Positive Changes in our Schools ARE Coming

Now that a few days have passed since ….I’m hoping it is safe for me to share a few thoughts. First and foremost I want to thank all of you who have reached out and expressed your support and concern. I am both amazed and humbled by the enormous love shown to me by family, friends, acquaintances and total strangers.

A Message to Those Whom I’ve Upset

Many have asked what I expected would come of my letter that first ran in the papers July 3rd.

I expected some disapproval but I had hoped that compassion and concern would prevail over whatever emotions were sparked.

I didn’t expect my fellow council member, who had equal access to much of the same information as I, to stage a press conference and rally citizens to our council meeting later that evening.

However, as the day progressed, I still expected that something positive would come of it all.

As people packed our meeting that evening, I expected many would express anger but I also expected a small few would ask me to explain myself. I had hoped they would ask me questions indicating some concern for the potential validity of my characterization of our schools’ problems.

In the end, no one did. In fact, as I reflect back on the day, I realized that none of my detractors, not a single BOE member, not a single member of the school administration or any of the three council members who publicly denounced my concerns bothered to approach me and ask, “Why did you do this? Are kids really being hurt? What kinds of stories have you heard? Is there really a ‘Fight Club?’”

Had they asked, I would have told them about my interactions with various parents, students and staff over the last year. I would have told them of the hallway at the high school that students avoid. I would have told them that I knew of three different children who are dreading the end of summer because they are genuinely fearful of returning to school. I would have shown them some of the videos of fights that have been sent to me. I would have pointed them to the Facebook comments in which so many brave people are sharing their personal stories.

I was pretty accessible in that crowd of 65 at the press conference and at our council meeting which was attended by well over 100 people who all had the opportunity to approach me either at the mic or during our break. My email and phone number are widely published. Yet, here we are ten days since my letter ran and they have not bothered to ask me these questions.

Please understand, I am not admonishing anyone. But I do want to caution those of you who are publicly expressing your frustrations with me to be aware of the unintended messages you are sending. I know that you know that there are children and adults who’ve been hurt in our community. I beg of you to consider them when crafting your responses. We need to strive to create an environment in which ALL people feel safe to express their views and concerns. Without it, we will never know the true scope of our problems and we will never adequately address them.

Notes of Encouragement/How You Can Help

Finally and most importantly, I want to share some words of encouragement. Be assured that positive changes will prevail and we will make our schools safer. The meeting between our police chief, Jim Akagi, and the school superintendent, Dr. Bruce Borchers went extremely well. I am assured that workable solutions were discussed and am hopeful that the MOU will be signed shortly.

More and more people are engaging in positive discussions. I hope you will join them at places like this and keep the conversations solutions-focused.

The Knoxville Police Department will hold an Anti-Bullying Summit on July 30th. It is an all day, free event and you can register here. I hope to see a large crowd of Oak Ridgers in attendance. For other ways you can get involved, click here.

Again, thank you all for allowing me to serve you and for lifting me up in your thoughts and prayers this past week. Now, let’s all direct our energy and attention to listening to one another, working towards understanding the scope of our problems and implementing long-lasting, real solutions.  May God Bless Oak Ridge.


  1. For a normally fair-minded community filled with scientists and engineers who believe in looking at facts before drawing conclusions, I think we didn’t perform very well in this instance. The biases run so deep that I think probably only an independent investigation can determine what the facts are at this point. Hopefully, this would allow us to determine if there is a problem(s), which would be the first step to solving whatever problems we may have, if any.

    I think you sounded an alarm that you thought should be sounded and perhaps this was the only possible way to correct problems that you perceived. I sometimes wonder if you might be able to sell some of your ideas better by working behind the scenes, quietly developing confederates in (and out) of the Council to support you. I’m not sure you can survive, let alone be effective, being a “Lone Ranger”. And, I really want you to survive as I think you have good ideas and I think the status quo needs to be challenged.

