Before Commission today: A thwarted attempt to fire a teacher


Tony Norman

A week or so ago we had this story about Tony Norman’s displeasure with the attempt by Knox County Schools to fire teacher Richard Suttle:

Particularly, he’s upset with Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre.

“It’s a horrible display of policy in practice, of this administration and McIntyre in particular,” Norman said. He plans to discuss the matter in Commission’s July 21 work session.

Norman, a former teacher himself, wants Commission to know about the successful appeal of a teacher at Gibbs High School — which the school system evaluated as inefficient at his job. The appeal decision by a hearing officer, in favor of the teacher, included some criticism of the evaluation method used to rate educators in Knox County.

McIntyre’s administration failed in its appeal of the hearing officer’s ruling to reinstate teacher Richard S. Suttle.

Norman said teachers are tired of the system’s evaluation standards, adding those figures are not accurate in portraying the effectiveness of teachers.

“I know what the teachers are going through,” Norman said. “I meet with them regularly, and they’re stressed out.”

Ever since the red shirt revolt that began with last fall’s public commentary by teachers who spoke out against the eval methods used by the school system – among other changes handed down by the state – Norman has positioned himself as the voice of those upset teacher.

As these types of things often go, the loudest voices often tend to be the most zealous. But it’s hard to ignore a roomful of about a hundred teachers wearing red shirts in solidarity to show their displeasure with the changes in their workplaces. We covered that previously, as have other media in the community, since last fall.

Norman, today, is expected to bring up the case of Suttle before Knox County Commission. Meeting is at 2 p.m. What makes the Suttle case interesting, is the commentary in an opinon by the hearing official, which also speaks to the standards being used by schools for grading the people who grade our kids. The opinion includes some criticism of the system’s methods. Forgive any typos, as this was transcribed from a pdf, and I’m no stenographer (though sometimes it feels that way). Read more here:

“Much of the testimony and debate in the matter involves Mr. Suttle’s teacher evaluations. Therefore, a convenient starting place for this discussion is the evaluation model, known as the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model, or its acronym TEAM. This mode is the annual evaluation process for teacher and school support staff including counselors and librarians. TEAM is the evaluation model that resulted from the 2010 First to the Top legislation. To say that the model and the process is controversial would be the grossest of understatements.”

– snip –

“In the Hearing Officer’s view, the TEAM evaluation model is a tool, not the holy grail. Since it involves subjective evaluations, it is subject to the frailties of human flesh. Beauty is oft in the eyes of the beholder, and so it is with effective teaching. Rating a teacher’s performance on a scale of one to five necessarily involves subjective judgements, and the results will vary form evaluator to evaluator. The case against Mr. Suttle highlights some of the shortcomings of any evaluative tool.

And if you want to check out the letter of recommendation to fire Suttle, it’s here. Speaking with our education reporter Lydia McCoy, she said that the decision by the school board to refuse the administrations appeal of the hearing officer’s decision was uncommon too.

… in completely unrelated matters, I’m back from time off (with a bit of good news in the personal life deparment). While I catch up on life here in Knox Co, here’s a photo for you to enjoy from a hike last week:

Shot from the Mark Twain Weg, near Zermatt

Shot from the Mark Twain Weg, near Zermatt


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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