NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A task force appointed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has skipped over the question of whether to create a school voucher program. Instead, the panel’s most spirited debate Wednesday was over how soon vouchers could be offered in Tennessee.
Former state Sen. Jamie Woodson of Knoxville, now the head of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, said that even if lawmakers approve a voucher program in the spring, properly implementing the program would take until the 2014 school year.
Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown said he was surprised at that timeline, arguing that if the legislation is passed by March, the first vouchers should be issued by fall 2013.
“It blows my mind that we would even consider not implementing it immediately,” he said. “I thought the whole point was to get it started and see how it does and move forward from there.”
Former state Sen. Jamie Woodson of Knoxville, who was Senate speaker pro tempore before resigning last year to become the chief executive of a statewide education reform organization, has been appointed to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission for a six-year term representing a Middle Tennessee district.
More from Georgiana Vines’ report: Woodson, president and CEO of State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, confirmed Friday by email that her official address now is in Lebanon, Tenn., although she said she is maintaining her West Knox County home.
Woodson, a Republican, was out of her Nashville office on Friday, but in an email response to questions, she said Lebanon is where the family farm is for her and her husband, Bill Woodson, who runs a Knoxville financial investment firm.
“Since SCORE is headquartered in Nashville, Lebanon has been a great Middle Tennessee home base for our family and for the commute. It has also been the center of our family’s interest in fishing, turkey and duck hunting as well as other outdoor interests,” she said.
She said she had changed her voter registration to Wilson County.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission is a new panel, replacing the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission. Some legislators, particularly state Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, had argued in recent years that the commission had abused its authority, ignored legislators and mistreated some hunters and fishermen. Commission defenders disputed the claims.
“I am very honored to serve on the commission,” Woodson said. “It will be a tremendous opportunity as we work to conserve, manage and protect the fish and wildlife resources of our great state.”
She also said she and her husband continue to own Horse Fly Farm off Nubbin Ridge Road.
The new commission continues to have 13 voting members, with nine appointed by the governor and two each by the speakers of the House and Senate. Also, two members of the governor’s Cabinet are “ex-officio” members.
In a profile story on Jamie Woodson, Georgiana Vines reports the former state senator turned SCORE president likes hunting, fishing, mentoring youngsters and, perhaps most notably, horses. “I can’t tell you the hundreds of times I have balanced out a weighty decision I had to make while grooming a horse, picking out stalls, cleaning tack or weed-eating a fence row. Sometimes, I don’t think about a single thing. I just enjoy the sight, the smells and the sounds of horses and the labor that it takes to tend to them properly,” the 40-year-old said.
…While she lived in Sequoyah Hills, she kept a thoroughbred horse, Mikey, in Jefferson County (which became part of her state House district through redistricting, prompting some concern over winning against a Jefferson County opponent.)
She won her first blue ribbon in a horse show at River Glen in Jefferson County — a win she parlayed into winning the election. In the Republican primary she beat Craig Kisabeth, a formern football coach, and was the winner since no Democrat ran.
…During the time she served in the state House and Senate, Woodson also was general counsel for Camel Manufacturing in Campbell County. April Harris, Camel’s CEO, said she got to know Woodson when they both rode horses at Penrose Farm. Harris’ daughter, Sommerville, rode ponies there along with her friends.
“Jamie would take the pony club girls out to lunch during the day. My daughter would come back and tell me about Jamie. That’s how I met her, encouraging girls to be all they could be,” she said.
From the News Sentinel:
A review of state campaign finance disclosures shows former Sen. Jamie Woodson, the Knoxville Republican who was speaker pro tempore until resigning July 7, has $127,564 in her campaign account.
Woodson, now the CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, a statewide education reform organization, said Wednesday that she has no plans for the account.
“SCORE is a nonpartisan organization. It is important to me as well as SCORE’s board that we fully commit to that nonpartisan nature. I do not have any specific plans for the account, and am not contributing to candidates for public office,” Woodson said.
Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said Woodson has several choices under the law for the money.
She can make contributions to her political party, charities, candidates, existing scholarship funds or form a political action committee and put the money there or contribute to an existing PAC, he said.
Gov. Bill Haslam called Wednesday for a new study of the state’s new teacher evaluation system, the source of multiple complaints from educators, before any changes are made by the state Legislature.
