Grants will fund new environmentally-friendly school buses in 9 East TN counties

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced Monday that 39 school systems and bus contractors would divide a total of $8,854,685.42 to replace at least one aging bus with a new diesel, alternate-fueled, or all-electric school bus.

The competitive grant program is funded by the Volkswagen Diesel Settlement Environmental Mitigation Trust (VW Settlement EMT), which is meant to help reduce harmful emissions.

“These grants will help us to better protect our children and our environment,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Investing in technologically-advanced transportation updates, particularly in our rural counties, is one way we are supporting the health and safety of our students.”

Several East Tennessee districts will benefit, including: 

  • Campbell County School System

  • Fentress County Board of Education

  • Greene County Schools

  • Hancock County School System

  • Lynch Bus Lines, LLC (services Knox County Schools)

  • Morgan County Board of Education

  • Oneida Special School District

  • Roane County Board of Education

  • Scott County School District

  • SCU Bus Lines (services Knox County Schools)

  • Sevier County Schools

“Projects supported by this program will reduce air pollutants that threaten public health and the environment,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TDEC. “By lowering school bus emissions, we can enhance quality of life in our state, particularly for our children.” 

The 39 grant winners will replace a total of 143 engine model year 2009 or older school buses with 68 new diesel, one all-electric, 66 propane, and eight compressed natural gas school buses.

David Crockett High School's Hall of Fame Class of 2019

TOSS Executive Director, Dr. Dale Lynch, who lead the David Crockett High Pioneers softball team from 1989-1994 and three of his former players, Amy Allen, Heather Cloyd Osborne and Kim Black were inducted into the David Crockett High School's Hall of Fame Class 2019, Dr. Lynch's teams won IMAC Conferences and district championships every year of his tenure. They also won five region titles and made two appearances in the TSSAA state tournment. Dr Lynch was also honored with the TSSAA A.F. Bridges Award, given for good sportsmanship/citizenship.

Dyer County Schools rolls out mobile STEAM lab for grades K-5

Dyer County Schools is stepping up its STEM program with the incorporation of a new mobile lab unit. The STEAMROLLER [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math] will be making its debut to elementary schools in the Dyer County School system beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 9. The bus’s first stop in the county system will be at Trimble Elementary School.

The STEAMROLLER is expected to provide roughly 1,500 county students in grades K-5 with an opportunity to learn fundamental engineering and science concepts and critical thinking skills while working in a team environment.

When approached with the concept of transforming a school bus into a mobile STEAM lab last spring, Curriculum Supervisor Angela Harrington says she readily began making preparations.

“Dr. Lusk had this idea last year that he been toying with, so we found a matching fund work-based learning grant through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development,” said Harrington. “We matched the grant by providing a decommissioned bus that was going to be sold at auction.”

The lab was first created by stripping down the interior of an out-of-service school bus; a task performed by the Dyer County Schools Transportation Department. For months, mechanics on staff overhauled the bus, adding a new floor, paint, strip lighting, LED lighting, wheel wells, bolted-down workbenches, and a heat and air unit. Added to the front and back of the bus were stabilizing jacks to prevent any rocking caused as the students move around.

Congratulations to the Clarkrange High School JROTC Raider Team!

The Clarkrange High School JROTC Raider team traveled to Molena, Georgia to compete in the all service JROTC. National championship. Over 53 teams from high schools across the nation competed. Clarkrange High School was awarded the team national champions. Clarkrange High School is in the Fentress County School District and has an enrollment of 310 students.

CONGRATULATIONS to your team for all of your successes!

Chattanooga teacher Jerry Webb wins $50,000 for education

A Central High School teacher has been awarded $50,000 as part of a national contest to reward teachers who focus on skilled trades.

Jerry Webb, who teaches manufacturing, electrical and plumbing systems at Central, was surprised with the second-place award for teaching excellence Thursday at the school, according to a news release. Webb was one of 15 second-place winners across the nation and the only teacher from Tennessee to win. 

The second-place winners will receive $50,000, with $15,000 to the individual teacher to use at his discretion and $35,000 going to the high school to support the winning skilled trades program.

Webb, a 21-year veteran teacher, uses a project-based approach to teaching and learning. His students have designed and created solar-powered chicken tractors and sold them to local farmers, and they've built off-grid, tiny homes for the community. 

WWII, Korean War veteran in Tennessee finally gets diploma from high school

A 93-year-old man became the latest student at Red Bank High School in Tennessee to receive his high school diploma on Monday.

