Knox County commissioners debate technology in schools and jail

Knox County Commission reviewed Knox County Schools' budget request as well as a pitch to buy tablets for inmates. April 17, 2017

Inside the City County Building on Monday, county commissioners got to hear about the future of technological services and needs and the money it'll take to get there.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas presented the school system's general budget of about $471 million.

The commission questioned proposed cuts by the system to the assistive technology program. That's a group that parents and students say is vital.

"There will not be devices taken away from students based on those reductions. We're just going to deliver the service with a little different model, and we hope we can impact more students,” said Thomas.

Austin-East High School is losing four positions. Recently Thomas met with school leaders and students to learn how these changes will impact them.

"We want to go back and make sure no one's being impacted in a negative way,” said Thomas.

First District Commissioner Evelyn Gill was at Monday's work session. She believes such reductions will make learning harder for teachers and students to be successful.

"Technology is a driving force. There is nothing that can beat a tenured, experienced educator in the classroom,” said Gill.

Commissioners also debated the Knox County Sheriff's Office's plan for 1-to-1 tablet access for inmates.

"It lets us know about grievances, it lets us know about their medical needs. We don't see how there's a way of us going to less than a 1-to-1 ratio of tablets so we're not denying their access to tell us their problems and needs,” explained Assistant Facility Commander Terry Wilshire.

The Sheriff's Office wants to buy 900 tablets. Capt. Wilshire explained the $425 pricetag covers the tablet, software, and protective case.

"You can't just put a regular tablet from Walmart in a cell. It would get destroyed,” explained Wilshire.

After debate, the commission tentatively approved the tablet purchase by the Sheriff's Office. Wilshire says having the tablets is a good thing. He says they'll help reduce fighting in the jail - giving inmates something to do - and they'll create a paper trail if there are inmate issues.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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