Chattanooga 2.0 Calls for Bold Action in Education

Chattanooga is a city at the forefront of growth, innovation, and economic development making it one of the best cities in America to live and work. However, when it comes to education, Chattanooga is falling behind and is currently not equipped to meet the demand of a growing workforce and economy that depends on knowledge to succeed. In order to address the much needed improvement in early education, K-12 learning, and postsecondary degree attainment, the Benwood Foundation, the Hamilton County Department of Education, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Public Education Foundation have launched “Chattanooga 2.0”. This effort is to ensure Hamilton County students have the ability to be academically successful and to compete for high tech jobs that sustain our growing community.

Chattanooga 2.0 has identified Chattanooga as one of the top 10 metro areas in country for growing advanced industries and shown that Hamilton County has added jobs at a higher rate than Tennessee as a whole. Despite this economic boost, only 38% of Hamilton County residents have a postsecondary degree that is needed for advanced industrial employment. Currently, there are 15,000 jobs available that cannot be filled by Hamilton County residents because of education requirements alone. Hamilton County is not able to meet the demand because our public schools are falling behind on educational benchmarks in literacy, math, ACT requirements, and student completion of a postsecondary credential or degree. These new jobs can only be filled by applicants with a postsecondary certificate or degree, and jobs that require only a high school diploma or less are rapidly declining.

The main goal of Chattanooga 2.0 is to ensure 75% of Hamilton County residents hold an industry certification, two year degree, or four year degree by 2025. In order to do this we need to strategize as a community to set bold educational goals, eliminate equality barriers, and support and empower talented teachers. A focused action plan centered on improving early childhood learning, K-12 success, and college and career readiness, is currently being developed and will be released in the next 100 days.

UnifiEd, along with dozens of other businesses and organizations, is an endorser for this new initiative. Since our founding, we have formed a strong community coalition and are actively pursuing many of the goals outlined in Chattanooga 2.0. Currently our Pact for Public Education calls for increased access to pre-k, improvement in reading, math, and ACT scores, teacher support, and eliminating socioeconomic barriers for students in schools, all of which are crucial points of Chattanooga 2.0. We strongly support uniting the community around improving public education and developing the continued growth of our city.

School Board Recap – December 2015

The December 17th school board meeting began with a work session focused on the new Chattanooga 2.0 initiative. During the regularly scheduled session, board members voted to approve all agenda items. In addition, there were two presentations recognizing Loftis Middle School Beta Club and the STARS program.

Heather DeGaetano, a Normal Park parent, addressed the school board to discuss scaling back standardized testing. The parent opt-out movement is growing in Hamilton County.  Parents involved are not against standardized testing as a whole, but they do believe the new testing standards are inappropriate for grade school children. Their platform has three main components: 1) the testing is developmentally inappropriate, 2) the tests take away too much instructional time, and 3) the time needed to meet testing requirements is too long for grade school children.

Donna Horn pulled the agenda item accepting donation requests from county commission to be discussed further among board members. Chairman Welch made a motion for future requests to be sent to the superintendent with monthly updates. Steve Highlander made a motion to table the change until further discussion could be had. The motion failed and the board members voted to approve the motion to let the superintendent decide on future requests.

The meeting concluded with a discussion about the Coalition of Large Area School Systems (CLASS). Rhonda Thurman and Greg Martin both questioned the accomplishments of CLASS over the past year, but the board ultimately decided to approve the payment of membership dues needed to continue the partnership.

School Board Watch Blog: December 2015

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we’ll take a look at the agenda for the December 17th quarterly session of the Hamilton County School Board Meeting. The meeting will be held in the Hamilton County School Board Meeting Room at 3074 Hickory Valley Road and is set to begin at 5:30 PM. We will be there live tweeting. Follow along on Twitter: @UnifiEdHC, #HCSchools.

Hot Topics:

  • Donation Acceptance Requests: The Hamilton County Commission is requesting the approval of discretionary bond fund donations for the purchase of tech lab equipment for Harrison Elementary ($4,000), the purchase of an audio and speaker system for the Brainerd High School gymnasium ($7,200), and $100,000 going towards the completion of restroom facilities and concession area for the athletic complex at East Hamilton Middle High School. There has been some debate between School Board members and County Commissioners on appropriate spending of discretionary funds, especially with so many of our schools in need of facility updates and repairs.
  • Board Policy 5.702: Student Teachers: This policy establishes prerequisites for student teachers. The previous policy allowed for the principal and host teacher to approve student teacher placement in their classroom. The new policy allows only the principal to make the approval. The previous policy required the host teacher to either be tenure or have five years of experience. The new policy allows host teachers to have only three or more years of experience.
  • Coalition of Large Area School Systems (CLASS): Request of approval to continue Hamilton Countys membership in the Coalition of Large Area School Systems (CLASS) group and approval to pay membership dues of $37,500 to cover the professional services of Millsaps Gowan Government Relations. CLASS is a lobbying organization working on behalf of the largest school systems in TN.  
  • Opt-Out Movement: Heather DeGaetano will be speaking on the growing opt-out movement where parents are choosing to opt their children out of standardized testing mandated by the state. Heather is a Normal Park parent and has helped raise awareness throughout Hamilton County on why extensive testing is not the best option for grade school children.

