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TDOE appoints child well-being task force

The new group is tasked with looking at how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting students across the state.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Months after COVID-19 forced millions of students out of the building and online, the Tennessee Department of Education launched a child well-being task force.

"Just to try to make sure all the bases are covered," local dad Lee Forgety said. 

Forgety spent the last months of the school year working at home with his daughter and like many parents he is ready to see what fall will look like.

"If those necessities aren't met then they aren't going to be able to move forward not to mention play catch up from last year," he said. 

The new task force is made up of nearly 40 people from across the state.

The members of theTask Force include:

Senator Raumesh Akbari, Tennessee General Assembly
Naomi Asher, Executive Director, United Way of Anderson County
Janet Ayers, President, The Ayers Foundation
Guy Barnard, Co-Founder, Synchronous Health
Dr. Jared Bigham, Senior Advisor, Workforce and Rural Initiatives, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Molly Blankenship, Executive Director, Chattanooga 2.0
Sonji Branch, Chief Executive Officer, Communities in Schools - Memphis
Linda Brown, Board President, The ARC
Mary Nell Bryan, President, Children's Hospital Alliance of Tennessee
Juliana Ospina Cano, Executive Director, Conexión Américas
Nancy Dishner, President and Chief Executive Officer, Niswonger Foundation
Clark Flatt, President, The Jason Foundation
Alexis Gwin-Miller, Co-Chair of the Education Equity Taskforce, MICAH (Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope)
Senator Ferrell Haile, Tennessee General Assembly
Chief Richard Hall, Board President, Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police
Representative Yusuf Hakeem, Tennessee General Assembly
Katie Harbison, President, Chambliss Center
Representative Kirk Haston, Tennessee General Assembly
Kim Henderson, President, Tennessee PTA
Melissa Hudson-Gant, Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers/Big Sisters
Beth Goodner, Chief Executive Officer, Trust Point Hospital
Elaine Jackson, President, Rural Health Association of Tennessee
Cato Johnson, Vice President, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
David Jordan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Agape Memphis
Shawn Kimble, Director of Schools, Lauderdale County Schools
Kati Lohr, Co-Founder, Synchronous Health
Amy Martin, President, Tennessee Cable and Broadband Association
Jerry Martin, President, YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South
Johnny McDaniel, Outgoing Superintendent, Lawrence County Schools
Brian McLaughlin, Tennessee Teacher of the Year
Jeff Moorhouse, Director of Schools, Kingsport City Schools
Chapple Osborne-Arnold, Program Specialist, Save the Children
Kristen Robinson, Advocacy Coordinator, Disability Rights Tennessee
Patrick Sheehy, President, Tennessee Business Roundtable
Dr. Flora Tydings, President, Tennessee Board of Regents
Dr. Le Andrea Ware, Tennessee Principal of the Year
Angela Webster, Executive Director, AIMHiTN (Association of Infant Mental Health in TN)
Samantha Wigand, Chief Executive Officer, Communities in Schools


The group has a set of goals to reach through December, starting with a report on how the closures affected critical child services and ends with a report to the governor with recommendations.

"Maybe this is something we need to continue throughout the school year," Forgety said. 

It is a conversation Mary McMillan Terry is having too. She is a parent and a member of one of Knox County Schools' parent focus groups.

"When a parent if the only access to internet is the phone and when that parent takes their phone to work with them how is that child supposed to learn."

She said after talking to parents and teachers across East Tennessee it is clear there are plenty of needs to be met.

"The schools provide so much more than education they are really a safe place," Terry said. 

She is hoping this new group will be the starting point to filling in those gaps.

"To really consider the communities that don't have access," she said. "Especially for families that have been historically marginalized."

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