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.