Rise & Shine: Schwinn unveils priorities under proposed strategic plan

Good morning and welcome to Monday!

When she left Texas to become Tennessee’s new education commissioner, Penny Schwinn promised to “listen and learn” as she kicked off her tenure by visiting three schools — one rural, one urban, and one suburban — on her very first day. Four months later, she’s been in more than 175 classrooms in 30 school districts, met with dozens of stakeholders, communicated regularly with superintendents, and reviewed more than 25,000 teacher comments about how the state education department should set its priorities for the next five years. The common thread in that feedback? Concern about how to support the mental health needs of the state’s students.

Student mental health is an issue that has received a lot of lip service in Tennessee in recent years, but little in the way of funding. It's also one of 12 priorities identified in the first draft of the education department’s five-year strategic plan. Today's featured story features Schwinn's thoughts on the plan that's in progress, the full document as it now stands, and a link to an online survey seeking public input.

Also, we have a quick favor to ask. We’re looking for retiring teachers to feature in an upcoming Q&A series, and we need your help finding them. If you’re retiring this year after a long career in education, we’d love to connect. Just leave your contact information here and we’ll be in touch. And if you know someone else who fits the bill, please forward this newsletter. Thanks — and thanks for reading!

—Marta W. Aldrich, statehouse correspondent

WHOLE CHILD  Here’s the No. 1 concern that Tennessee’s new education chief heard during her statewide listening tour. Chalkbeat

BUDGET SEASON  Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris wants county commissioners to prioritize roughly $75 million in additional budget requests, including the $50 million sought by the county’s seven school districts. Daily Memphian

TEACH FOR AMERICA  More than a hundred recruits arrive in Memphis to train with Teach For America and to teach in the city’s most challenged schools as part of a two-year contract. Daily Memphian, Related Story

ARTS EDUCATION  The Memphis Symphony Orchestra appoints a new assistant conductor, whose duties will include working with youth musicians in partnership with Shelby County Schools. Memphis Flyer

TNREADY OVERSEER  The newest vendor tasked with administering Tennessee’s student assessment will cost the state roughly $93 million over the next five years. The Associated Press, Chalkbeat

CHARTER CHAIN  Noble Education Initiative could soon emerge as a key player in the Nashville charter school market, but the Florida-based nonprofit will first have to overcome immediate local opposition because of its tie to a for-profit chain. The Tennessean

THE COST OF TEACHING  In Knoxville, rent accounts for 38% of an entry-level teacher’s salary, according to an analysis of take-home pay for teachers compared to rental prices. Knoxville News Sentinel 

SCHOLARSHIP $$$  Hamilton County’s Class of 2019 is awarded more than $95 million in scholarship offers from colleges and universities this year — an increase from $31 million last year. Times Free Press

SIGNING DAY  Dozens of teachers who are joining Hamilton County Schools for the first time mark the occasion at an event organized by the district’s human resources department. Times Free Press

SUPERINTENDENT SHUFFLE  An attorney by training, Jason Golden is on track to lead Williamson County Schools but says he understands concerns that he doesn’t have actual teaching experience. The Tennessean

Sullivan County’s school board approves an annual $134,000, four-year contract for its new director of schools. Kingsport Times-News

Bristol’s school board expects to appoint a district supervisor as interim superintendent following Gary Lilly’s departure to lead Collierville’s school system near Memphis. Bristol Herald Courier

FREE MEALS  Seven more Sullivan County schools will get universal free meals in the upcoming school year, joining two schools already in the program. Kingsport Times-News

CHOW BUS  Described as a cafeteria on wheels, the summertime feeding program operated by Murfreesboro City Schools is keeping children healthy and turning heads. Daily News Journal

GO GIRL  Twenty-five computer-savvy female students at a Blount County high school compete in a national cybersecurity competition. The Daily Times

QUESTAR NEWS  Utah’s top education officials abruptly cancel a contract with a Minnesota-based Questar amid a flurry of technological glitches that have created uncertainty about whether this year’s test scores will be validated. The Associated Press

MORBID FASCINATION  Twenty years after the Columbine shooting, Colorado’s Jefferson County Public Schools considers rebuilding the high school in a nearby location with the hope that it stops being a pilgrimage site for people obsessed with the killings. Chalkbeat

DODGEBALL A team of Canadian researchers determines that dodgeball, a staple of many gym classes, is widely disliked by students, teaches aggression, and dehumanizes players. The New York Daily News