Roy Exum: Teachers Bolt At Tyner

Monday, September 23, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As the Hamilton County Public Schools begin the seventh week on the school calendar, it is revealed that six teachers at Tyner Academy have already quit – two in the past week – due to deplorable working conditions. According to informed sources, “Tyner’s students don't fear any repercussions from administration, students call teachers "bitch," "F**k you" and more.  Students are sent to the office for horrible disrespect and (then) sent back to class with no punishment. Students ignore being told to put their phones away and will become combative when asked to do so.  Good teachers hate their job but can't get out … unless they quit,” the email continues.

“The teachers have no confidence in the administration and fear repercussions if they speak out.”

Believe it or not, a lack of discipline is believed to be universal in our public schools and, ironically, the harsh email revealing Tyner’s woes come comes on the very day Superintendent Bryan Johnson is jockeying hard for a new contract. At a recent board meeting, the fawning School Board voted 6-3 after the back-room hint was suggested to investigate if Johnson’s four-year contract could be altered. The current contract plainly prohibits such action until there is less than a year remaining on Johnson’s contract. But promising test results after Johnson’s second year have his backers almost giddy to reward the Superintendent as Hamilton County faces a huge facilities need that is said to exceed a billion (with a ‘b’) dollars.

I can virtually assure ‘any and all involved’ that the taxpayers, as well as the majority of the Hamilton County Commission, would overwhelmingly disagree with such an affront by the public school leadership for many reasons, including:

* -- Johnson botched what would have been a 5-percent teacher’s raise by hiring 181½ positions -- without the resources to do so -- over the summer. Johnson had thought a 34-cent tax increase would give the public schools a huge cash infusion but the County Commission wisely voted it down. Stuck with financing such a folly, he altered the FY2020 budget to include the new hires. Some group called “the Collaborative Conference Team” arbitrarily reduced the 5-percent raise to 2½ percent without the knowledge or the votes of the County Commission or the School Board. Johnson then took $8 million out of the school’s reserves to fund a one-time bonus for the teachers. The new hires, mostly support staff, will add about $7 million to next year’s budget, where a raise for the teachers is now paramount and will be a huge budget item in the FY2021 budget. Regardless, Johnson’s blunder just caused a non-budgeted cost of $8 million.

* -- About the same time, Johnson’s progressive and liberal agenda brought in a speaker for teacher in-service training who featured “white privilege,” a racial falsehood that has been roundly debunked and, among other wild claims, portends a black person cannot be a racist. One of the presentation slides read, “People of color cannot be racist because they lack the institutional power to adversely affect white lives.” The repercussions attracted national news outlets, cloaked the public schools with such a stigma that over 30 percent of school-age children now attend private schools or are home-schooled, and became quite an embarrassment to local and state politicians (who fund the public schools.) Johnson was summoned to appear before the County Commission but has never appeared.

* -- In August Hamilton County was flooded with robo-calls, the pre-recorded message saying Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson is using tax dollars to “push a liberal agenda in K-12 public schools through white privilege training.” Johnson has allowed a quasi-education foundation, UnifiEd, free access in most of Hamilton County’s high schools, where it is believed UnifiEd’s paid staff recruits student volunteers to work in campaigns and educate students in community organizing. 

* -- In just several weeks a massive push will be launched by a conservative group known as ‘Hamilton Flourishing,’ which touts “a powerful program to return the County School Board to conservative leadership, beginning in 2020, and supporting the five, brave County Commissioners who stood up to the progressive UnifiEd organization and stopped a $34 million tax increase. Hamilton County is lurching leftward to a progressive beat, and it must be stopped!” Johnson is believed to be solidly aligned with ‘UnifiEd’ by those inside the HCDE and out.

* -- Johnson is adamantly opposed to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s voucher program that has now been accelerated to begin in the fall of 2020. He should be. According to various estimates, it would take between $2.74 million and $16.39 million away from the public schools every year under the state Basic Education Program formula. The money would be used to enable some students to attend private schools. Hamilton County parents are claiming they’ll sue the public schools, if necessary, to take part in the voucher program.

* * *

The truth is that Johnson has simply done what he was hired to do. He most definitely should be applauded for his success but he is far less popular as he enters his third year. While not all the School Board members are of the same sentiment “we may lose him,” another far-larger crowd is placated by the fact there are indeed a good number of competent educators who would love to apply for the Hamilton County Superintendent’s position. Each of those, if they are worth their salt, is convinced they could do a far better job.

* * *


Members of the Hamilton Country School Board just evaluated Supt. Bryan Johnson in 19 areas, a score of five being best and a score of one being worst.

JENNY HILL – A first-time member of the School Board and an obvious member of the UnifiEd team, Hill gave Supt. Johnson scores of a perfect ‘5’ in 9 of 19 categories. She gave him scores of ‘4’ in eight other areas, and her lowest rating was a ‘3’ in the remaining two categories. Her total score averaged out to be 4.24.

STEVE HIGHLANDER – A veteran School Board member and longtime educator and coach, Dr. Highlander rated Johnson with ‘5’ in four categories. He then ranked Johnson with a ‘4’ three times, a ‘3’ nine times, and a ‘2’ three times. His total score averaged out to be 3.42.

KARITSA JONES -- Jones ranked Johnson with 12 ‘5s,’ one of the highest of any on the school board. Karitsa, the lone black on the School Board, gave him a ‘4’ in seven other categories. Her total score averaged out to be 4.63.

KATHY LENNON – Easily identified as a member of the UnifiEd team, she, too, gave the Superintendent a ‘5’ in twelve categories. Kathy gave three ‘4’ scores and two ‘3s’ in the poll. Her total average was 4.63. 

TUCKER McCLENDON – He gave the Superintendent a rating of ‘5’ in four categories, another ten at ‘4,’ and had another ‘3’ in five areas. His total average was 3.95.

TIFFANY ROBINSON – Robinson voted ‘5’ an amazing 15 times, along with two ‘4s’ and two ‘3s’. Her average was 4.68.

JOE SMITH –  Joe gave the ‘Super’ thirteen ‘5s,’ and six ‘4s’. His average was 4.68.

RHONDA THURMAN – Rhonda gave Johnson one ‘5,’ six ‘4s’, seven ‘3s,’ two ‘2s,’ and two 1s. Her average was 3.16.

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