To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click HERE.

On the consent agenda for Thursday’s meeting, the board is scheduled to approve:

Education and Leadership Support

Field Trips

  • East Hamilton School will participate in a Career and Technical development related field trip.
  • Big Ridge Elementary, Lakeside Elementary, Spring Creek Elementary, and Thrasher Elementary will participate in education related field trips.
  • Central High School, East Ridge High School, Hixson High School, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, and Soddy Daisy High School will participate in sports related field trips.
  • Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, Chattanooga school for the Liberal Arts, East Hamilton School, Hixson High School, and Loftis Middle School will participate in arts and culture related field trips.
  • Chattanooga Schools for the Arts and Sciences, East Hamilton School, Hixson High School, and Red Bank High School will participate in band related field trips.
  • Hixson High School will participate in a JROTC related field trip.
  • Hixson High School will participate in a club related field trip.

Business and Finance

Bids

  • Request by the School Nutrition Department for the replacement of its sole refrigerated truck  (funding source: School Nutrition Budget for $101,067.00).
  • Request of approval for the purchase of toilet partitions for Hixson Elementary from Shiffler Equipment Sales (funding source: Capital Projects Fund for $22,088.89).
  • Request by the School Nutrition Department for the replacement of five vans (funding source: School Nutrition Budget for $100,769.92).
  • Request by the Exceptional Education Department for the purchase of assessment materials needed to test students with disabilities (funding source: Hamilton County Department of Education for $15, 545.20).
  • Recommendation of approval for contract with LifeTouch Photography for exclusive rights to all school photography (funding source: Hamilton county Department of Education for $182,500).
  • Request for approval for an addendum to the existing Stellar Contract with the School Nurses to include billing for students who have TennCare and an Individualized Health Plan.
  • Request for approval to furnish and install the serving line at Ooltewah Middle School (funding source: School Nutrition Budget for $35,369.00).

Financial Reports

  • The monthly financial statement compares actual year-to-date expenditures to the original adopted budget and the year-to-date amended budget through December 19, 2015.

Donation Acceptance Requests

  • The Hamilton County Commission is requesting the approval of discretionary bond fund donations for the purchase of tech lab equipment for Harrison Elementary ($4,000), the purchase of an audio and speaker system for the Brainerd High School gymnasium ($7,200), and $100,000 going towards the completion of restroom facility and concession area for the athletic complex at East Hamilton Middle High School. There has been some debate between School Board members and County Commissioners on appropriate spending of discretionary funds, especially with so many of our schools in need of facility updates and repairs.

Grant Award Acceptance

  • Alpine Crest Elementary School has been awarded a $15,809 grant from the City of Red Bank for student devices and charging carts.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School has been awarded $100,000 as a winner in the Celebrate Your Drive Video Contest.

Budget Amendments

  • Federal and Self- Funded: Request for approval to appropriate funds to purchase a data backup system for technology disaster recovery. This amendment appropriates funds from the Unassigned Fund Balance in the amount of $157,765 to purchase equipment ($51,649) and hardware/software ($106,116).

Campus Support

  • First and Final Reading: Revised Board Policy 2.806: Bids and Quotations: All purchases of supplies, materials, equipment, and contractual services in excess of ten thousand dollars, including those of individual schools, shall be based on competitive bids.
  • Request for the approval of donations from Commissioner Discretionary bond funds for reimbursement of $4,000 in tech lab equipment purchases for Harrison Elementary, purchase of $7,200 audio and speaker system for Brainerd High School gymnasium, and reimbursement of $100,000 funds towards the completion of restroom facility and concession area for the athletic complex at East Hamilton Middle High School.

Administrative/ Business Matters

  • First Reading: Board Policy 5.702: Student Teachers: This policy establishes prerequisites for student teachers. The previous policy allowed for the principal and host teacher to approve student teacher placement in their classroom. The new policy allows only the principal to make the approval. The previous policy required the host teacher to either be tenure or have five years of experience. The new policy allows host teachers to have only three or more years of experience.
  • Nolan Elementary: Request for approval for the construction of a new addition at Nolan Elementary School for $4,500,000.
  • Teacher Tenure: Request that tenure be awarded to a list of teachers who have satisfactorily completed their probationary period and met the evaluation score requirements in accordance with TCA: 49-5-503.

Board Matters

  • Parents of a Hamilton County Students have requested the Hamilton County Board of Education to review their childs zero tolerance suspension appeal decision.
  • Request of approval to continue Hamilton Countys membership in the Coalition of Large Area School Systems (CLASS) group and approval to pay membership dues of $37,500 to cover the professional services of Millsaps Gowan Government Relations. CLASS is a lobbying organization working on behalf of public school districts currently suing the state for additional funding.

Events/ Announcements

  • December 18, 2015- Teacher Professional Development (no students)
  • December 20, 2015 January 1, 2016 – Winter Break (schools closed)
  • January 6, 2016- School Reopens
  • January 4 and 5, 2016- Teacher Professional Development (no students)
  • January 6, 2016 School Reopens
  • January 14, 2016 Board of Education Work Session Board Room, 5:00 PM
  • January 21, 2015 Board of Education Regular Session Board Room, 5:00 PM