In 1942, while he was a senior at Red Bank High, he dropped out to go serve the nation during World War II.

Stansell spent some of the major battles in the Pacific Theater of WWII in the engine room on the USS Saratoga. He was at the battle of Guadacanal, the Solomans, the Gilberts and Marshalls, and Battle of Iwo Jima.

On Monday morning, Stansell received his diploma in front of a crowd of current students, who were all inspired by his story.

In addition to getting that diploma, Stansell is now a member of the Red Bank High School Hall of Fame.

Memphis Educator Wins The "Oscar" Of Teaching

The teacher at John P. Freeman Optional School had no idea she would be the highlight of a school assembly. 4th grade educator Erica Stephens was recognized for her exceptional work, and as a model for the state and nation.               

The 12-year veteran received the $25,000 Milken Educator Award, which recognizes teaching excellence. Stephens lives by the belief that teachers should be equally respected as doctors, lawyers, and engineers.

Tennessee kindergartners surprise deaf custodian by signing ‘Happy Birthday’ song to him

Heartwarming video shows a class of kindergarteners in Tennessee surprising their custodian, who is deaf, by signing the “Happy Birthday” song.

It is clear Mr. James has had a huge impact on the students of Coffee County Schools. This story is so touching. Happy birthday to Mr. James!

Tennessee Names 2018-19 Principal, District Supervisor of the Year

Vicki Shipley, principal of Munford Middle School in Tipton County Schools, was named Tennessee’s 2018-19 Principal of the Year. Shipley has served in school administration for 18 years and is in her eighth year as principal of Munford Middle. As principal, she has worked to ensure that the administrative team provides a clear focus on academic success through collaboration. Shipley also models the importance of professional learning by being an active principal study council member, attending TEAM training along with her teachers, and strives to learn at least one new thing every day.

Maria Warren, district elementary supervisor and RTI2 supervisor in Loudon County Schools, was named Tennessee’s 2018-19 Supervisor of the Year. Warren has worked in education for over 27 years and has served 8 years as an administrator. Under her leadership, Loudon County was invited to be one of 22 districts focused on improving professional learning for educators. Through this project, Warren concentrated on aligning professional development to the district strategic plan and developed tools to guide the design and delivery of all professional learning activities. As a result, 98 percent of teachers in Loudon County now believe that their professional learning is aligned to the district’s priorities for improving teacher practices and student learning.

Six Tennessee schools win federal ‘Blue Ribbon’ status for 2018

Six Tennessee public schools, including two in suburban Shelby County, were named “Blue Ribbon” schools Monday by the U.S. Department of Education.

Making this year’s list from Tennessee are:

  • Discovery School, Murfreesboro, Murfreesboro City Schools

  • Donelson Elementary, Arlington, Arlington Community Schools

  • Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School, Nashville, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools

  • Lakeland Elementary School, Lakeland,  Lakeland School System

  • Merrol Hyde Magnet School, Hendersonville, Sumner County Schools

  • Scales Elementary School, Brentwood, Williamson County Schools

Tennessee hits highest graduation rate for second year in a row

Tennessee's graduation rate held steady year over year, maintaining the record rate of 89.1 percent that was recorded last school year. Overall, more than 56 percent of districts with high schools saw their graduation rates improve compared with last year’s rates, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.

Superintendent Bruce Borchers Named Tennessee’s ACT K-12 Champion

Tennessee’s ACT K-12 Champion is Oak Ridge Superintendent Bruce Borchers. The ACT College and Career Readiness Champions include high school seniors, K-12 professionals, postsecondary professionals, and workforce professionals who are making a positive impact on their communities through their efforts to advance college and career readiness for all. The ACT College and Career Readiness Champions are individuals across the country who support ACT’s mission of education and workplace success. ACT State Councils--comprised of education and workforce professionals from all 50 states—serve as the selection committee to select one Champion per category for each participating state.