    1. The school board,mayor and a select few on the City Council are only concerned with one thing.The reputation of the Oak Ridge Schools. So rather than do anything about it it,they want to ignore it. The passive-aggressive behavior of the people that live in the Knoxville area is pathetic. My son was to go to Robertsville last year.After the horror stories I heard from parents of former students we decided to home-school my son. We heard about the drug problems,gang problems within the school. Sorry but there is no way I would put my 10 year old son into a situation like that. I am glad you brought this to everyone’s attention. Now they will have to deal with it one way or the other. Might I suggest your next project be to get the apartment complexes in Oak Ridge to deal with the drug dealers living in their apartments. I know the City of Knoxville can shutter businesses that are deemed a nuisance.Not sure about Oak Ridge or if it even pertains to housing.I live in one such apartment complex.We have lived here since 2007. Only in the last few years has the place declined to the point where we want to move out. If you would like more info feel free to contact me.

  2. For some reason the BOE, school administration, school teachers, Council, and student messages seem to indicate that “all schools have this problem and Oak Ridge isn’t that bad”. I am sure that other schools do have similar problems, but when did the OR school system get so complacent and want to be like all the other schools? Oak Ridge schools have always prided themselves as being better than the rest. It’s sad that they have accepted this as ‘normal’. I would ask them, if a girl was raped in school would they just chalk that up to being statistically ‘normal’? I would think not. When my children went to school they were exposed to the ‘Character Counts’ program. It seems like the principles that program promotes isn’t as important as protecting those kids (no matter how few) from being bullied, or drugs, or whatever. I hope you are successful in getting the discussion going and change made.

    1. [hate editing: meant to say] It seems like the principles that program promotes isn’t as important as protecting the sacred image of the OR schools even it means not protecting those kids (no matter how few) from being bullied, or drugs, or whatever.

  3. Trina this letter is well written with a lot if heart put into it. I am sorry for not attending the council meeting. It totally slipped my mind and I didn’t imagine anything like this dog and pony show would happen. I am extremely disappointed in our Mayor and his buddy system. Tom had no reason to open his mouth against you. Just another way of bullying provided by Oak Ridges finest. did I expect less? Yep. Should I have known better? Absolutely! I will continue to be a voice backing you. You have gone above and beyond the promise you made while campaigning. You truly do represent the people that elected you. Thank You. Linda Mabry

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Thank you again Trina for having the courage to bring this issue out from the shadows. 8 years ago, I had parents tell me about “drug and thug” issues at the high school. This knowledge was one of the factors that convinced me to pull my daughter out of Linden and enroll her at my own west Knoxville school where I teach. A “superior academics” history doesn’t mean much to me if my child isn’t safe.
    I am shocked that the ORS system doesn’t have evacuation maps, bullying protocol, police involvement, or a monitored visitor system for school buildings. My particular school is very strong in this area, especially after Sandy Hook.
    Hopefully teachers, administrators, and the BOE will shine a light on the problems you addressed. Continuing to ignore and hide only makes things worse for everyone.

  5. To echo what is said above – you have gone above and beyond every single one of your promises to your supporters, and we WILL continue to stand behind you. Thank you for all that you do – and to those who wish to admonish you, publically trash you and do and say the things that they do, but do not wish to step up, find out what is behind these issues and what can be done to solve them, and do what is right for Oak Ridge – well – they speak VOLUMES about themselves and what they stand for – and they will fall on that sword as well. Keep up the good work!!!

  6. Trina, Bob Smallridge has replied noting 5 huge points where you did not perform your due diligence or chose to ignore the facts about our school system. This is incomprehensible.

    You stated in the most recent city council meeting that you would not contribute to any effort to resolve our EPA mandate to repair our sewers leaking into the environment until the city took responsibility for the issue. How is this any different? Why is it impossible for you to take responsibility for your own missteps?

    And to feign disbelief that another council member would dare stand up to correct your errors and to symbolically stand with our schools? It would be irresponsible for that not to have happened.

