A Year in Review


2016 was an exciting year for UnifiEd! With increased community involvement, positive changes in our school system, and some of our greatest successes to date, 2016 was truly a breakout year. Our team and the Hamilton County community worked very hard this past year to come together and demand change in our school system for the betterment of students, teachers, families, and all stakeholders. It is now clear how much impact can be made by raising the voice of our community. UnifiEd looks forward to seeing what incredible new things we can accomplish this coming year. But first, let’s take a look at the amazing accomplishments of UnifiEd in 2016:

Student Voice Team:

After finding discrepancies between the state and local bullying and harassment policies, our student-led team successfully campaigned for a better policy for HCDE. They led meetings with students across the county and presented their findings to the school board, who implemented the new bullying and harassment policy change. Our Student Voice Team went on to lead roundtable discussion in each Hamilton County high school and worked on equity driven student-led campaigns throughout these schools.

Superintendent Search Process:

This year, we saw a lot of changes in our local school government. UnifiEd led a campaign for accountability with the Superintendent by enabling hundreds of community members to reach out to their representatives after there were concerns about transparency and communication. We hosted 10 community conversations in each of the nine districts to ensure community voice was incorporated into the superintendent selection process. These discussions produced four community-led recommendations for public involvement in the superintendent search process, leading over 200 community members to contact their representatives in support of a comprehensive community engagement plan. Over 50 community members attended our rally at the school board meeting pressuring board members to adopt the four recommendations. School board members are now in communication with the search firm about including a robust community input plan throughout the candidate search process.

School Board Elections:

Since 4 districts were up for reelection this year, we created an online tool, designed a brochure, and hosted meetings in all districts to help Hamilton County residents become more informed on how to run for school board. As a result, all districts open for election were contested. We hosted School Board Debates with 100% candidate participation. 377 community members attended these debates and had the opportunity to ask candidates questions.

Community Schools

UnifiEd teamed up with Great Schools Partnership of Knox County to host a Community Schools Workshop providing residents with information on how to establish a community school model in their district. We then sent over 30 parents, teachers, and organizational leaders to Knox County community schools to collect best practice research to better understand how to implement this model here at home. After extensive research, we helped establish a community school council for Red Bank High School and sent a community leader to Arizona for the Community Schools Conference. Through our campaigning on this initiative, HCDE has now agreed to adopt and implement the community school model throughout Hamilton County schools.

Hamilton County Public School Guide:

After over a year of extensive research and data collection, UnifiEd released the Hamilton County Public School Guide, the first education data dashboard created in Hamilton County. This tool provides the community with information concerning all 79 of our public schools such as demographic data, test scores, college and career readiness, and how to contact local representatives. Efforts are currently underway to illustrate school climate across the county because we know test scores and data don’t always give us the full picture.

UnifiEducators Committee:

This year, UnifiEd hosted monthly meetings with local educators to identify key issues affecting teachers. This lead to an ESOL campaign to improve communication between HCDE and Spanish speaking parents and students. The UnifiEducators Committee continues to grow and we look forward to seeing their progress next year.

PACT Implementation:

Recently, HCDE has drafted a strategic plan. This plan calls for HCDE to adopt much of our PACT for Public Education! Their plan calls for the following Pact Points to be adopted:

1a- Implement a plan to recruit the best possible teachers for all schools in HCDE.

1b- Retain our teachers by having a robust county-wide mentorship plan, individualized professional development.

1d- Offer incentives to keep the best teachers in the highest need schools.

3b- Implement short and long-term goals for the school board using metrics based on student outcomes.

We want to thank everyone who has been engaged in our work this year – change is impossible without you. We made some incredible progress towards making our schools the best they can be. Students, teachers, and the community are at the heart of our work. We look forward to building on this momentum in 2017!  


School Board Recap: Dec. 15, 2016

Prior to the regularly scheduled school board session, the finance committee met to discuss the school budget. Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Purchasing, Christy Jordan, gave a presentation to the board describing in detail where the school system receives funding and how money is being spent across the county. The finance meeting ended with discussions about contract renewals with independently contracted bus drivers and our contract with Durham School Services. The board agreed to hold a work session on Dec. 28 at 3 PM to further discuss all contracted bussing services. 

