Middle School To Be Discussed At Public Forums

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The Cannon County School System will hold a series of public forums concerning the possibility of a school for middle grades students.

These forums are open to all citizens, and everyone is encouraged to attend the forum of convenience to ask questions and receive information.

Items for discussion will include the definition of a middle school, pros and cons of a middle school, placement, timeline, grade configuration, and public desire for a middle school.

The dates for the forums are as follows:

Jan. 24, 6:00 P.M., Woodbury Grammar School (cafeteria)

Jan. 31, 6:00 P.M., East Side School (gym)

Feb. 1, 6:00 P.M., Woodland School (cafeteria)

Feb. 5, 10:00 A.M., Cannon Cointy Courthouse

Feb. 15, 6:00 P.M., West Side School (gym)

Feb. 22, 6:00 P.M., Auburn School (gym)

Feb. 24, 6:00 P.M., Short Mountain School (cafeteria)
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January 13, 2011 at 9:53pm
I personally think that Cannon County is in serious need of a middle school. Our childrens education is already suffering when you look at other counties in the state. We need to come together as ONE community for the betterment of OUR children.
January 14, 2011 at 4:30am
Following are some questions I would like to see addressed at the forums:

• What are the projected enrollment figures for the entire county for the next 5 and 10 years?

• Is it possible a middle school would mean closing one or more of the county's elementary schools?

• Does Cannon County need six elementary schools?

• Based upon current and projected enrollment, how many elementary schools does Cannon County need to meet state class-size guidelines?

• What is the projected enrollment of a middle school the next 5 and 10 years?

• What is the projected enrollment of CCHS over the next 5 fo 10 years?

• What is the most cost-effective grade structure for Cannon County, including the number of places of learning?

• How many teaching and administrative positions would be added or eliminated if there was a middle school?

• How many teaching and administrative positions would be added or eliminated if there were four schools in Cannon County — two elementary, one middle, and one high achool?

• Every school system in counties surrounding Cannon had a middle school or schools. What type of educational and fiscal impact does a middle school or schools have on those systems?
January 14, 2011 at 5:43am
What grades would be in this new school?
The kids in the smaller schools do better. Smaller classes more time teaching.These schools are like family; the bigger kids watch out for the smaller ones. Look at the other middle schools to see if crowding makes things better or worse. Will they be teaching or maintaining control?
January 14, 2011 at 6:58am
Let me begin by saying I am in favor of a middle school. We should have started a process to build one 10 years ago and we would have already had something in place.

I hope the rumors of simply shuffling students around to the less populated schools and using the Woodbury Grammar School as the middle school do not come to pass.

That will not solve the problem. That will simply shift the problem and put a band-aid on a cut that needs stitches.

The only answer to fix the problem is to build a school and do away with the outlying schools grammar schools.

I know that is tough. I know there is a lot of tradition and personal memories tied to those schools. But, there has to be a time where we look beyond today and see what we will ultimately face tomorrow.

In less than 20 years we will have a High School that will be 50 years old. We will have five grammar schools that will be pushing 60 and 70 years old.

The longer we choose to wait to build, the more expensive it will become and we will continue to sink loads of money into those elementary schools that are outdated, worn out and un-needed.

My intent is not to make any of the readers mad or stomp on the old traditions of Westside vs. Eastside or WGS vs. Short Mountain in the county basketball tournament.

However, if we don't build NOW, we are simply passing the problems we face immediately to the students who are in school today.

For example: Uprooting a student at Short Mountain and sending them to Eastside creates busing issues, parent pick-up problems, teachers who would lose their jobs, staffing that would lose their jobs, etc., etc.

Shuffling students from one school to another and "creating" a middle school is not the solution.

The time to BUILD is NOW, not later!
January 14, 2011 at 7:56am
Why don't you start by looking at the problems and test scores of nearby middle schools? I think you will be surprised at how small school scores are much better, and problems are much less than bigger schools. Now who are we looking at here? The kids or those that want to save a buck? Also, if there are teachers put out of work by this, how many of you guys would be for voting yourselves out of a job?
January 14, 2011 at 8:26am
If all elementary schools could have the class size of a Short Mtn or Eastside then their test scores would be great too. But, you may need to look at it from the larger schools perspective when they have 25 in a class compared to 10-12. There's a reason "small school" test scores are better, it does not matter if its an elementary, intermediate, middle, or high school. Class size is the determining factor.
January 14, 2011 at 9:04am
Class size is A determining factor, but not the ONLY determining factor. And if we are looking at class sizes, do you think they will be smaller with a middle school? Not likely, which still leaves us with the same problems.
January 14, 2011 at 9:05am
Using the logic of better test scores because of smaller schools and keeping things the way they are just isn't good logic.

