School Board Watch Blog – January 2016

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we’ll take a look at the agenda for the January 21st regularly scheduled 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:

  • Public Forum: Immediately following the regularly scheduled meeting, there will be a public forum providing an opportunity for community members to address the board with comments and concerns regarding the Ooltewah incident and/or the current issues associated with bullying and harassment in schools.
  • UnifiEd’s Student Voice Team Presents Bullying/Harassment Research: Our Student Voice Team has been working since last year to bring attention to bullying and discrimination in schools. Through research, we learned that the current HCDE Policy 6.304 regarding student harassment and bullying does not comply with state law (Tenn. Code Ann. 49-6-4503). This week our Student Voice Team will present policy recommendations to school board members and a draft of their ideal Bullying and Harassment Policy.
  • Addition to Wolftever Elementary School: The board will have a final vote on the approval of the construction for the new addition at Wolftever Elementary School worth $7,425,790 (J&J Contractors).
  • Second and Final Reading: Board Policy 5.702: Student Teachers: This new policy changes the process for student teacher placement by moving the autonomy for placement from the teacher to the principal and allows new teachers to be mentors. The previous policy allowed for the principal and host teacher to approve student teacher placement in their classroom while the new policy allows only the principal to make the approval. The previous policy also required the host teacher to either be tenure or have five years of experience and the new policy allows host teachers to have only three or more years of experience.

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

  • Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, Hixson High School, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, Sequoyah High, and Red Bank High will participate in education related field trips.
  • Hixson High School, Lookout Valley Middle/High School, Soddy Daisy High School, Central High School, Lookout Valley Middle/High School, and The Howard School will participate in sports related field trips.

Business and Finance

Bids

  • Purchase of exterior doors for Sequoyah High School for $19,750 (Service Systems, LLC)
  • Purchase of piano for East Hamilton Middle/High School for $17,000 (Bill Jones Music)
  • Emergency/Early approval for CARTA to be approved for the vendors list for charter bus services
  • Emergency/Early Approval for purchase of a Smart TV for the School Nutrition Department for $44,925 ($12,525 will be paid through the School Nutrition budget and the remaining amount will be paid through the Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 Funds)

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.

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) Transmittal

  • The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report audit covers the financial statements for the Hamilton County Board of Education and indicates HCDE followed correct protocol for filing financial reports for specific school programs. Read the full report HERE.

School Activity Fund Audit Report

  • The School Activity Fund Audit Report indicates HCDE has followed correct protocol for filing their financial statements in the School Activity Fund in accordance with the Tennessee Internal School Uniform Accounting Policy Manual.

Budget Amendments

  • Federal and Self-Funded: There have been transfers between line items for the following: Title I (Improving Basic Programs), Title II Part A (Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting), Title III (English Language Acquisition), and 21st Century Community Learning Centers (Year 1, East Lake Academy).  The following programs are receiving an increase in funding: Carl Perkins Vocational Grant ($2,469), Carl Perkins IV Reserve Vocational Self-Funded Program ($1,720), Special Education Self-Funded Program ($600), and Teacher Recruitment Self-Funded Program ($781).
  • General Purpose Budget True Up: Each year the Finance Department prepares a mid-year budget amendment to account for adjustments made to the District’s General Purpose Fund. These amendments reflect changes to the budget for the movement of personnel between schools and the increase of positions due to enrollment changes.

Campus Support

  • Auxiliary Services: The board will have a final vote on the approval of the construction for the new addition at Wolftever Elementary School worth $7,425,790 (J&J Contractors).
  • Second and Final Reading: Board Policy 5.702: Student Teachers: This new policy changes the process for student teacher placement by moving the autonomy for placement from the teacher to the principal and allows new teachers to be mentors. The previous policy allowed for the principal and host teacher to approve student teacher placement in their classroom while the new policy allows only the principal to make the approval. The previous policy also required the host teacher to either be tenure or have five years of experience and the new policy allows host teachers to have only three or more years of experience.

Board Matters

  • Naming of a School Facility: The principal of Soddy Daisy High is requesting the name of their Round Gym/Wrestling Arena and the soccer complex be named after a teacher, coach, and assistant principal, Steve Henry. If approved, the facilities will be named The Steve Henry Athletic Complex.

