Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said he was disappointed that 60 local-level school superintendents across Tennessee have signed on to a letter asking Haslam to ease off on education reforms being implemented by state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. His response to that letter was both conciliatory to the school administrators and firm in favor of classroom reforms.
The letter from the superintendents, which is to be delivered to Haslam today, said Huffman has no interest in communicating with school leaders who have to implement his policies on the local level. It also asked Governor Haslam to take a close look at the progress on Huffman's programs before moving forward with new policy.
While praising both Huffman and the local superintendents for working to improve education, Haslam ultimately sided with Huffman. His response told superintendents that the proposed reforms are important to advancing the state's public education system. He also expressed some dismay for the public way in which the superintendents' grievances came to light.
“The bottom line is that we are at a critical point in the implementation of key reforms that I believe will lead to continued progress in education, and this work is simply too important to get sidetracked,” Haslam said. “I was disappointed when I learned from the media about a letter that was signed by some superintendents and apparently is making its way to me.”
Haslam also pressed for the two sides to take a fresh approach to communicating with each other. Dan Lawson, superintendent of the Tullahoma school system, wrote the complaint letter. He said he sees some positive notes in Haslam's response, including the call for more dialogue between state and local education officials.