We cannot continue to financially maintain six elementary schools that are soon to be 60 years old when two or three only have enrollments of less than 100 kids K-8.

What is wrong with building a new High School (one big enough for future student growth) and use it for the 10th, 11th and 12th grades?

Let's turn the old High School into the middle school for 7th, 8th and 9th grades.

Let's use the Woodbury Grammar School for all students county wide K-6.

You then keep all of your teachers and no one get's laid off. You still keep your student ratio per teacher low in every classroom in all three schools.

And you take the money that was being spent in maintenance, up-keep, equipment, electricity, water, gas, and phone bills of the other five schools and put that money toward paying off the new school you built.

You can also reduce the money spent on having 7 Principals down to 3.

It is a win-win for everyone to include the students and we don't pass on a problem to a future generation to take care of in 20 years when they are running the school board.

The time to build is NOW! The longer we wait the more money it will cost us.
January 14, 2011 at 9:46am
In a time of budget shortfalls, and rising deficits I see it as a luxury we can not afford. School is a place of learning, and in this day and age, responsible use of tax payers money may be one of the best lessons! Some may argue that it's about getting our fair share. I say fair share of what, the collective debt? Let's give this some hard thought, and weigh the needs and potential gains, against the impact of the accumulated debt. Thank you
January 14, 2011 at 9:49am
First, you might want to go back and check your enrollment figures for the "two or three" schools. Second, has there been a study of future growth? How do we know there will be lots of growth? Third, parents, it is going to be a big change to bus all elementary students all the way to Woodbury every day. That is a long time on the bus for many younger students. Last, no matter what is said there will be lay offs (also known as "no positions available")for teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers, office personnel, bus drivers, etc. because there will not be a need for all of them and the county is NOT going to lower the teacher-pupil ratio--Come on!
January 14, 2011 at 10:40am
By the way, you have already started laying off, "reduce the money spent on having 7 principals down to 3", which means 4 teachers have to go to make room for those 4 principals eliminated. Bet those principals (most of whom have an EDS or Masters degree) and teachers are all glad to hear that news!
January 14, 2011 at 2:54pm
I hope we will heed the advice of those who are educated and specialized in advising and assisting in this extremely unique area. Then let our minds lead our hearts. Once we are well informed, Kevinh2301 said it best, "Let's give this some hard thought, and weigh the needs and potential gains, against the impact of the accumulated debt".
January 14, 2011 at 3:49pm
kevinh2301: A school being a luxury we can't afford is a new one on me.

Luxuries are a new Community Center, a new building to help entice industries to come to Cannon County or building a new pool for kids to play in during the summer.

A new school is a necessity, not a luxury. Building a new school is like having a child, there is no perfect time to do either one and procrastination is a waste of time and money in the case of the school.

The impact of accumulated debt will rise the longer we wait and not decrease. What we can't afford to do is continue to sink money into five schools that are soon to be 60 years old.

And teacher I am not sure where your numbers are, but the last time I looked Short Mountain and Eastside are both below 100 in total enrollment K-8. That is two of the three schools I was talking about, but I couldn't remember if there was a 3rd.

You can have a growth study done and it will tell you exactly what I am saying. The need to build is NOW. Waiting will INCREASE the cost of the building. Do you think we have stayed at the same student enrollment over the last 5 years? The answer is NO. It has increased and will continue to do so every year.

And the proposals that are currently on the table will cost a lot more teacher jobs than building a new school ever will.

I don't want you to lose your job either. I appreciate very much what teachers do and the responsibility they have. They are one of the most under paid and under appreciated positions across the Nation in my opinion.

But, if you think that what is currently proposed will save yours or someone else's job then you are sadly misinformed.
January 14, 2011 at 9:42pm
Corey, while I did not say directly " a new school" that was in fact what I was saying. Read the message again and I think you will understand that is what I was conveying. My point was just that new is not always cost effective. I have lots of things that are old, such as my car, my house, etc. I'm sure a new house would save money on fuel, and maintenance. The question is what is the break even point. A new car would be less costly to run as well, but again, what is the payoff? Saving a thousand dollars a year in repairs, is less than $500.00 a month payments.