    And finally to loop this back again onto itself, you are now part of the problem for our sewers. It always was the city council not taking responsibility for spending enough to stay ahead of the problem. Your reluctance to deal with it now is no different than those decisions in the past.

    1. Charlie –

      Mr. Smallridge’s statements do not align with those made by Chief Akagi or Mr. Watson to me directly or in their memo. How do you plan to be a part of the solution rather than a manipulator of public opinion? What solutions will you be bringing to the table?


      1. It’s amusing considering your recent media show that you would share the title of “manipulator of public opinion” with me. I am flattered, but I suspect you are just projecting.

        As you well know I support anyone who wants to solve problems. Those who only seek self-aggrandizement are merely distracting from those who are doing the real work.

      2. Charlie –

        I removed my reply post to you last night in the hopes that you would follow suit and be civil. If you insist on returning, then you leave me no choice. Your role as Mayor Beehan’s campaign manager, your massive campaign contributions to all levels of governmental officials, your push for the Land Bank (which, according to Mark Watson, will give the Board of Directors on which I’m sure you will sit, the power to strong arm homeowners to sell their homes to the government), your online persona “CrackerNation” and “Agent1” are all reasons enough for me to decline your invitation to “join you.” You’ve been here for what, 20 years? Your influence, though primarily behind the scenes, is not lost on me. However, I remain open to hearing your suggestions for how we can protect our children. I’m all ears, Charlie. What can you bring to the table?

      3. Considering that your reply was there this morning when I responded, something still does not add up with you. Your latest is just as ugly and uninformed as the one you did not delete last night. Make a suggestion on going forward and I will consider it. Remember that I value truth far more than intention to be truthful.

  7. No, unfortunately I have a commitment all that week. It sounds like a worthy day, though. Why not invite someone from the police department since it is sponsored by the KPD. Perhaps they can bring something back to OR.

    You asked me what I will bring to solving the problems of OR. How about, I will fully participate in all of the city organizations to which I belong and will never act in any way that could be construed as representing these organizations using data that is not in the common knowledge of those following the organizations’ proceedings and for which I have not been asked by these organizations to act on their behalf.

    I have tried very hard to do just this myself and have gotten pretty good at it. Would you be willing to do the same? I think it would go a long way toward reducing the resistance you have recently experienced.

    I have found that taking this approach personally has allowed my fellow board members to be more comfortable and honest with me and I have learned much more from them about workable solutions than I had ever imagined.

    1. I imagine that there are parents and students out there who are very thankful that someone is “acting on their behalf” Mr. Jernigan. And now that, thanks to Ms. Baughn, more are aware of those things that “were not common knowledge” perhaps something can be done to address the issues. I wish the “powers that be” would put as much effort into addressing the concerns of Chief Akagi, the city manager, parents and students as they have put into “saving face”. Imagine the possibilities!!

      1. Charlie,

        You’ve got plenty of other playgrounds on which to launch your attacks. I’ve heard you out but I won’t continue to allow you to beat on me in my own house. Good Bye.

  8. Thank you Trina for doing what you do.
    There are great problems in this city.
    There is a complacent city council, willing to do nothing but,
    cover-up the problem,
    change the subject,
    appoint political cronies,
    use their positions to enrich their own bank accounts.
    There will come a day of reckoning for these scoundrels and their names will be posted along a walk of shame in Bissell Park. They will not escape the judgement of history.
    Sign me,
    Just Another Regular Guy

    1. Trina,
      When you point out an ugliness here in Oak Ridge you get the predictable responses. The cast of suspects are always the same, ( the A’s, E, J, H, M, B, etc.). These people are a part of a group that financially profit by the status quo. They are more than willing to peddle fantasy that Disney would be proud of. Unfortunately, the price of the tickets the citizens pay is ridiculous.
      Keep up the good work. When you afflict the skunks here in Oak Ridge we all will have to hold our noses for awhile. That smell you smell means you are on to something.
      Sign me,
      Just Another Regular Guy

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