LSS specifies TN legislation it favors or opposes

New-LSS-logo-web-smallLakeland’s school board approved its 2017 legislative agenda at the Jan. 10 meeting, received an update on the new middle school’s construction, granted an 18-month extension on construction of a cell tower at the elementary school, and elected new school board officers, among other business.

The board’s one-page 2017 legislative agenda summarizes the district’s stance on important issues such as local control, funding and the state’s Public Chapter 680 (legislation about a system for grading schools). View the complete list of legislative stances when they are posted at

LSS supports:

  • A limit of eight hours per academic year for end-of-year student assessments (standardized testing).
  • Authorization for multiple options in the testing tool used for end-of-year student assessments.
  • Modification of Public Chapter 680 so its goals can be achieved without stigmatizing schools and students. Tennessee’s Senate Bill 300, also known as Public Chapter 680, requires the state’s Department of Education to develop a grading system that assigns schools grades of A, B, C, D and F, based on students’ standardized test results, student growth and other indicators of student achievement. This grade is published on the State Report Card and will begin in the 2017-2018 school year. See Public Chapter 680’s full text at
  • Amendment of Public Chapter 669 so school districts can be more flexible in how they apply it. Also known as House Bill 2148, this law gives students periods of physical activity and requires an annual report. See the law’s complete text at
  • Amendment of Tennessee’s funding formula for public schools so there is financial support specifically for early intervention programs (which serve students who need extra help). LSS opposes having to take money from another budget line item to fund this.
  • Authorization for each public school board to keep a percentage of charter school funds to cover the school district’s costs of being an effective authorizer.
  • Amendment of state law so school districts can “unilaterally spend any dollars in the fund balance in excess of 3% of the budgeted annual operating expenses.”
  • Amendment of state law so local governments (through their local public utilities) can “decide how essential services should be offered and how to meet critical infrastructure needs.”
  • State funding for test fees incurred by students in Advanced Placement courses.
  • The appointment (not election) of a school district’s superintendent.
  • Amendment of state law so school districts can advertise for bids and announce the sale of surplus property in venues other than written news publications.

Also in its legislative agenda, LSS opposes any expansion of the special education voucher program, as well as any new legislation that would divert money intended for public education to private schools.

Other LSS board business

Progress on Lakeland Middle Preparatory School

Dr. James B. Mitchell Jr. updated the board on construction progress for Lakeland Middle Preparatory School, which is scheduled to open in August 2017. Mitchell is a founding partner at the district’s consulting company, Southern Educational Strategies.

He said construction is on target for the new school to open in August, despite normal winter weather occurrences. The facility now has its permanent electric transformer, so the contractor can move forward without having to use any generators on the site, beginning to power up items and lighting within the building. Some of the major switch gear is also in place to distribute the voltage coming into the building. Work lights are being strung throughout the building so interior work can progress despite dark winter days.

The building has no plastic pipe, only copper. Water lines and fire sprinkler lines are now being run on the first floor. Plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and electrical crews are all hard at work inside, Mitchell said.

Almost all the block work is finished. Soon, workers will be able to bring in heating systems to blow warm air and help to start drying out the concrete blocks.

Outside, brick work is well underway, as the temperature allows (above 40 degrees for masonry work). Insulation work is also in progress. The roof is on 20-30 percent of the building.

Mitchell showed a photo of the new “cafetorium” (a combined cafeteria and auditorium) showing that the concrete walls are up and the bar joists are going in. Another photo showed progress for the front lobby, which will have a vaulted roof. A second-floor conference room will overlook the lobby. High windows in this area will add light to the library. Some of the blocks are split-face blocks, which help to control acoustics in a large open space and which also give a different textural look. The gym, cafetorium and music rooms will have plenty of acoustic panels.

He also said a lot of other work is going on with bids for furniture, fixtures and equipment, under the direction of LSS Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell and LMPS Principal Matt Adler, with Mitchell’s assistance. Using the shared services purchasing department for bids instead of having the contractor handle bids is saving the district “a significant amount of money,” Mitchell said.

Some of the competitive bids have already been awarded or have been received and are under evaluation, including the science lab’s casework (student and teacher stations, storage cabinets and more); casework for places like the art room, teacher work areas and student restrooms; major kitchen equipment; gym bleachers on both sides to seat up to 900 people (with capacity for up to 1,200 in the space if floor seats are included); student lockers; musical instruments; the school-wide intercom system; classroom furniture; projectors, large ceiling-mounted projectors for the library and cafetorium; hallway fire extinguishers; and all the microphones, speakers, speaker cabinets and wiring for the cafetorium and gym.

Horrell praised the work by Mitchell and LMPS’s principal and vice principal and said, “We’re pleased with our team and the progress they are making.”

He had good news about Old Brownsville Road’s access to LMPS, noting that the Jones family (original owners of the new school’s land) has signed over to the county the rights to small strips of land needed during construction of the school’s access roads. The county is expected to sign off on construction plans that make use of those spaces. The announcement removed concerns that the district might have to use condemnation proceedings to gain the necessary right-of-way.

Horrell also noted that Arlington Community Schools has given an updated number of 599 Lakeland students who will be transferring to LMPS when the school opens, including about 112 eighth-graders and 150 seventh-graders. The fifth- and sixth-grade students will move to LMPS directly from Lakeland Elementary School.

He projected that teacher jobs will be posted this week, with first interviews to be given to ACS teachers who lose their positions because of the large number of students transferring to LMPS. ACS has agreed to provide a list of those teachers by Feb. 15, and those first interviews for displaced teachers interested in moving to the LSS district are likely to be in late February.

LSS has also hired a second speech/language therapist, as well as a special education teacher to replace someone who submitted a mid-year resignation.

Additional board decisions, topics

• Horrell updated the board with the district’s latest financial report, with a summary posted online. He noted that the cafeteria fund has been operating in the black through the end of November, to the tune of $8,474. Last school year at that time, the cafeteria was in the black by $4,227. In the district’s first year of operation, the cafeteria fund operated in the red by $11,294.

• The school board approved an 18-month property lease extension requested by Tower Ventures for the construction of a cell phone tower on district property behind Lakeland Elementary School. The project is being delayed by carrier issues. Horrell explained after the meeting that the area around LES doesn’t currently get cell phone reception, and the tower will also boost reception in general for Lakeland’s cell phone users.

• The board unanimously re-elected school board leadership: Kevin Floyd, chair; Laura Harrison, vice chair; and Geoff Hicks and Teresa Henry as representatives to the Tennessee Legislative Network (a function of the Tennessee School Boards Association).

• The board approved internal deadlines so the district’s 2017-18 budget request will meet city board deadlines for municipal budgeting. The initial school budget will be reviewed at the April 3 LSS work session, with further scrutiny during the week of April 4-10 and passage at the April 10 meeting.

• Board members unanimously approved interlocal agreements with the City of Lakeland to share personnel costs for a position in IT services and one in human resources/payroll.

• New policies approved at the meeting cover the topics of English learners, students in foster care, family life education, honor roll and rewards, and credits awarded in middle school. Policy amendments approved cover the topics of grading systems and testing programs. See details in the Jan. 9 agenda at

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or