Tag Archives: Byron

Looper Death Brings Emotional Times for Burks Family

Wednesday was an emotional day for the Burks family as they learned the about the death of the man convicted of the murder of one of their influential family members, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.
Byron “Low Tax” Looper was found unresponsive in his jail cell late Wednesday morning in Wartburg in East Tennessee, where he was serving life in prison for the 1998 murder of state Senator Tommy Burks.
“We’ve got a lot of different emotions running right now,” Kim Blaylock, Tommy Burks daughter, said Wednesday afternoon a few hours after the news broke.
Blaylock found out when the TBI came by her office when they couldn’t reach her mother, state Sen. Charlotte Burks.
“They wanted to tell her before it came out in the media,” she said. “It’s been an emotional day for all of us.”
Charlotte Blaylock Looper, granddaughter, said on Facebook, “I would like to say thank you very much to everyone for the calls, messages and prayers. It is very nice to know my family and I have been blessed with so many supportive friends.”
Bill Gibson was the district attorney at the time of the murder and prosecuted Looper.
“It was the highest profile case that I ever handled as DA,” he said. “I’m just feeling a lot of mixed emotions at the news of his death. We lived that case for many months. We knew he would die in prison one day.”
Deputy District Attorney Tony Craighead was on the prosecuting team with Gibson and feels this is the closure of one of the most tragic cases in Tennessee history.
“I’m proud of the fact that I had a part in putting him in prison, although I can never take satisfaction in that because of Senator Burks’ death,” he said. “I knew Tommy. He was a wonderful man. It was a horrible tragedy. I’ve been prosecuting cases for 21 years now and I’ve done dozens of murder cases, and this was one of the most well-investigated and complete cases I’ve ever been involved in.”
Now that Looper’s dead, Craighead said maybe it will be a time to remember all the good that Burks did.

Death Row Inmate Wins in Federal Appeal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that a Tennessee death row inmate’s mental disability claims weren’t properly considered.
Byron Black was sentenced to death after his 1989 Nashville conviction in the murder of his girlfriend Angela Clay and her daughters, ages 9 and 6.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled Thursday that the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals didn’t properly evaluate whether Black, who is 55, had a mental disability, according to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/uOzU5K).
The U.S. and Tennessee supreme courts have ruled that executing mentally disabled people violates a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Kelley Henry of the federal public defender’s office declined comment. Sharon Curtis-Flair of the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office said the appellate court ruling is being reviewed.

Knox School Supe Defends Teacher Evaluation System

Legislators beset with complaints about the state’s new teacher evaluation system were urged by Knox County School Superintendent Jim McIntyre Wednesday to make no changes in the “courageous and visionary” law.
McIntyre and Knoxville Central High School teacher Byron Booker, recently named the state’s “teacher of the year,” spent more than two hours before House Education Committee.
Most of that time was spent fielding questions based on complaints that the process and its “instructional rubric” is so complicated and time-consuming that it takes away from teaching time and has unfair elements that have left many competent teachers contemplating early retirement or resignation.
There were also questions about not granting tenure to teachers who consistently are evaluated as meeting expectations — or level three of five levels established under the system. Under the new system, only teachers rated at the higher levels four and five can become tenured.
McIntyre said those rated three “are solid, effective teachers doing their job well…. meeting expectations when the expectations are high.” Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, asked McIntyre whether he could assure all such teachers they would be rehired.
“Can I assure all of them? No, sir. But I can assure you that, if we have solid effective teachers, we are going to continue to want to have them in our classrooms.”
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley questioned whether Knox County Schools were dealing with the transition to the new system better than other systems because four Knox schools had operated under the Teacher Advancement Program, which served as a model for the new system, for several years. Three other Knox schools were in a similar “pilot program” that started a year ago.
McIntyre said that experience “does provide us with some institutional knowledge of the rubric,” but for more of Knox County Schools “this is brand new just like it is for everybody else.”
Fitzhugh and some other lawmakers have called for halting the new system and spending at least another year to “get it right” before proceeding with implementation. But McIntyre and Booker said that would be a mistake.
“Certainly, there are some adjustments and tweaks that can be made,” said McIntyre, adding that those can be done without legislative action. “In my humble and respectful opinion, I would ask that the Legislature keep the legislation in place in its current form.”

Note: Text of McIntyre’s prepared remarks (and those of Booker) are available on the Knox County Schools website HERE.

TN Teacher of the Year Named

News release from state Department of Education:
Nashville – Knox County high school teacher Byron A. Booker was named Tennessee Teacher of the Year Thursday night during the annual Teacher of the Year banquet. Jennifer Magnusson and Ann Johnson are the grand division winners from Middle and West Tennessee respectively.
“Teachers are the most important school-based factor in boosting student achievement,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “Teaching is a tough job, and one that requires great commitment. I want to congratulate Mr. Booker, Ms. Magnusson and Ms. Johnson on the example of high-quality teaching they’ve set for our state.”
Mr. Booker has spent the last five of his seven years in education teaching English as a Second Language at Knox Central High School. Mr. Booker is known not only for his excellence inside the classroom, but his compassion and hard work in his community. He develops strong relationships with his students, and teaches them about life as he teaches them English. One of his supervisors called him “a dynamo of advocacy for his international students.”
“It is so important that we take the time to recognize our best teachers,” said Barry Olhausen, executive director of instructional leadership for the state department of education. “We have much to learn from them, and so do our students.”
Ms. Magnusson has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, 15 of them in Tennessee. She currently teaches first grade at Pleasant Hill Elementary in Cumberland County. Parents and principals describe her as energetic, kind and knowledgeable. “Mrs. Magnusson works magic in her room,” one parent said.
For 16 years, Ms. Johnson has taught agriculture to students at Munford High School in Tipton County. Her passion is service leadership, and her colleagues praise her as a conscientious professional and tireless worker. “Every student wants to be in Ms. Johnson’s class,” her principal said. “…If ‘Tennessee Teacher of the Year’ were in a dictionary, there should be a picture of Ann Johnson.”
Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year award program and banquet are sponsored by the Niswonger Foundation, a Greenville-based organization that provides student scholarships and resources for school systems in Tennessee. Each of the finalists receives a cash award courtesy of the foundation. For more information about the Niswonger Foundation, visit http://www.niswongerfoundation.org/.