The regularly scheduled board meeting began with statements from board members and the superintendent regarding Woodmore Elementary. Steve Highlander, Karitsa Jones, and Kirk Kelly all thanked the community for their continued support and praised Woodmore Principal Brenda Adamson-Cothran for her strength and leadership during this tragedy. A moment of silence was held for the 6 children who lost their lives in the bus crash and prayers were shared for all affected families. There will be a Christmas for Woodmore event on Dec. 17 from 12-4 PM which will include fun activities for the community and presents for over 100 students at Woodmore Elementary.

The Loftis Beta Club was recognized for receiving 1st place in the Power of Tower competition, making them state champions two years in a row. They are qualified to go to Disney World in June to compete nationally. The president of HCEA, Dan Liner, approached to board to discuss the importance of implementing the community schools model in Hamilton County and asked the board to add this to their discussion at their upcoming strategic planning work session in January. Kirsten Johnson, the Harrison Elementary PTA president, addressed the board about the dilapidating conditions at Harrison Elementary. She described hazardous conditions including sewage backup, faulty heating systems, chipping lead paint, and lack of space for classroom activities. District 4 board member, Tiffanie Robinson, agreed to host a work session to prioritize facility repairs, and student board member, D’Andre Anderson, applauded the teachers at Harrison Elementary for continuing to be exemplary educators despite their working conditions.

All items on the agenda were approved which included a vote on the selected calendar for SY 2017-18, the second and final reading of Board Policy 5.305, and the renaming of the PALS Center. Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly walked the school board through the updated TN Report Card available on tn.gov and discussed the iZone plan the school system has begun to implement in the 5 priority schools across Hamilton County. The iZone plan includes strategies such as: increased truancy officers, additional bussing options, a PATHS program to improve college and career readiness through literacy, ACT bootcamp, a WAY program for students who don’t fit into the regular school day, a new mentoring program for new teaches, community school expansion, principal coaches, and a new principals network.

The meeting closed with a discussion about municipalities wanting to breakaway from the Hamilton County school district. Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, Lee McDade, has met with one of the municipalities and has offered assistance in investigating the breakaway. Many board members voiced that they believe our system is stronger together and that we should all work to support an informed decision.

The next agenda session will be on January 12th at 5 PM. There will be a work session prior to the meeting at 4 PM to discuss the superintendent selection process with Coleman Lew and Associates.


School Board Watch Blog: December 15, 2016

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the December 15th 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 live tweet @UnifiEdHC, follow along at #HCSchools.

To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click here.

Hot Topics:

  • Second Reading of Board Policy 5.305 – Family and Medical Leave: Provisions are being added to the Family and Medical Leave policy that states an employee may submit any form of medical documentation to Human Resources to have leave authorized under FMLA. In addition, the School District is able to designate leave as FMLA under their discretion if they feel adequate medical documentation or information was provided to the District. This policy change provides an important area of clarification for the system regarding medical documentation.

Field Trips

  • East Hamilton High School will participate in the competitive Honors Virtual Enterprise field trip.
  • East Hamilton School, East Ridge High School, Lookout Valley Middle High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School, Red Bank High School, and Sale Creek Middle High School will participate in sports related field trips.
  • East Hamilton School and Ooltewah High School will participate in music related field trips.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School will participate in a competitive science related field trip.
  • Soddy Daisy High School will participate in a Forensics related field trip.
  • Big Ridge Elementary and Spring Creek Elementary will participate in Math, Reading, and Science related field trips at Rock Eagle Environmental Center.   


