School board recap – April 2017

The full April 20, 2017 school board meeting was recorded via Facebook Live – watch the recording here. (The budget discussion begins at around 2:41 into the video.)

The April 20, 2017 regularly scheduled school board meeting began with a number of recognitions and presentations detailed here. Principal Uras Agee of Brainerd High School then gave an iZone update. He reviewed the Explorers program for early college and career skills building. Another career exploration program at Brainerd High is Go Build TN, which educates students on career opportunities and income potential for construction related jobs. Agee reviewed their continuous school improvement plan.

Public comment followed from several delegations:

1. Future Ready Librarians – Debbie Condry, Cristol Kapp, and Ann Rox presented on the work local librarians are doing around digital literacy.
2. Dan Liner from HCEA – He recognized teachers present at the meeting who support increased funding. “The status quo funding is simply not sufficient,” he stated. His call for increased funding focused on key areas of the requested additions: literacy coaches and materials and technology.
3. Representative of HC Principals Assoc. – The Association met recently seeking to identify three areas from which HCDE’s increased funds could be cut. He reports that the principals were not able to find one area they agreed could afford to be cut from the request. Top priorities for increase from principals’ perspective are technology, teacher pay, facility upgrades, professional development, ELL population support, and educating parents to best support kids.
4. Tyrese Jones, CCA student, spoke about the scholarship he has received and great education he’s benefitted from, but wanted to remind the board that not every student in the county has equitable access to the same quality of education that he has received. He called for an increase in funds to support all students in our community equitably.
5. Sara Boyd, another CCA student, spoke passionately about specific stories illustrating underfunding, including her English teacher having spent $1,000 of her personal money on classroom materials since August, as the school system only provides $100 per teacher, per year for supplies. “The stakes are too high for the budget to be this low,” she said. She also called for the board to approve increased funding.
6. Catherine Melissa – Local parent called for the board and county to prioritize education funding and asked for multi-year budget.

The March 16 meeting minutes were approved, as was the consent agenda.

As the board prepared to vote for the 2018 budget proposed by Dr. Kelly at the previous week’s finance committee meeting, board member Joe Smith offered comment on the requested budget increase of $33.5 million. He said he is “convinced increased funding is necessary,” and he called the list of programs those funds would support a needs list, not a wish list.

He motioned to table the vote to allow Dr. Kelly and his staff to return with a balanced budget and an addendum with the list of needed additions in prioritized tiers. Joe Wingate seconded the motion.

Board member Karitsa Jones said, “We’re not talking about boxes of product. We’re talking about lives. If we don’t start investing in them now, we’re going to lose a generation. I’m not voting to table this because I live in a district with kids who need everything on this list and more.”

Board Chairman Steve Highlander summarized, “We don’t have drastic wants, we have drastic needs.” He touched on lack of supplies funds, talented teachers leaving, priority schools “to deal with”, lack of workforce readiness.

Yes votes to table were cast by board members Robinson, Smith, Thurmond, Wingate, Highlander. The vote will resume at a special session next Thursday, April 27 at 5:00 p.m.

The meeting concluded with the board approving the board meeting schedule for 2017-18 (proposed by Dr. Kelly), approving a series of contracts amendments, and approving a community schools pilot program.

Digging in to HCDE’s Proposed Budget Increase

Understanding the schools’ request

Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) presented a general operating budget for the 2017-18 school year to the Board of Education finance committee last Thursday that totaled $397 million, a $33.5 million increase over the current year’s budget.

“Download full details” sample document for each focus area

Let’s dig into how the requested additional funds would be spent if granted. The requests are organized by HCDE’s six areas of strategic focus.

Each section has a link to documents issued by HCDE with more details like:

  • Why these investments?
  • Details on each request
  • Expected outcomes
  • What if these needs are NOT funded?

Strong Foundations: Literacy and Math

Total requested increase: $1,600,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Added literacy support for priority and on-the-cusp schools ($900,000)
  • Expanding innovative and effective math instruction ($100,000)
  • Supporting schools with literacy materials ($500,000)
  • Kindergarten readiness support ($52,000)

See full details >

Engage Every Child. Every Day.