I am however not fully informed on this matter either, and so I'm not trying to say to build or not to build is a better idea, only rather just putting out considerations I think are appropriate. Thanks
January 14, 2011 at 9:59pm
Corey, you contradict yourself when you say there are two schools that are now below 100 in total enrollment and then say enrollment has increased and will continue to do so every year. Do whatever you wish about building a new school. I am close to retirement and it really doesn't affect me very much. I do believe it is a mistake, however, because the small school environment is so conducive to learning. By the way, in your earlier post you said under your plan you "keep all your teachers and no one gets laid off". Hmmmm, now this one sounds like some teachers might lose jobs......
January 15, 2011 at 12:07am
Teacher, appears you must have skipped your Economics class , do you believe that the taxpayers should continue to foot the bill for staffing thats not needed , the state has guidelines for student-teacher ratio so why should we continue to fund salaries in the schools with low enrollment. Layoff , downsize , restructure no one likes the sound of those words but in the world of business it is a harsh reality , and yes the school system is and should be operated as a business. It would be wise to have records of the utilities (electric , natural gas,etc.)from all the schools at the upcoming forum , almost all of the outdated elementary schools were designed to be heated with coal and poorly insulated, and over the years have been retrofitted with natural gas and electric heating and cooling without updating the the inefficient structures (windows ,roof and wall insulation), records of maintenance cost of each school should also be on hand to assist in the determining the plan that would ultimately make the best sence for the taxpayers and the future taxpayers the kids!
January 15, 2011 at 6:41am
Teacher if I said no one would get laid off by building a new school then I am in error. That could happen as well. But, LESS lay-offs would occur by building than by simply re-shuffling one group of kids to another school which is what is being proposed. And shuffling does nothing for the problem except put a band-aid on it.

And I take offense to your idea that smaller schools have smarter students. You imply that a school like Eastside or Short Mountain has the smartest kids than the rest of the county because they attend a school with less enrollment and therefore the teachers are more able to "teach" them in ways someone at WGS or Woodland or Westside cannot. That is 100% pure hogwash.

There is no proof that WGS, Westside or Woodland students are less educated in any way because they have more students. There is no proof that the teachers in those schools are less able to "teach" because they work in a school with more students either. I agree smaller classes are better, but to put it as you do is saying, kids that go to small schools are smarter than the ones who go to bigger schools.

And by building you actually keep your class room’s size smaller than you would by re-shuffling the kids to different schools. If the re-shuffling occurs and all the kids in WGS are moved to Eastside or Auburntown then what do you think will happen to those class sizes? They will increase dramatically!

And no I do not contradict myself by saying two schools have less than 100 but we are increasing in enrollment. I didn't say we are increasing at those two schools, but as a county we are and have been and will continue to do so.

Our property taxes are low, we have ample land for sale, we have a relativity low crime rate and we are 15 minutes away from one of the fastest growing cities in America (Murfreesboro). We are also 25 minutes away from McMinnville or Manchester. How could you or anyone else not think we will increase in population in the years to come?

kevinh2301 I respect your opinion and I am not 100% informed either. However, I am strong in my belief that building is the right idea. I thought so 10 years ago when we faced the same problem and we passed it on to this group of board members. That was wrong then and to do it again would be a travesty.

I believe in getting your money's worth out of what you own. But, we will soon have schools that are 50 or 60 years old. And I like lucydog, think the time of spending money on schools that have been renovated from coal to gas is over.

I went to WGS where it was freezing in the winter and smothering in the summer when they literally shoveled coal into a furnace and we sold candy every year to buy air conditioners.

It is time to move on and build something more modern. It is time to stop paying for six elementary schools that were built when most people's grandmother went to school.

I do not mean to offend anyone, but the time to build is NOW. The longer we wait the more money it will cost.

Does anyone think if we had done this eight years ago it wouldn't have been cheaper than today's building costs? Don’t you think the longer we wait the more the building costs will increase?

January 15, 2011 at 6:47am
Not all students,6-8 in Dekalb or Rutherford attend a middle school . Eagleville stayed k-12 and there is Dekalb West k-8.Let's do for Cannon County what is best,which ever way we go.
January 16, 2011 at 5:27pm
Let's look at some facts instead of going wild with touchy-feely speculations about what might be best for the kids. Here's an html address to a big pile of just-released standardized test scores for Tennessee's grade schools.


You can argue until you're blue in the face that smaller class sizes will result in better grades, but you would be wrong. Short Mountain Elementry has smaller class sizes than WGS, but Short Mountain's kids did worse on standardized tests than WGS' kids.

