Leroy Tate selected for All Tennessee School Board

Vicky Newman News Herald

In this country, if an individual disagrees with any public policy, that person is permitted to get involved, provide input and work to change things.

That's just what happened when Leroy Tate became involved in Loudon County School District in 1984.

This year, more than a quarter-century later, Tate has been selected as one of seven All Tennessee School Board members By the Tennessee School Board Association. There are more than 950 school board members, and each year, six or seven members are recognized as "All Tennessee." They are selected by a panel of judges from nominations made by superintendents, school board members, district directors, or TSBA staff. Tate received the award during the TSBA annual convention in November.

To be considered for the All Tennessee School Board honor, the member first must achieve the Level IV Boardsmanship Award. The award requires a high quality of service with an emphasis on the previous 12 months; participation in board development activities with emphasis on the previous 12 months; specific accomplishments of the local board of education during the nominee's term on the board; and leadership activities at the local, regional or state level. 

The significant achievement requires dedication and effort - two characteristics Tate admits he wishes he had refined earlier in life. "I should have done more academically, but of course, hindsight is 20-20," says Tate, who attended Jackson Elementary School, then relocated to Loudon schools when he reached junior high. 

Tate recalls the issue that prompted him to get involved. "My daughter was in high school, and I found out they were cutting an academic position, an English teacher, over something else. They wound up letting the English teacher go, and I decided to see if I could make a difference."

The effort to ensure educational excellence became entrenched.  "It got me," Tate says. During his tenure as school board member, Tate says he has attempted to become educated on issues the board faced. "I've made a point to stay abreast, and I have spent a  lot of hours in meetings," he says.

Meeting state and federal standards and requirements - particularly when funding is tighter than usual - has been an ongoing challenge and concern the board has faced through the years. "The state and federal governments are notorious for unfunded mandates," Tate says. "They raise the standards but give us no funding.

The way the economy has been, it has been difficult. We want to be good stewards. The teachers have a hard enough job. Then the state makes it so hard to meet the TCAP scores, they can't work with the students. It used to be a teacher had time to work through the problems, and there has been so much new stuff to incorporate.

"The economic situation is a killer. I would like to do a lot of things, but it takes money, and we don't have it - it's not there. We could do a lot of things if we had the money," he says.

Tate knows the challenges well. No Child Left Behind and TCAPs have left an indelible mark on the public education system. Tests drive virtually every educational action, and they do not necessarily improve education; sometimes they make things worse, Tate says.

"Personally, I think a lot of times we need to back off a little bit," he says. "If we could just let teachers do their jobs, things would improve. We can't hamstring them. The student is always a component of education. Every kid is not an A or an F student. If we challenge them to do the best of their ability, that's what we need to do. The government's got this idea you can make everybody an A student."