Total requested increase: $8,700,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • School technology upgrades and support ($7,600,000)
  • Robotics program continuation and expansion ($63,200)
  • Hands-on science and art pilots ($250,000)
  • Art and eLab teachers ($780,000)

See full details >

Future Ready: Prepare All Students for College & Career

Total requested increase: $1,900,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Core funding for the new Chattanooga Polytechnic Academy ($586,000)
  • Expanding post-graduation options for high school students, including work-based learning and technical credentials for high-demand jobs ($1,300,000)

See full details >

Closing the Opportunity Gap

Total requested increase: $4,000,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Support for our growing English Language Learner population ($677,000)
  • Strategic and differentiated support for priority and cusp schools ($1,500,000)
  • Additional support for student health services ($289,000)
  • Increased supports for students with special needs ($964,000)
  • Charter school enrollment increases ($474,000)
  • Replicate Graduate on Point program at additional schools ($150,000)

See full details >

Great Teachers, Great Leaders

Total requested increase: $14,500,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Cost of living adjustment and step pay increase for all educators ($11,000,000)
  • Strengthening our pipeline to ensure a great leader in every school ($417,000)
  • Additional teaching positions for projected enrollment increases ($1,500,000)
  • Professional learning to support beginning teachers ($1,400,000)
  • Increase capacity to recruit and train top talent ($148,000)

See full details >

Building Our Values: Culture, Climate, and Communication

Total requested increase: $2,800,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • School-based telephone support for communication and safety ($500,000)
  • Increase in block grants to allow more site-based decisions ($1,000,000)
  • Increases in custodial and transportation services ($1,300,000)

See full details >

UnifiEd’s take

The requested increase in funds has been tied to expected student outcomes, a first for HCDE and a step UnifiEd has called for as part of the Pact for Public Education. We are very pleased at this big step toward the goal and hope HCDE administration will expand on this approach by tying the full budget to outcomes in the future.

The Pact also calls for a multi-year operating budget. Dr. Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent, told the Board at the April 13 finance committee meeting that he would be presenting a multi-year budget “soon.” We commend the commitment to this Pact goal and look forward to seeing it presented!

Still unaddressed is a long-term plan for building and expanding schools, as well as addressing the massive backlog of maintenance issues. UnifiEd calls for HCDE and the county to work together to create and fund a multi-year capital plan that creates efficiencies and opportunities for equitable access to quality education for every student in Hamilton County.

Take action!

Our school funding campaign hub gives you all the tools to take action in support of increased funding for our schools.

  • “Find your elected officials” feature: Select your neighborhood to see who your school board member, county commissioner, and county mayor are, plus their contact info.
  • Tools to contact your county officials: Download a letter to sign and mail, get a phone script for making a call, or get suggested text for an email.

Visit the campaign hub now >

Finally, turn out to support school funding! The school board will vote on HCDE’s proposed budget on Thursday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. Whether you support HCDE’s proposed budget specifically, or more funding for our schools in general, be there to show the school board that our community values investment in education!

UnifiEd will be there with pizzas and posters to help you share your voice – let’s fund Hamilton County’s future! Board meeting info >

School Board Watch Blog – April 20

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the April 20th 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:

  • Turn Out for More School Funding! Join UnifiEd at 5:00pm before the school board meeting to support our schools in making more funding for education a priority. We will have posters available! 
  • Board approval is recommended for the FY 2018 Budget presentation to the County Commission. The proposed budget is as follows:     
    • General Purpose School Fund totaling $396,747,961.00
    • Federal Projects Fund totaling $26,109,427.00
    • Food Service Fund totaling $20,954,014.00
    • Self-funded Projects Fund totaling $6,039,657.00

Recognitions and Presentations:

  • David Cowan, Director of Career and Technical Education, is recognizing East Hamilton High School’s Virtual Enterprises International Program for receiving first and second place at the Midwest Regional Trade Fair Business Plan Competition..
  • Lakesha Carson, the Principal of East Lake Academy, and Jill Levine will recognize Erin Glenn, eighth grade American History teacher, as the winner of the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies Middle School Teacher of the Year Award.
  • The music teachers of Hamilton County schools will recognize the students from various programs who have achieved the title of Tennessee All-State Musician.
  • Jill Levine will announce Shellie Gibson from Smith Elementary, Kristin Burrus from CSAS, and Jessica Hubbuch from Howard High School, as Teachers of the Year. Ms. Burrus has been chosen as the Southeast Regional Middle School Tennessee Teacher of the Year.
  • HCDE is recognizing two educators, Erin Glenn from East Lake Academy and Kay Goodgame from Signal Mountain Middle/High, who have have recently achieved National Board Certification (NBC).
  • The Principal at Brainerd High School will give an iZone update to the school board.  

