Like every good politician, Gov. Bill Haslam kept his remarks brief at today’s Knoxville Chamber event, but his message was clear — education reform is everybody’s business.
Improving Tennessee schools is a priority of the new administration and Haslam asked everyone in the audience to help make it happen.
More than 400 business leaders (including the governor’s dad, James A Haslam II), educators, politicians and at least one professional athlete — former UT quarterback Erik Ainge — attended the event at the Knoxville Convention Center.
Haslam left most of the talking to his newly appointed Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre and Indya Kincannon, chairwoman of the Knox County school board, who joined the governor on stage to answer questions from the audience.
One of the more interesting questions came from Margie Nichols, UT vice chancellor for communications, who suggested the effort to improve education isn’t helped by debates over “guns on campus.”
A state bill that allow faculty and staff to carry handguns on the campuses of Tennessee’s public colleges and universities recently cleared a legislative committee.
Speaking of the legislature, state Sen. Jamie Woodson, one of the many politicians at the event, was complimented by the governor and others, who all said her work in the senate will be missed. Speaker Pro Tempore Woodson announced on Thursday that she was resigning to become CEO of the education reform organization SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education).
Ainge, a backup quarterback for the New York Jets who has made his own headlines recently, was the guest of Chamber Chairman Michael Strickland.
Photos: Gov. Bill Haslam at his inauguration Jan. 15, 2011; State Sen. Jamie Woodson and Erik Ainge. (Knoxville News Sentinel archives)