Having smaller class sizes is obviously not the magic bullet people think it is. And neither is spending more money on the schools.

Cannon County spends $8,232 per year per student and got mostly D's and a few C's on the state's standardized test results. Memphis City schools spent a whopping $10,767 per year per student and got nearly straight F's. That's $2,535 per student more than Cannon to get worse results.

Before you go patting yourselves on the back for besting Memphis City schools' performance and expenditures per student, take a look at our neighbors in Rutherford County. Rutherford spent $7,707 per student and got all A's and B's on the state's standardized test. That's $525 less per student than Cannon, and Rutherford students got A's and B's whereas Cannon got mostly D's and a couple C's.

At this point, you can argue that "standardized tests" are not standard, fair, or accurate when applied to Cannon County. You can argue that the people in Cannon are "special" and deserve to be treated differently than every other US citizen. I'm sure when the kids graduate from CCHS and go out into the real world and can't read or do simple math as well as the rest of the people in the state, their employers will say "Oh, it's okay. They're from Cannon County. They're special. Heck, let's promote every employee from Cannon County because they just showed up for work and they try hard!"

Or you can all--as a community that cares about the education your kids are getting--put on your big boy (and big girl) pants and face the facts: Cannon's school system has graduation rates, standardized test scores, and ACT scores that are well below the state's average.

Facts are facts: We're a county full of underachievers.

Sure there are some exceptions, and thank goodness for them! But on average? We are not the sharpest tools in the shed. In fact, many of us probably shouldn't be allowed to handle sharp objects: we'd probably run with them and poke an eye out.

Smaller class sizes won't solve Cannon's problems. More money spent per student won't solve Cannon's problems. What might solve Cannon's school system problems is a good, long, hard, honest look at Cannon Countian's cultures and values when it comes to teaching our children and what the public school system is for.

Are parents teaching their kids the value of an education and encouraging their kids to behave and do well in school? Or do you treat the public school system like it was some kind of daycare that will magically imbue your children with all the things you are not teaching them? Are you taping that "A" paper to the fridge, praising your kids when the do well in school, and telling them how proud you are of them when they put forth more effort to learn? Or do you just not care because you think that's the teachers' jobs and the kids respect the teachers more than you? Are the teachers we have all motivated about teaching, or are they just collecting a paycheck to do crowd control because parents don't discipline their kids, don't encourage them to learn, and inadvertently perpetuate a culture of willful ignorance? Are the school's administrators attracting--and retaining though competitive wages and continuing education programs--qualified teachers? Or are we just scraping by by hiring whoever is cheapest, local, and doesn't rock the boat or challenge that holiest of holies: "the way we have always done it in Cannon?"

Or are we all more excited about our basketball teams than encouraging these kids to--oh I don't know--study and do homework? After all, isn't that why we recently closed the schools because of snow and ice, but still put on a basketball game that same night?

Building a middle school will not resolve Cannon's underlying problems when it comes to the school's below-average (C's and D's) performance in comparison to the rest of the state. But I suspect any new middle school constructed will have a very nice basketball court with lots of seating.
January 17, 2011 at 6:38am
Diogenes has asked the questions and if one would carefully and thoughtfully answer those questions you have the problem right before you.

A county of underachievers whose parents have more interest in ball than demanding accountablity from school board members, teachers and their own children.

A culture of willful ignorance accurately discribes the problem. One where, as noted before, the school board member commented on the "medieval" courses CCHS grads had to take when entering college.

Those of my kin, over a dozen or more, have long been out of WGS, WHS and CCHS but they knew from day one, education was the number one reason for getting on the bus in the morning and not ball or cheer leading or other non-productive school actitivites.

If you had an "A" you could entertain other far less important aspects of school life.

Well prepared and presented comments! Thank you Diogenes for saying what needed to be said.
January 17, 2011 at 6:51am
"A county of underachievers whose parents have more interest in ball than demanding accountability from school board members, teachers and their own children."

I think that assessment is stretching things a bit.
January 17, 2011 at 7:19am
Perhaps, Mr Halpern and as Diogenes added, I should have noted there have been and thankfully are, some very much needed exceptions. Appreciate the opportunity to correct.
January 17, 2011 at 9:50am
Can we just stick to the facts and not the derogatory comments about how we have kids who are all "underachievers" or "special"!

If you want to complain about parents promoting basketball more than education, feel free to do so. And honestly, I agree with that statement.

If you want to talk about the financial aspect, feel free to do so. Or your thoughts on building a middle school or shuffling the problem around.

