Schools are back in session

Friday, August 10, 2012
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Laura Ingram, a 1st grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School applies stickers to student folders in her classroom.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Marshall County teachers Laura Ingram and Vicky Randolph are appearing on television commercials this month as the Tennessee Education Association tells the viewing public about the profession and the value of an educated voter.

Ingram and Randolph were at a TEA conference in Cool Springs June 6-9 when the association had a booth set up with a video camera to record comments of teachers.

"They asked us various questions about why voting is so important," Ingram said. "It wasn't to endorse any certain person. It's just to remind people to vote and to vote carefully."

Randolph, president of the Marshall County Education Association, said that attending the conference "was an eye opening experience. I learned a lot about the political side of my job as a teacher and some of the things the legislature has done to teachers in the last few years like taking bargaining rights away."

Like lawmakers in Wisconsin, the Tennessee General Assembly last year revoked teachers' authority to use their county education associations as a bargaining agent for work contracts with local school boards. Marshall County teachers first work contract was being negotiated in 2009.

About that time, membership in the MCEA was controversial as the then-director of schools sought to decertify the association as a bargaining agent. Other issues arose, but have not recurred. Since then three other school directors have been hired

The third director in five years is Jackie Abernathy, who opened schools this week. She's been in office a few months.

"I appreciate Mrs. Aberbnathy involving me in several things," Randolph said, citing her help with the system's teacher recruitment "and being on the interview committee for new employees and her office staff."

Before appearing on statewide TV spots, Randolph said she signed a waiver.

"I was OK with it because they asked me about my educational experience and why it was important to me to be a member of the association," Randolph said. "I was a little nervous about being on TV. They put a mic on me and I had to turn a certain way. That was an interesting experience.

"They did ask about bills that had been passed" by state lawmakers, Randolph said.

Ingram is starting her third year as a teacher. She sought permission from her principal, Judy Rickman, and Abernathy before she spoke to the Tribune this week.

To get tenure, now, a teacher must be employed for a fifth year in a row. Before lawmakers changed that, a teacher had to be hired for a third consecutive year.

Ingram and Randolph were two of four Marshall County teachers who went to the TEA conference in Cool Springs.

As for Abernathy's reaction to the prospect of Ingram, or others for that matter, being the focus of media attention, the director said she wants them to excel, present a positive image and be professional.

"I know we have outstanding teachers and we're always proud when they are spotlighted and recognized by other organizations," Abernathy said.

Both teachers appearing on the TEA spots are Marshall County natives.

Randolph was one of Abernathy's students, and Ingram is teaching at a school where her mother teaches.

Randolph is married and raising a family here.

Ingram is single and is excited about another new year of school.

"For me, being a new teacher, it seems like everything starts at once," Ingram said.

Returning to the school also provides another satisfaction, she said.

"It's exciting to see how much the students have grown over the summer," Ingram said.