Field Trips

  • Soddy Daisy High School, Brainerd High School, the Howard School, Red Bank Middle School, Sale Creek Middle High School, CSLA, CCA, CSAS Upper, and Signal Mountain Middle High will send students to participate in competitions or tournaments.
  • CCA, CSAS Lower, Hixson High School, Hixson Middle, the Howard School, and Normal Park will send students to attend camps.
  • CSAS Upper will send students to visit the capitol at Washington, D.C.
  • CSLA will host a lock in on campus that will serve as an auction fundraiser.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School and East Hamilton School will participate in music related field trips.
  • STEM School will travel to Boston to attend the 2017 MIT Eureka Fest.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School will send students to travel to Germany to complete a cultural comparison project with the German-American Partnership program.

Bids and Contracts:

  • Board approval is requested for contract extensions for several maintenance projects. The board had previously awarded contracts for these described goods and services and right was reserved to extend the contracts for an additional twelve-month period. Funding Source: Operating/Maintenance and Capital Projects Budgets:
    • Contracts to Service Fire Extinguishers & Kitchen Hood Suppression Systems, Asbestos Abatement for School System, Air monitoring Services for Asbestos Projects, Furnish Labor & Materials for Electrical Projects, Annual Elevator Inspection, Repair & Preventative Maintenance Program, Furnish & Install VCT & Rubber Base, Furnish Heating Fuel, Furnish & Install Aluminum Walkway Covers & Canopies, Relocate Portable Classrooms, and Routine Roof Repairs & Replacement
  • Recommended approval is sought for:
    • A Request for Proposal to provide a Drug & Alcohol Testing program.
    • Contracts to furnish library books and Processing & Card Catalog Kits.
    • Purchase of air cooled chiller for Battle Academy, Brown Middle, and Woodmore Elementary.
    • HVAC Control Upgrades for Spring Creek Elementary School totalling $201,000.00 to Electronic Controls, Inc. with funds provided by 2016/17 Capital Projects Fund.
    • Bid renewals for the School Nutrition Program 2017-18.
    • School Annual Publishers for 2017-18.
    • Purchase of new vehicles totalling $193,313.95 with the funding from Maintenance General Funds.
    • Contract with Zonar Systems, Inc. for 69 GPS Tracking Systems to be installed in owner operated buses totalling $22, 083.41 from the Transportation budget. This will provide data on the path, speed, and location of these buses.  
    • Purchase of 75 Motorola Radios and charging devices from Motorola Solutions, Inc. Current radio systems will be obsolete in 2018. This will total $181,137.03 from the Transportation budget.
    • Working on repairing and replacing music/band equipment with Giant Steps, a local vendor for musical equipment repairs and parts, for school year 2017-18.
    • Emergency and early approval for commodity processing for the Hamilton County School Nutrition program.  
    • Emergency and early approval to contract with School Bus Consultants, LLC to assess existing contracts to establish requirements for contract compliance and oversight, develop a contractor accountability plan for all operators, and ensure adequate staffing to oversee contracts. This will total $15,500.00 from the Transportation Budget.   
    • The purchase of motor fuel from JAT Oil Company totalling $13,529.60 from the Warehouse Inventory Fund.       

Business and Finance:

  • Approval sought for two HCDE employees from the Information Technology Department to attend the International Society for Technology in Education Conference to learn and exchange information in field of educational technology. This will not exceed $10,000.00 coming from the General Fund Budget.
  • Approval sought for a contract with Public Education Foundation and the Principal Leadership Academy for training, mentorship, and support for Assistant Principals interested in moving into a Principal role. This will total $100,000.00 from the General Fund Budget.
  • HCDE has accepted a donation for $5,000.00 from Commissioner Discretionary bog funds for the installment and purchase of acoustic blankets for CCA.
  • The board will be asked to approve the charging of basic school fees to students for the FY 2017-2018. These fees will vary from school to school and between grades.
  • The board will receive the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Hamilton County for the 2016 year as a matter of record for the minutes. This covers the financial statements for the Board of Education as well as the audit report which indicates the statements fairly presents the financial position of Hamilton County. This report is publically available on the Hamilton County website.
  • The board will receive the School Activity Fund Audit Report for Hamilton County Schools for the 2016 year as a matter of record for the minutes. The audit report indicates that the financial statements fairly present the financial position of the School Activity Funds in accordance with the accounting practices prescribed by the Tennessee Internal School Uniform Accounting Policy Manual. This report is publically available.   

