good news, it's publicly discussed with photo ops and newspaper coverage galore, and on school board website. But if its not so good news, what happens? Is it left to the discretion of the new school director to decide what is made public, or kept under wraps, or secret?

Did you happen to read Friday's front page headlines in the Knox News Sentinel captioned "Inmate work in schools criticized - Loudon bans jail labor when kids present" ? CLICK TO READ STORY   When will county commission weigh in on this issue; this sounds like a huge liability issue and all it would take is just one incident?

The article quoted a number of people including board member Van Shaver, director Jason Vance, and Sheriff Tim Guider.

Interestingly, at Thursday's (Sept. 8th) school board meeting, not one word was uttered by 5th District board members Gary Ubben or Van Shaver who is seldom short on words, or for that matter any school board member. It's my understanding that this matter was brought to the attention of all school board members, director Jason Vance, new North Middle School principal Mike Casteel, and Sheriff Tim Guider. It took a lot of courage for parents to air their concerns.

The incident involved county prisoners who purportedly moved furniture for a Loudon County Sheriff employee, Safety Resource Officer SRO (Chad Estes) at North Middle School, and parent complaints. The inmate incident occurred while students were present during school hours.

It's hard to understand why the furniture wasn't moved before or after school hours, weekends, or during summer break! Where's all the training that the Sheriff's department likes to talk about when it comes to pay supplements for purported training? I was very surprised by Sheriff Guider's response and I suggest that Guider speak to Commissioner Meers, former school principal (county school system) so he can share a personal story about having inmates while students were present at one of his schools.

Last year, there was a similar incident of prison inmates on school campus during school hours, and when parents complained, they were assured by then director  Honeycutt that it would not happen again and guess what, it did.

Although the news article alluded to a new policy forbidding jail inmates on campus while students are present, nothing was publicly discussed by the school board or director Jason Vance, at Thursday's school board meeting.

There appears to be an ongoing effort to keep unflattering news or other information from the public's eye. Parents and tax paying public have a right to know what happens on school campus, or other school matters, and how school administrators and school board address these issues in public, and not in the backroom.

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09-10-11