  • Approval sought to extend the contract by 2 years with Praters, Inc. to repair, sand, and refinish gym floors.
  • Approval sought for the purchase of 9 CPO lab kits to be given to the start up courses and 25 digital licenses to be used by Physical World Concepts Curriculum teachers. This will be for a total of $29,313.13 from the Consumables Budget.
  • The Office of Accountability and Testing is seeking approval for the renewal of the Software Maintenance Subscription & Support contract with PowerSchool for a total of $121,429.47 from the General Purpose fund.
  • Approval sought from The Howard School Principal and the Orchard Knob Middle School Principal for a contract agreement with Mastery Connect from their Federal Title I School based budget totalling $7,513.80 for Howard and $2,448.60 for Orchard Knob. Mastery Connect allows teachers to track TN ready standards, access and utilize teacher-created common formative assessments and participate in on-site/online professional development.
  • Approval sought from the Director of Exceptional Education for a contract with Momentum Behavior Analysis to provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to students with disabilities. These services will be paid with Exceptional Education General Purpose funds totalling a maximum of $ 35,000.
  • Recommended bid approval for JAT Oil Company for the purchase of motor fuel totalling $26,144.00.

Conferences and Consultants:

  • Approval sought from the Principal at Notre Dame High School for a contract with A+ Education and Propel for $11,625.00 consultation for training in Coach evaluation and walkthrough process, $12,425.00 consultation for technology integration professional development, and $16,625.00 for instructional software modules, and parent support packets, from school based Federal Title I and Title II private school budget allocations.
  • Approval sought for implementing Paths to College and Career curriculum (Paths) at Brainerd High School and all materials, understandings, and strategies needed for implementation totalling $48,000 funded through the Federal Programs School Improvement Grant pending State approval.
  • Approval sought from the Principal at East Side Elementary to contract with Dr. Beverly Tyner to aid in literacy and professional development efforts for teachers totaling $1,800.00 from their school based Federal Title I budget.

Financial Report

  • Presentation of the monthly financial report comparing budget to actual through October, 2016. The presentation of the monthly financial statement compares actual year-to-date expenditures to the original adopted budget and the year-to-date amended budget.

Budget Amendments

The following FY2017 budget amendments for the Pre-K State Grant Award and matching budget are recommended for School Board approval:

  • Therapy Services Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $300,000.
  • Character Education Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $26,482.
  • Photography Self-Funded Program, totaling $400,000.
  • Ochs-Oakes Self-Funded Program, totaling $2,250.
  • Committed for Education Fund Balance, with $411,733 for Regular Instructional Equipment and $82,372 for Hardware/Software, totalling $494,105.              

Second Reading of Board Policy

  • Board Policy 5.305 – Family and Medical Leave: Provisions are being added to the Family and Medical Leave policy that states an employee may submit any form of medical documentation to Human Resources to have leave authorized under FMLA. In addition, the School District is able to designate leave as FMLA under their discretion if they feel adequate medical documentation or information was provided to the District. This policy change provides an important area of clarification for the system regarding medical documentation.

Administrative and Business Matters

  • A summary of legal fees for services in October are $13,732.00 for Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and $1,465.50 for Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, totalling $15,197.50.
  • All certified and full-time classified employees were given an opportunity to vote on one of four calendar options for the 2017-818 school year. Draft 1 of the calendar received 54% of the vote, so Human Resources is encouraging the approval of the Board for this Draft.
  • Dr. Lee McDade will recommend the approval of a name change for the district’s Preschool Assessment and Learning Services Center, located at West 40th Street, with support from The PALS Team and the Exceptional Education Department.The proposed new name would be the Amy Piazza Preschool Assessment and Learning Services Center in remembrance of Amy Piazza.
  • The board will review a student’s zero tolerance suspension appeal decision per question of the student’s mother.

Important Dates and Events

  • December 16th, 2016: Last day of Classes
  • December 19th-30th, 2016: Winter Break
  • January 2md-3rd, 2017: Teacher Professional Development
  • January 4th, 2017: School Reopens
  • January 6th, 2017: Report Cards
  • January 12th, 2017: Board Agenda Work Session, Board Room 5:00 pm
  • January 16th, 2017: Martin Luther King Day
  • January 19th, 2017: Regular Session Board Meeting, Board Room 5:00 pm (5:30 pm if no Ex. Session)
  • January 20th, 2017: Strategic Planning Session, Central High School 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
  • January 21st, 2017: Strategic Planning Session, Central High School 8:00 am to 12:00 pm