Budget Amendments

  • The following budget amendments for Federal Grants and Self-Funded Programs for FY 2017 are recommended for approval:
    • Maintenance Recyclables Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $13,029
    • Character Education Self-Funded Program, with transfers between line item Supplies for Regular Instruction to Hardware/Software Licences totally $1.389.00.
  • Board approval is needed to amend the FY17 General Purpose Operating Budget for the attached transfers within the Transportation and Instructional School Supplies accounts.
  • Approval is recommended to appropriate the unassigned fund balance of $5,324,000 for funds roofing projects at Hunter Middle School, Lookout Valley Middle/High Vocational, Soddy Middle, Tyner High Vocational and Auditorium, and Wallace Smith Elementary, installation of HVAC Controls at Wolftever Elementary, and the completion of the district wide telephone installation and 50 intercom or paging systems at schools for additional school safety.  

Curriculum and Instruction:

  • The Textbook Adoption Committee selected high quality instructional resources for use in Hamilton County classrooms and are recommending the approval of a list of textbooks totalling $284,166.40.
  • Approval is sought to submit the secondary education special courses applications to the State Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year.

Campus Support:

  • Soddy Daisy High School and community would like to transfer the name of the Gymnasium at the old school to the current existing high school. The name was approved by the School Board previously. The name is in honor of Ernest “Big Boy” Eldridge, who was a major influence on hundreds of student athletes in the northern Hamilton County area.
  • Lee McDade will recommend a 2017-2018 tuition rate of $3,305 for out-of-county students (in-state of Tennessee) and $8,570 for out-of-state students. Tuition is based on the revenues that are not received since the student resides either out-of-county or out-of state. Out-of-county proposed tuition increased by $13 or 0.39% compared to last year, while the out-of-state proposed tuition increased by $258 or 3.10%. Additionally, it is recommended that out-of-county or state exceptional education students be evaluated for admission on a case-by-case basis.
  • A presentation will be given for HCDE’s 3rd Quarter Bullying Report for the 2016-17 school year. There were a total of 203 reported confirmed cases of bullying.   
  • Policies:


  • Board Policy 4.210 Credit Recovery-2nd and Final Reading: This policy states that the director of schools shall ensure that credit recovery facilitators receive training regarding course organization, online instruction management and related technology. Credit recovery teachers shall comply with all State Board of Education certification requirements. Students will be eligible for credit recovery if they get written consent from a parent/guardian or previously taken an initial, non‐credit recovery section of the proposed course and received a grade of at least 50%.
  • Board Policy 4.211 Work Based Learning Program-2nd and Final Reading: This policy states that students shall have access to a system of structured work-based learning (WBL) experiences that allow them to apply classroom theories to practical problems as well as explore career options.  The director of schools shall develop administrative procedures to govern the efficient administration of the WLB program. Such procedures shall include, among other things, a process for evaluation and assessment of the program to ensure that it is of high quality and meets the needs of students.
  • Board Policy 4.606 Graduation Requirements-2nd and Final Reading: Graduation requirements are being updated to say that before high school graduation, every student must achieve the specified units of credit, take the required end of course exams, have satisfactory records of attendance and conduct, take the ACT or SAT in the 11th grade, and successfully complete a United States civics test. In addition requirements for early or special education graduation are detailed in the new policy.
  • Board Policy 4.607 Graduation Activities-2nd and Final Reading: Policy has been updated to now say that participation in the graduation ceremony is optional and students who participate must not behave in a disruptive manner. Additionally.  ceremonies and all activities included shall not be religious in nature. The content of any students’ speeches shall not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position, or expression of the school, employees, or the board. Additionally principals shall ensure that students graduating with distinction, state honors, or voluntarily completed at least 10 hours of community service each semester are recognized at graduation.
  • Board Policy 5.117 Procedures for Granting Tenure-2nd and Final Reading: A revision is being made to procedure granting tenure. Now the superintendent will recommend persons eligible for tenure at a board meeting with enough time to give notice of non-renewal to each teacher or educator not granted tenure within five (5) business days following the last instructional day of the school year.
  • Board Policy 6.205 Student Assignments-2nd and Final Reading: Students, including those in kindergarten, shall attend the school to which they are assigned. Principals shall be responsible for assigning students to classrooms based on records. Additionally, principals shall separate an alleged victim of child sexual abuse from an alleged perpetrator if the abuse allegedly occurred while the child was under the supervision or care of the school.
  • Board Policy 6.415 Student Suicide Prevention-2nd and Final Reading: All school certified staff must attend a suicide identification and prevention education training. This policy corresponds with and supports other federal, state and local efforts to provide youth with prevention education, early identification and intervention, and access to all local resources to promote health and prevent personal harm or injury.
  • Board Policy 6.505 Students in Foster Care-2nd and Final Reading: The Hamilton County School System shall provide all students in foster care, to include those awaiting foster care placement, with a free and appropriate public education. This policy include provisions for placement, enrollment, and transportation of foster students to schools.