Bruce Borchers received this award for his commitment to the Seven Keys for College and Career Readiness he formulated with members of the Oak Ridge community. Borchers explains, “The Seven Keys are intended to improve the college and career readiness of all Oak Ridge students and to provide them with a better foundation of knowledge and skills, allowing them to be prepared for a more technologically sophisticated and internationally competitive working world. The Seven Keys allow us to measure just how well we are doing in preparing our students for their futures.” They start with Key 1, focusing on all students reading at grade level by grade 3. Key 2 states that math proficiency will be at grade level by the end of grade 4. The focus for Key 3 is to have all students at grade level in both subjects by the end of grade 6. Key 4 focuses specifically on ensuring 8th grade students meet college and career readiness benchmarks on the ACT Aspire test. Key 5 states that students will be fluent in financial literacy by the time they graduate. The goal of Key 6 is a lofty commitment to get all of our students scoring a 27 or higher on the ACT. “That key progresses all the way to the ultimate key, Key 7, which asks all of our students to participate in advanced placement, dual enrollment, industry certification, or our Navy JROTC program.”

In 1943, the city of Oak Ridge was born in innovation, technology, and creativity. We continue that legacy through our focus on STEM and project-based learning. Our entire district is now AdvancED STEM certified in all grades K-12. Our middle school students are working with NASA to send a cube satellite into space. Teachers collaborate across the curriculum to create a problem-based learning environment for our students. Borchers continues, “They are passionate and committed individuals who go the extra mile for students every single day. By focusing on the Seven Keys, we have seen our graduates go on and be very successful because of the skills they have developed right here in the Oak Ridge Schools.”


Oak Ridge Schools Recognized for Strategic Planning Process that Promotes Achievement, Engagement, Transparency, and Accountability

HUNTSVILLE, AL. (February 21, 2018) –Oak Ridge Schools was recognized by LEAN Frog and the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) as a Tennessee finalist in the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices Contest. Executive Director of School Leadership Bruce Lay and Supervisor of Career Readiness and Communications Holly Cross accepted the $1,000 cash prize for their school system’s entry at the 2018 TOSS Legislative and Learning Conference. As a finalist, ORS will compete for the $4,000 grand prize with Tennessee co-finalist Warren County Schools, Alabama co-finalists Eufaula City Schools and Muscle Shoals City Schools and co-finalists from Louisiana who will be determined this spring.
The Oak Ridge Strategic Plan 2020 is an initiative developed by the superintendent, teachers, administrators, and community members to improve ORS processes in five critical areas: academic excellence, educator excellence, learning environment excellence, operational excellence, and stakeholder excellence.
“The Oak Ridge Strategic Plan 2020 is a hallmark of engagement, transparency, and accountability,” said Dr. Sherri Headrick, LEAN Frog Director of Marketing and Personnel. “The use of KPIs and the scorecard is the extra step that many school systems do not take. Our judges were very impressed with the commitment ORS has made to continuous improvement.”
Superintendent Bruce Borchers, in partnership with educators, administrators, and community members, began the development of the insightful and sustainable strategic plan in 2016. Through a collaborative process, goals (i.e., academic, educator, learning environment, operational, and stakeholder excellence) were identified, clearly defined, and communicated. Each goal was assigned a designated owner. The owner tracks progress toward the goal and reports on the goal to the board of education and the community. ORS celebrates met goals. For example, students were recognized for being certified in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator as part of the academic excellence goal of promoting critical thinking skills and problem-based learning. Improvement opportunities and strategies are identified for goals that are not met. The ORS team identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to improvement in each area. The result is a best practice that enhances stakeholder engagement, increases organizational transparency, and helps Oak Ridge Schools accomplish its mission of preparing students for college, career, and life success.
“I am extremely proud of our staff, students, and the community for coming together to create our ORS Strategic Plan 2020,” said Dr. Borchers, Superintendent of ORS. “This Strategic Plan is all about continuous improvement and achieving excellence in education. It is an important and detailed framework for ORS that envisions our future and sets strategic goals to realize that future. We truly appreciate this recognition from LEAN Frog.”

Dickson County's School Transportation Supervisor, Melissa Garton, has been named by School Bus Fleet magazine as one of the 10 Phenomenal Women in School Bus Transportation.

Melissa Garton, Transportation Coordinator at Dickson County Schools, has been recognized as one of the "10 Phenomenal Women in School Transportation."  Congratulations, Melissa!  

Oak Ridge School District is First in State to Earn AdvancED STEM District-Wide Certification

Today, Oak Ridge High School is pleased to announce that we have received official Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Certification from AdvancED. This accomplishment means that Oak Ridge School district is the first entire district in Tennessee (the second entire district in the world) to be STEM Certified by AdvancED. Oak Ridge High School is also the first comprehensive high school in the state to earn this distinction as an entire school as opposed certifying a single STEM program area. 