In a news conference, Haslam said an “independent review” would be conducted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), which will “separate the anecdotes from the flaws” and report back June 1. Legislative leaders expect the 2012 legislative session to be finished by then.
SCORE President Jamie Woodson, a former Republican state senator from Knoxville, said the “independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization” would cover costs of the review and make recommendations for change after gathering “robust feedback” from all interested parties.
Haslam said SCORE has a record of supporting strong teacher evaluations and that should be a starting point for a review, which would focus on “is what we have working well.” Note: Haslam news release and a statement from Fitzhugh posted HERE.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that there will be both an external and internal review of the new teacher evaluation system.
He has charged the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) with conducting an independent, third-party evaluation and is asking the state Department of Education to formalize a review process, which the department has already begun.
Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens) are sponsors of a resolution that outlines the review process for the department, which the governor said the administration supports.
“There has been a lot of discussion about teacher evaluations over the past several months,” Haslam said. “As we continue to have conversations with educators, I see a lot of value in reviewing the process both from an external and internal perspective and to compare observation results with student achievement data at the end of the year.
“These evaluations were a critical piece of the Race to the Top initiative, and it is important for Tennessee to maintain strong accountability measures as we build upon our momentum to improve education. As we work through this first year of implementation, I do not support legislative changes during this session. It is appropriate to give the process time to work and to learn more about what changes might be necessary.”
Haslam was joined for the announcement in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the Capitol by Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, SCORE president and CEO Jamie Woodson, and key legislators including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Rep. Richard Montgomery (R-Sevierville), chairman of the House Education Committee and Tracy and Forgety, sponsors of the resolution.
SCORE’s report will be due to the state Board of Education and Department of Education on June 1, 2012.
— Note: A statement from House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who is sponsoring legislation to suspend the evaluation system for a year, is below.
Knox County commissioners Monday interviewed four potential interim successors to state Sen. Jamie Woodson, reports Mike Donilla. They’ll make a final selection next week during their regularly scheduled meeting. Under state law, the Knox County Commission will choose a temporary successor who will serve until a special election is scheduled by the governor.
It’s anticipated to coincide with Knoxville city elections Sept. 27 and Nov. 8.
Five candidates applied for the spot before last week’s deadline. One — Janie Vega, a long-time legal secretary — did not attend the interview process. Neither she nor the others plan to run for the seat on a permanent basis.
Commissioners gave the other four candidates roughly five minutes Monday to say why they were qualified for the seat, which isn’t expected to be more than a caretaker position, because the General Assembly is not in session.
…Here’s a snapshot of their comments:
Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin erupted into a profanity-laced rant after Tuesday night’s council meeting when a resolution he had penned was killed by two of his peers, reports The Tennessean. Hollin wrote a resolution that would have honored the high school students who protested against House Bill 600, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” that passed in the state legislature earlier this year.
Hollin missed a committee meeting Tuesday that would have paved the way for a council vote on the resolution. When he attempted to suspend the rules and hold a council-wide vote, as had been done for two earlier resolutions that didn’t pass through committee, Councilmen Jim Gotto — also a state representative — and Phil Claiborne objected.
The motion to suspend the rules failed. Hollin then rose from his seat and began to yell at the councilmen before storming out of the chambers. The meeting adjourned minutes later.
Outside of the chambers, Hollin confronted Claiborne, cursing at him and accusing him of objecting to the resolution on biblical grounds. Other council members and police guarding the council chambers attempted to calm Hollin down before he ultimately left the building.
Hollin then went to the parking garage, where he waited for the councilmen.
During a confrontation with Gotto, Hollin continued to pelt Gotto with expletives that echoed through the garage.
“That’s it. There is no next meeting. That is it,” Hollin said of the resolution that he later said would effectively die. “Does that make you feel good?”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to remove the cap on charter schools is headed to his desk.
The measure by Republican Sen. Jamie Woodson of Knoxville passed the Senate 22-9 Friday night after the House version was approved 72-18.
Charter schools are funded with state and local tax dollars but don’t have to meet some of the state regulations that traditional public schools do as they try to find different ways to improve student learning.
Under current law, the number of charter schools is capped at 90 statewide. There are currently 40 in all: 25 in Memphis, 10 in Nashville, three in Hamilton County and one each in Knoxville and Shelby County.
Besides removing the cap, the legislation also allows any student in the charter school’s jurisdiction to attend.
Haslam’s press release praising the measure is below.