Administrative Matters:

    • Lee McDade and the Transportation Supervisor are requesting the approval of independent bus driver contracts, contracts from HCDE employees who are independent contractors, and the contract with Durham Bus Services for the 2017-18 school year. These contracts have been reviewed.
    • For the month of March, a total for $16,978.50 in legal fees was paid to the firms Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and Markel, von Kessler, & Cox.


  • Board Policy 6.503 Homeless Students-1st Reading: In order to be more comprehensive and comply with the Every Child Succeeds Act, the current policy on Homeless Students is being revised. These revisions include that homeless students will be automatically enrolled in school even if they are not able to produce records normally required for enrollment, placement in a school shall be determined based on student interest but also preference is given to a student’s school of origin (school they were enrolled in when last holding a residence), and schools shall keep records on homeless students.


  • Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly will present a suggested schedule of sessions for the remainder of 2017.  

Important Dates and Events

  • May 19th and 20th, 2017→ Graduation Ceremonies at the Tivoli and the Memorial Auditorium
  • May 8th-20th, 2017→ Graduation Ceremonies at McKenzie Arena
  • May 25th, 2017→ Half Day for Students
  • May 26th, 2017→ Last Day of School/Report Cards (Buses will not run)

School Guide Video Launch Block Party a Smashing Success!

School Guide Video Launch Block Party a Smashing Success!

Community members who love Hamilton Schools turned out in droves at UnifiEd’s offices last Saturday, April 1 for a block party to celebrate the premier of the first 28 videos in the Public School Guide video series. Updates to every school’s Public School Guide were launched this weekend with 2017 data, and the first round of completed school videos were added to their respective Guides to help tell the unique story of each school beyond stats and test scores. Video production continues across the county, and each school will have their own video showcasing the great things happening in their classrooms over the next year.

“The first generation of our school guides provided information on all Hamilton County public schools including demographics, test scores, and classroom offerings. They did a great job of providing quantitative data, but we know numbers don’t tell the full story of these schools,” says Jonas Barriere, UnifiEd Executive Director. “The video project is a way of telling stories and highlighting achievements in our schools in a way that statistics don’t capture.”

The block party drew approximately 400 teachers, families, students, administrators, school board members, and members of the community to celebrate our schools. “The turnout demonstrated to me that people who are involved in public education are eager to celebrate our schools and the PEOPLE inside them,” says Abby Garrison, Executive Director of video project partner Causeway. The organization granted funds to Katie Smith, a Battle Academy parent, to create a school video series.

“The whole reason we chose Katie as a winner of the Causeway Challenge was because she wanted to tell a story about what’s really happening inside the school’s walls, and all the heart and the innovative programming and the uniqueness of each school.” Garrison adds, “I’ve always thought Chattanooga was a glass half-full kind of city, with an inherent yet gritty optimism. And to me, the video project embodies that.”

The grown-ups at the block party spent time interacting with the Public School Guide on tablets in the office lobby, comparing and contrasting student body make-up, academic achievement, and class offerings among schools. They were encouraged to leave thank-you notes to teachers, share written feedback on posters about what makes a great teacher, and what our students deserve.

The most thought- and discussion-provoking station explained the difference between equality and equity in our schools, and asked attendees to envision equity in our schools. They wrote Post-it note responses to what that would look like for our community and then added their sticky-note voice to an interactive art exhibit spelling out “I love HC Schools” on a wall facing McCallie Ave.

Meanwhile the kids were outside getting their faces painted, decorating giant Jenga blocks, making sidewalk chalk art, playing cornhole, and getting messy with popcorn and ice cream. Many of the students featured in the school videos attended with their families to get a first glimpse at their cinematic debuts.

Explore the Public School Guide here >

Watch the school videos on YouTube here >


Event gallery