NASHVILLE, TN – Nonprofit higher education advocacy organization Complete Tennessee today released a report on regional barriers to postsecondary attainment and completion.
The report, which compiles findings from a statewide series of roundtables hosted by the organization earlier this year, identifies four central challenges facing current and prospective postsecondary students:

Access barriers, ranging from inadequate transportation to lack of education options;
Insufficient early postsecondary education and training opportunities;
Limited or inadequate student support services; and
Misalignment between education and workforce.
To read the report, entitled “Room to Grow: Regional Perspectives on Higher Education Improvement,” click here.

“This report shows that the hurdles facing students vary widely by region. However, central themes emerged in our conversations that will guide our work to help communities develop meaningful completion strategies that can support the state’s Drive to 55 goal,” said Complete Tennessee Executive Director Kenyatta Lovett.

“In every region, students were struggling with some kind of access barrier – be it transportation or physical access to postsecondary institutions. For minority, low-income, and first-generation students, more support services are needed to promote access and persistence in postsecondary programs,” Dr. Lovett stated. “Additionally, there is a significant gap between the education and business communities. Not only does this affect high school students’ ability to gain early familiarity with career and postsecondary pathways, it also makes it harder for students of all ages to efficiently earn the credentials necessary to compete for in-demand, local jobs.”

Dr. Lovett continued, “We hope this report will spark additional discussion and collaboration on strategies to address Tennessee’s completion problem – strategies that can be developed alongside and driven by regional stakeholders. Complete Tennessee looks forward to engaging further with community, business and education leaders across Tennessee as we work together to strengthen the state’s higher education system and improve postsecondary access and outcomes for all students.”

To learn more about Complete Tennessee, click here.


Haslam Officially Signs Free Community College Plan into Law

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The words “free community college for all” echoed in several corners of Tennessee on Wednesday.

Governor Bill Haslam conducted ceremonial signings of the measure that was one of his key bills this past session.

While there was no shortage of political power at each of the governor’s stops with top legislative leaders in tow, the star of the Middle Tennessee event at Motlow State’s Smyrna branch was a young woman named Carie Huffman.

She plans to head back to school after a decades long break from her first try.

“Then life happened. Two kids and 20 years later … read more

Industrial Maintenance Program to Begin Soon

A higher education opportunity is projected to open in January 2018 in Coffee County through a collaborative effort between Tennessee Board of Regents, Tennessee College of Applied Technology – McMinnville, Viam Manufacturing, Coffee County Government, Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and Coffee County Schools.

A significant need for industrial maintenance technicians has been identified by Coffee County manufacturers through the Manchester Chamber’s Industrial Roundtable. In effort to address this workforce need, the county began collaborative efforts toward that end.

The signing ceremony (pictured) marked the official launch of an instructional service center that will operate under the direction and support of TCAT -McMinnville. The program, in its infancy, will provide industrial maintenance training through a 16-month process in which students will earn a certificate or diploma, depending upon the number of hours they complete. In the future, plans would include expansion into other programs such as machining, welding, transportation services such as auto mechanics, diesel mechanics, and auto repair. Eventually, offerings in areas such as hospitality, culinary, cosmetology, and certified nursing could be made available.

Keith Hayes, Chief Operating Officer of Viam Manufacturing, is providing the facility at no cost, including utilities, parking, custodial services, phone, and maintenance. Mr. Hayes, an admitted skeptic of many educational programs, believes strongly in this program and its ability to prepare students for the workforce. Over the course of this past school year, Viam partnered with Coffee County Schools Career & Technical Education Director, Richard Skipper, on a work based learning program which graduated 21 students, all of whom have been offered permanent full-time positions at Viam.

“Keith Hayes has a huge heart for the kids in our community. He was willing to step out on faith with me to try this work based learning program, and it’s been a win for all concerned. Now, his generosity in donating the space for the industrial maintenance program is just as commendable and will have a major long-term impact,” says Skipper. “This program will provide our students dual enrollment opportunities that weren’t available before because of the logistics of having to travel to McMinnville or Shelbyville. Coffee County Schools actively pursues post-secondary opportunities for our students, and this has the potential to open doors that simply haven’t been available before.”

The Coffee County Industrial Board is very supportive of this initiative as well. “This will be an asset to our existing industries in providing the workforce needed for expansion. It will also be attractive to prospects looking to locate in Coffee County,” says Ted Hackney, Industrial Board Executive Director.

“This training opportunity has been made possible through the chamber’s initiative and tenacious efforts in forging the relationships necessary between TBR, Coffee County CTE, and Keith Hayes,” says Dr. Warren Laux of TCAT McMinnville. “Many thanks to Executive Vice Chancellor, James King, for his assistance in making this vision become reality.”

SUPERINTENDENT SPOTLIGHT: Dr. LaDonna McFall (Coffee County)

TOSS is please to announce that our March Superintendent Spotlight is Dr. LaDonna McFall, who has served as the superintendent of Coffee County Schools for four years now. In her time at Coffee County, the district has seen immense growth. As reported in the SCORE State of Education in Tennessee, Dr. McFall’s district has seen a 26.6% growth in 3-8 Math TCAP scores since 2011.

Dr. McFall shared that in her district, they believe in developing their students socially and emotionally, as well as academically. Therefore, they emphasize good citizenship and anti-bullying in several ways. Three years ago, they implemented the Olweus Anti Bullying Program across the district. She said that they believe that a well-rounded, empathetic, empowered student is the foundation for success in a changing world, so they continue to refine their practices to ensure their students become better equipped to handle the challenges they face.

When asked what her favorite part of her job is, Dr. McFall state, “I am a teacher and a coach at heart. I love working alongside my teammates to increase the level of instructional capacity of our administrators and teachers, and most importantly I love spending time with students. Whether it’s reading with them, watching them participate in extracurricular activities, or helping them with homework, I feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to play a small roll in the lives of children.”

Finally, we asked Dr. McFall to share one of her favorite memories from her time as superintendent in Coffee County so far. She told the following story: “I have so many wonderful memories, but one comes to mind. I was getting ready to sit down and read a book to some kindergarten students. One little fella tugged on my pants leg; I looked down at him and he said, ‘I’m not sure who you are, but you smell good. Can I sit beside you?’ That was one of the most genuine compliments I’ve ever received.”

All of us at TOSS are so honored to work with incredible leaders and educators like Dr. McFall.

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