AdvancED implements a research-based framework and criteria for the awareness, continuous improvement, and assessment of the quality, rigor and substance of our STEM educational programs. The certification process clearly defines the qualities and components vital to creating and sustaining superior student-centered K-12 STEM teaching and learning programs, as well as clear expectations for student outcomes and mastery of 21st century skills. The certification process comprises two days of intensive communication with school stakeholders, classroom observations to see students in action, and an exit presentation of the findings from the review team.

The Oak Ridge School district has always been committed to the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in quality education for its students. We have augmented this focus with an emphasis on preparing students for future STEM occupations and fostering 21st century skills for collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking utilizing interdisciplinary problem-based learning. A critical part of this process has been the pursuit of recognition by and recommendations from AdvancED STEM certification, which will authenticate and build upon our current curricular practices for infusing STEM-based learning in our daily instruction.

In the spring of 2016, three Oak Ridge elementary schools earned AdvancED STEM certification: Glenwood, Linden, and Woodland Elementary schools. In the spring of 2017, three more schools in Oak Ridge received this distinction: Willow Brook Elementary, Jefferson Middle, and Robertsville Middle. With the addition of the high school certification, our entire district is now STEM certified. Our desire is to prepare our learners for the careers of tomorrow by perpetuating their enthusiasm for STEM disciplines today. Our focus on STEM demonstrates our continued commitment to ensure every Oak Ridge student is prepared for college, career and life success.

Oak Ridge Teams Experience Success in Robotics World Festival in Houston

From April 19th – 22nd, 2017, the Master Builders (Team 3132) from Jefferson Middle School and the Secret City Wildbots (Team 4265) from Oak Ridge High School, competed in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics World Festival in Houston, Texas. We are pleased to announce that both teams experienced success in the World Festival.

The FIRST LEGO League team, The Master Builders from Jefferson Middle School, received trophies for the top awards in the world for 1st place in robot performance, and 2nd place in programming. There were 108 teams present for FIRST LEGO League at the World Festival from all over the globe.

Parent mentor/coach, Jeff Thompson, and teacher coach, Lexie Scott, lead the Master Builders. Their FIRST LEGO League teams research real-world problems such as food safety, recycling, or energy, and are challenged to develop innovative solutions. The Master Builders’ innovative solution this year was to create biodegradable plastic rings for soda cans. Their inspiration came as a continuation of the recycling competition from last year. Coach Lexie Scott said that a unique component of the competitions is that students can build on a knowledge base from prior competitive events. They also must design, build, program a robot, and compete on a tabletop playing field.

The world competition consists of four components: 1) Table Game, which is robot performance; 2) Core Values, in which students express that friendly competition and helping one another is the foundation of teamwork; 3) Project Presentation, in which students present innovative solutions; 4) Engineering Interview, allowing students to elaborate on their robot building and programming processes. All four components hold equal value in determining the overall Championship Award. The organization takes pride in the emphasis on the Core Values as the cornerstone of the program. They are among the fundamental elements that distinguish FIRST LEGO League from other programs of its kind.

The Secret City Wildbots, Team 4265, competed in the Roebling Division of the World Festival with 66 teams from around the World. At the end of 110 rounds, the Secret City Wildbots were ranked 5th and became the 5th seated alliance captain, allowing them to invite Paly Robotics from Palo Alto, California; Hardin Valley Academy’s Rohawktics from Knoxville, TN and Farragut High School’s Flagship, also from Knoxville, TN. Hardin Valley Academy and Flagship is Farragut. Forming alliances with teams who are often our top competition is a unique feature of FIRST Robotics, coined “cooperatition.” The cooperatition of this alliance brought our local teams into the final rounds of play.

They won two of three of the quarterfinal matches and advanced to semi-finals where they lost to four teams who were the eventual Roebling Division & FIRST Robotics Houston - World Champions. The team finished qualification matches with a record of 9-1. Team assistant and school board member, Angi Agle stated, “This was a stellar showing by these teams, and we are very proud of them.”

Coach Lisa Buckner stated that the team believes that, “All the robot iterations they made throughout the official FIRST Robotics season helped them to compete competitively at the World Championships. It also demonstrates their commitment to live out their motto to ‘Passionately Pursue Perfection & Catch Excellence in the Process.’"

They plan to apply to compete at the 2017 Indiana Robotics Invitational in July to compete with the Best of the Best FRC Robots, and they believe their statistics and performance in Houston should help them earn the invitation. The team expressed their gratitude to all of the support they have received throughout the year and are already looking forward to the 2018 game reveal.