Administrative/Business Matters

  • First Reading Board Policy 3.201: Naming New Facilities: The new board policy will require any citizen, board member, or school personnel who wishes to name a new school facility to submit their request with supporting reasons and a petition with a minimum of 50 signatures from the community representing that school zone. The chairperson for that zone will then send the recommendation to the board for a vote at the next scheduled meeting.

Events/ Announcements

  • February 1 – March 18, 2016: Parent Teacher Conferences (schools select 1/2 day)
  • February 11, 2016: Agenda Review Work Session, Board Room, 5:00 PM
  • February 15, 2016: President’s Day (schools closed)
  • February 18, 2016: School Board Meeting, Board Room, 5:00 PM

UnifiEd Calls for Change in Bullying & Harassment Policy

UnifiEd and our Student Voice Team is calling for the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) to immediately comply with state law mandating an adequate bullying and harassment policy and to launch an independent investigation of all policies and procedures related to bullying. We need you to contact your local School Board members in support of policy changes that will ensure the safety of all students in Hamilton County.

Show your support in these three ways: 

1. Contact your local School Board member to let them know you want HCDE’s bullying and harassment policy to comply with state law and for the School Board to launch an independent investigation of all policies and procedures related to bullying. Write a letter, send an email, or make a phone call and let them know this issue is important to you. Find out who your local school board member is HERE. Find contact information for your local School Board member HERE.

2. Attend the School Board Work Session this Thursday, January 14 at 5pm at the Hamilton County Department of Education (3074 Hickory Valley Rd). The meeting will include an agenda session, a policy committee meeting to look at policies and procedures concerning bullying/harassment/field trips/athletics, and a public forum allowing community members to address the board with questions and concerns about the Ooltewah incident.

3. Attend the regularly scheduled School Board Meeting next Thursday, January 21 at 5pm at the Hamilton County Department of Education (3074 Hickory Valley Rd). Join us in supporting our Student Voice Team as they present their findings concerning bullying and harassment in our public schools.

UnifiEd’s Student Voice Team has worked with over 100 students from 16 different schools in Hamilton County to advocate for policy change within public schools. We all agree bullying and harassment is one of the most pressing issues facing students today. Our team has been working since last year to bring attention to bullying and discrimination in schools. We learned that the current HCDE Policy 6.304 regarding Student Discrimination/Harassment/Hazing and Bullying/Intimidation does not comply with state law (Tenn. Code Ann. 49-6-4503). The Student Voice Team’s review of HCDE’s policy suggests that 5 of the 13 required provisions are missing or inadequate:

  • A procedure for anonymous reporting
  • A statement of the consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person who engages in reprisal or retaliation against a person who reports an act of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or cyber bullying
  • A description of the type of behavior expected from each student
  • A procedure for discouraging and reporting conduct aimed at defining a student in a sexual manner or conduct impugning the character of a student based on allegations of sexual promiscuity
  • A statement of the manner in which a school district shall respond after an act of harassment, intimidation, bullying, or cyber-bullying is reported, investigated, and confirmed

Having procedures in place that support anonymous reporting is essential to ensuring the safety of all students. The School Board needs to work with students to create a centralized method of reporting that empowers students to be honest about what’s going on in our schools and provide support for victims. While school administrators cannot base disciplinary action on anonymous reports, they are useful in tracking and responding to problems associated with harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

UnifiEd’s Student Voice Team is currently working with students across the county to create a policy draft they believe will best serve students and address the issue of increased bullying and harassment in public schools. We know this is not just about one incident or one school and we are dedicated to making policy changes that will benefit all students in Hamilton County. Now is the time to do your part!

If you have any questions regarding our Bullying and Harassment Campaign, please contact one of our student organizers via email: info@unifi-ed.org.

Check out these news stories highlighting the importance of bullying/harassment policy reform:

News Channel 9: Making Hamilton County’s Anti-Bullying/Hazing Policies Conform with State Underway

News Channel 3: New Anonymous Reporting System For Bullying in Hamilton County Schools 

News Channel 12: Group Says Hamilton County Schools Are Not In Compliance With Bullying Laws