Opinions Part 2

Earlier in the week, I ran a story about political opinions, the good and the bad. The crux of the story was to know the line between offering an opinion or inflicting an opinion. Inflicting ones opinion on others means that you feel your opinion is supreme to all others and no one else's opinions have any validity. Case in point.

Recently the school board and the county commission has been approached by two couples who were interested in the school board's budget operations and the schools building program. They've addressed the school board and commission, they met with school board members, myself included, in order to educate themselves on numerous local issues including the building program. All good and prudent actions to get up to speed with happenings in local government.

Unfortunately, it's been down hill from there. Their quest has now degenerated into an anti Greenback, stop Phase 1 of the building program. But, that's OK too. They have every right to their opinion pertaining to the building program. Problem is, they have now decided their vision of what the school system needs is the only option. Seems not to matter what anybody else thinks.

So, they bring their ideas to the board. The first initial plan was to by mobile homes from Clayton's Mobile Homes and pull them from school to school as needed. Then it was to bus the Greenback kids to Lenoir City and Loudon County schools and drop the Greenback building. Now they've decided the best idea would be to eliminate the Greenback High School portion of the building and bus the high school kids to Loudon. Not sure where we'd put them but that's their latest plan.

Their proposals have met with little support from the school board or commission. So now they've begin a petition campaign to push their agenda. Sadly, they decided to use false and misleading information in their petition.

These folks have claimed to be representatives of the Tea Party,  but their tactics seem much more in line with left wing liberal progressive tactics. They claim to know what's best for everyone and demand that their opinions rein supreme and if that doesn't work, use propaganda, misinformation and disinformation in an attempt force their opinion on everyone.

Below is the information included in their petition and a rebuttal to each of their statements as provided by board members and the director.

I completely support differences of opinion on any topic but misleading folks is just wrong.


We, the undersigned voters of Loudon County, have several concerns about the proposed school building program and

hereby formally petition the Loudon County Commission to defer voting for said proposed building program and the tax

increase to fund it, until such time as a formal Committee; to be appointed by the Mayor and comprised of members of the

public, County Commission, and Board of Education, have made their final recommendations regarding these concerns.

The number of members from the public on said Committee shall exceed the number of elected officials on the Committee.

Members of the public to be eligible to serve on the Committee shall not be currently compensated by state or local

government for any reason. The members from the public who volunteer to participate shall be chosen by lottery and

represent each district in the county. A PARTIAL list of our concerns about the proposed school building program are

detailed in Exhibit “A”, attached.

Please call Katie P. Schnell at 816-3909 to collect this petition when it has been completed. Thank you!

(Tellico Village Residents, please call Pandora Vreeland at 458-3141, mailbox #3 when it has been completed. Thank you!)

Petition Statements in black, responses in red.


1.  We are concerned that there were no public hearings about the scope and size of the proposed schools program until after they were drawn.

(A) The Board of Education has had 24 public meetings since January 2009 to discuss these issues. Any member of the public was welcome to attend any of these meetings and comment.


Greenback School enrollment is declining. Current enrollment is 650 and 63 of those are from out of county. They are at 72% of capacity in their school of 78,000 sq. ft.; yet, the new school plans are for a new 145,568 sq ft. school. Lenoir City High has 1,243 students and with 138,566 sq. ft. they are at 80.3% capacity? Why is such a huge, oversized school proposed in Greenback, especially when enrollment is declining?


(A) Enrollment has been stable over the past several years.  In fact, we believe that we have only 4 fewer students now than we did 10 years ago. This can be attributed to the out of county policy.  In addition to this we have 5 portable buildings, not included in the 78,000 sq. ft., at Greenback School where 9 classrooms are located to educate students outside of the normal school building. There are only 47 non employee out of county students at Greenback, 2010-2011 school year.


The board has now adopted a policy that does not permit any out of county students to enroll in Loudon County schools.



We are concerned that the Greenback High students are not receiving a broad, curriculum-rich education yet, the one they receive costs taxpayers $925,000 per year for high school teacher salaries, coaches salaries and supplements (not including benefits.) One teacher to 9.6 students on average at Greenback High versus Loudon High with one teacher to 14.5 students. Loudon High offers more courses and is far more cost efficient per student.

(A) Student teacher ratio's are GBS 11.8 and LHS 13.5.  We provide an appropriate education to all of the students in Loudon County affording them the opportunity to earn a high school diploma according to state of Tennessee standards. And based on other test scores, Greenback students perform as well or better than students in other high schools.