But to call our kids "underachievers" or "special" is crossing the line. We have students who get on this site and read these articles.

And who among us has always achieved every goal we ever set out to complete? Who among us hasn't been treated "special" at one point in time?

From reading a lot of these comments, I would say there are several that fit into both categories.
January 19, 2011 at 7:34am
I am not one hundred percent behind this endeavor, but I think that if it was done correctly there could be a success come out of this! I believe that instead of having a so called middle school structure (grades 6-8) we should be looking at more of a Junior High structure (grades 7-9). This way we would not only be pulling some of the over crowded situation out of the elementary schools but out of the high school also! This would only need to be done if there is to be another school built. If you do not want to build another school then there should not be anything done, because if the grammar school is turned into a middle or jr. high school then you have to bus all of the city kids out to the county schools and you wasting a lot of money that the county does not have. The waste comes from the added cost of busing to and from school as well as to and from the middle or jr. high!
January 20, 2011 at 2:31am
In my opinion, from a financial stand point, countywide, statewide, and nationwide I think it would be catastrophic, at this time, to attempt to implement a major infrastructure change in our educational system.

It is in our best interest to prepare and ready ourselves for the future, BUT it would be a major blow to our counties limited reserve funds to begin such a major endeavor now.

This does not mean I am against the idea, nor does it mean we should not study the future. We should always be looking into the future for our children. If we can come up with a way to raise the needed funds then let’s do it !

However, we as a county, state, and nation, are in a crisis not seen since the 1930’s. Some people will say I am crazy, and will try to deny it. The truth is we are seeing food, fuel, and everything else costs increase, and jobs decrease, the same way it did during “The Great Depression” .

I am open to these county wide discussions and hope to find some resolutions!

Todd Hollandsworth
2nd District Commissioner

January 20, 2011 at 6:52am
I agree with points that both creed and Todd make.

If we choose now is not the time to build due to financial reasons, then we do not need to create another problem by re-shuffling kids from one school to another simply to "create" a middle school. That solves nothing.

However, I have said before. Building a school is like having a child, there will never be a perfect time to do either.

Todd I am glad to see you are for more study, open to ideas and are thinking about today with the ideas geared toward tomorrow.

I believe personally, that the school board and the commissioners should have a joint task force to look at future building programs.

The longer we wait, the more it will cost.

And ignoring the problem today doesn't make it go away tomorrow.
January 24, 2011 at 12:51pm
Let us look at the facts:

National test scores are, on average, low in our county. That does not mean our kids are "stupid" or "slow," but only that they are, according to national testing (whatever that means) less educated.

In order to succeed in the world and to be competitive from a job perspective, whether we like it or not, many companies value titles, grades, and education as signs of competence. That is simply the truth of the matter. But I think if we are fair, most will admit that such things do seem to indicate a certain kind of proficiency in certain skills.

This does not mean kids in Cannon County do not have the same potential as any other child. It only means they have not been taught how to perform in the same way.

The two things that seem to need to be considered are:

a) by changing the current system, does it help better our kid's opportunity for success in their future as described above; and

b) what are the financial repercussions, in terms of tax money, jobs lost, etc - immediate and future.

It pains me to say that I think what some people consider to be another factor c) - that is, sentiment or tradition - ought not to be a motivating factor. All things change eventually. It is a fact of life. I am, as much as anyone else, a lover of "same old, same old," and there is a part of me which hates change tremendously. And for all those who have had great memories in small schools, I sympathize, and think it a pleasurable thing to recall to mind such experiences often. But I do not think it holds much relevance for upcoming children. They will, inevitably, build their own memories and their own traditions and sentiments. They too will have "good times," even if they are quite different from those experienced by their parents. Thus I think it a form of "projection" and, in an odd way, "coercion" that impels parents to put their children in the mold that they grew out of - however pleasant such things were to the parents. I think this stems from a positive desire: to give the good one experienced to their child, but I think it is misplaced. Just because a child doesn't have the same experience as their parents does not mean it will have none, nor that the child will not grow or become a successful and happy adult. We must draw a distinction between the experiences of the parent and those of the child.

With that said, it may still be the case that the traditions of the parents live on in the same way and that the small school atmosphere will survive. I am only saying that it ought not to be a determining factor in this discussion.

It may also be the case that in terms of a) and b) the consequences of building a new school or relocating would be negative.

I don't have much opinion on either of these two things. I think facts ought to be brought forth which bear on these points, and we ought to think carefully about them, and, with them as our guide, make a decision.
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