The petition seems to indicate the cost to educate Greenback high school students would be less if they were in a different school. The cost would be the same not to mention the huge cost associated with bussing several hundred students and the costs to expand Loudon High School to accommodate that many additional students. 


4. We are concerned that the proposed school building program contains a plan to abandon a structurally sound and safe school in Greenback only because it is in need of some renovation. We are still repaying a loan for $550,000 in renovations that were done there as recently as 2001.


(A) Two independent, professional firms were hired by the board and commission to evaluate this building and both came to the same conclusion, it would be far less expensive and more appropriate to build a new building as compared to renovation. The cost renovate the old building or to build a new K-8 and renovate the old building would cost several more million dollars that a new building.


The county is still repaying on a loan from 2001 that included several major school projects.


We are concerned about the precedent being set in the county for communities to ask for their own “neighborhood” high school if one is granted to Greenback with only 206 high school students. Should Philadelphia, 400 students, get their own high school and the Eaton Crossroads area, 900 students, get their own high school? These “neighborhood” high schools would raise our taxes enormously since high schools are extremely costly to build and operate.

(A) No precedent is being set. The high school has always been part of GBS since 1939. The code they are referring to is about "establishing" a new Senior High School, GBS is not establishing, we are rebuilding for a current school. The State Board of Education was asked and in their opinion this code does not apply to our situation.  Our school board attorney agrees that we are in compliance by building a new PreK-12 school building because it is a comprehensive school.  In addition, our research indicates that it is logistically impossible to transport students from Greenback High School to Loudon High and still meet TCA 49-6-2105 requirements regarding busing students.  "No pupil shall be allowed to remain in transit to or from school on a school bus more than one and one half hours in the morning or one and one half hours in the afternoon."


We are concerned that Phase One of the school building project will cost a minimum of $72M ($30M for GBS) of interest and principal repayment, and there are other big capital projects on the horizon that will cause significant long term county debt (i.e.: county jail expansion, road repairs, the second Phase of the School building program).

(A) Phase 1 will costs are estimated at $43M NOT $72 M Greenback school is estimated at $24M NOT $30M.


There are no figures being given as to the Operating Costs associated with a new 145,568 square foot school proposed in Greenback. These are usually significant costs. There are no plans as to what will happen with the existing Greenback School and its Operating Expenses if it is abandoned if/when a new school is built.

(A) There should be no increase in operating expenses for the new school.  As a matter of fact, I believe utility costs may go down due to the fact that new buildings are more efficient and the high costs associated with portable buildings will not be part of our new operating program.

The old building will become surplus property and it will be up to the county commission to determine it's final usage. There will be no operating expenses associated with the old building.

There are no “zoning rules” in Loudon County. Zoning rules would dictate which school each county student must attend, thereby providing a valid headcount as a means to design, build and finance schools.


(A) Loudon County has no school zoning policy. Parents may choose which school their child may attend. However if a parent chooses to attend a school outside the bus routes of their community, they must provide transportation themselves. The majority of parents do not favor school zoning.


9. The Board of Education must initiate and enforce, during the 2011-12 student registration, a strictly controlled enrollment process with proof of valid county residence in order to enroll in Loudon County schools. Loudon County taxpayers should not have to build new schools for out of county students who currently attend our schools for free and pay no taxes to our county.


(A) Board policy adopted in 2009 prohibits any out of county students from enrolling in Loudon County schools.

10. The STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL will render an opinion as to whether or not a new high school space is legal to be built for Greenback High, since they have less than the legal 300 students needed in average daily attendance. (They are grandfathered in their current building).


(A) As stated above, The high school has always been part of GBS since 1939. The code they are referring to is about "establishing" a new Senior High School, GBS is not establishing, we are rebuilding for a current school. The State Board of Education was asked and in their opinion this code does not apply to our situation.  Our school board attorney agrees that we are in compliance by building a new PreK-12 school building because it is a comprehensive school.


We respectfully request there should be multiple bids obtained from construction companies, not architectural firms, to renovate the existing Greenback school before building a new school.


(A) We have already had two companies evaluate the current Greenback school building. Both companies came to the same conclusion it would be more cost effective to build a new school.

State law requires that any project costing more than $25,000 requires a certified, qualified architectural firm to be hired.