School board recap June 2017

The full June 15, 2017 school board meeting was recorded – watch the video here

Working Session

The board met before the regular meeting for a working session to discuss the finalist candidates for the superintendent position. Chairman Highlander announced that candidate Dr. Wayne Johnson had withdrawn his candidacy that day.

Board member Tiffanie Robinson explained that she had lunch with each candidate and got to know them one-on-one and have more in-depth conversations than those who spoke with the candidates in group settings. She complimented the search and selection process and said she was excited about the vote.

Board member Karitsa Jones said she found the process difficult and complicated. She had previously advocated for structure in the process and stated that she felt it didn’t occur. She spoke about a meeting that she and Robinson held in their districts to get constituent feedback on the candidates and relayed that she heard a lot of support for Dr. Bryan Johnson and Dr. Kirk Kelly. She then highlighted that she wants to ensure decisions are made based on the best interests of the district’s children rather than “outside forces.” 

Board member Joe Galloway relayed a devotion regarding diligence, then stated that he believes the board had been diligent in the selection process.

Board member Joe Smith said he is at total peace with the process and argued the board needs to be 100% behind whichever candidate is selected. He said he backs Dr. Kelly because he heard from many teachers and principals that he would be their choice. He added that Dr. Kelly’s biggest obstacle has been lack of sufficient time in the interim position to show definitive results.

Board member Joe Wingate read a Proverb stating that hard work brings a profit. He felt it was relevant because the board had put in hard work during the selection process, and said the board would go to work no matter the outcome of the vote. 

Board member David Testerman observed that the process created a lot of pain, as well as a lot of growth. He believes that the board emerged from the process a different board than they were a few months prior. 

County Mayor Jim Coppinger then thanked the board for performing their due diligence in the process. He stated his confidence that the board would make the right decision. He acknowledged the following elected officials for their presence at the meeting: Commissioner Chester Bankston, Commissioner Randy Fairbanks, Commissioner Sabrina Smedley, Commissioner Warren Mackey, Senator Todd Gardenhire, and Councilman Darrin Ledford.

The board then took a break prior to the regular session.

Regular session

The regular session began with a roll call and the vote to select the permanent superintendent. Dr. Bryan Johnson won with a 5-4 vote.

The board members voted as follows:
Dr. Kirk Kelly votes: Galloway, Lennon, Jones, Testerman 
Dr. Bryan Johnson votes: Highlander, Thurman, Wingate, Robinson, Smith 

A motion was made, seconded, and unanimously approved to confirm the selection of Johnson as superintendent. Discussion regarding contract negotiation followed.

Board attorney Scott Bennett then asked for clarification on what term the board wanted him to pursue in Johnson’s contract negotiation. There is a maximum contract period of four years by law. Thurman requested a two-year contract, or if a four-year contract were pursued, she suggested that it have no buy-out clause. Wingate stated that a  two-year contract does not show a lot of faith in their decision.

Robinson opposed a four-year contract term and made a motion to vote for a three-year term. Testerman stated that Johnson may turn down the offer without a four-year contract and considered it foolish not to offer the maximum term. The board voted down the proposed three-year term, then subsequently unanimously voted in favor of a four-year contract term.

Chairman Highlander reviewed agenda changes, which were unanimously approved.

Greg Bagby, principal at Barger Academy, led a meditation and the Pledge of Allegiance.


Dan Linert of the Hamilton County Educators Association thanked the board for their due diligence in selecting Johnson. He spoke on the topic of a memorandum of understanding that was created in collaboration with the board that is funded in the balanced budget sent to the county. He requested that the board approve the memorandum per their agreement to three terms:

  • Increase in teacher salaries of 3 %
  • Bonus in November of $250 per teacher
  • Teachers and educators will be paid $15 / hour for professional development

Michael McAmish spoke on behalf of a group of concerned Signal Mountain residents who live outside town and in unincorporated areas. He stated that the group has been monitoring the viability committee currently investigating breaking away Signal Mountain schools into a separate school district and observed that momentum seems to be building toward validating a break away. Two viability committee members went to Memphis to meet with leaders of school systems that had previously broken away from the county school system there, and McAmish says they have honed the direction of the committee as a result. He expects they will soon prepare a proposal and said it’s possible the issue will go to a vote. He stated that he is part of the opposition to this movement.

He shared a bumper sticker that the opposition group has created and will be distributing that states, “Community is bigger than a mountain.” He pointed out that residents who live in unincorporated areas of Signal Mountain would not have an opportunity to vote if a referendum is held in the municipality of Signal Mountain. The opposition group wants to work with the board in partnership and collaboration to benefit from their expertise. He concluded by requesting a sit-down meeting with the board soon.

Signal Mountain resident Debbie Poss spoke next and asked the board to address what would happen regarding ownership of buildings and property if the Signal Mountain schools left the Hamilton County school district. 

Approval of minutes & agenda

Chairman Highlander moved to approve minutes from May 18 and May 25 meetings and approve the consent agenda. Thurman moved to pull agenda items B1a, C1T, and Ai, which received a unanimous yes vote.

School operations

Thurman stated that she would not approve a field trip to Panama scheduled for this summer and would not vote for any more trips that go that far from home. The field trips on the agenda were approved, with Thurman and Testerman voting no.

Business and finance

Thurman spoke about an EBS consulting contract totaling $128,000 a year.  EBS is used through insurance claims, school injuries or fires. She asked what the relationship is between EBS and Collins and Company and was told there is none. Collins and Company is a vendor. The EBS contract was then approved by the board.

Thurman then asked how many students graduate from the diploma completion program, pointing out that the director makes $100,000 per year. She also asked what kind of responsibility the director has. An employee from a related program, Renee, was called from the audience, who stated that they have served 96 students last school year, and 85 of those completed their diploma. She stated that the diploma completion program is necessary in addition to the adult high school because some students do not have transportation to get to the physical school in Ooltewah, and this program is available online. 

Thurman argued that there shouldn’t be duplicate services, and said the board has talked about creating an adult high school downtown. Renee responded that the diploma completion program is a less expensive option than opening another adult high schools.

Chairman Highlander motioned to vote on approval of money for services discussed.

Campus support

Dr. Lee McDade spoke on a first reading of policy change for community use of school facilities. Robinson asked if this policy would support community schools and McDade confirmed.


McDade then requested and received approval of the memorandum of understanding between HCDE and the Hamilton County Educators Association.


Thurman objected to a policy she found discriminatory because not every school would offer free lunch. She said that every child and every school should have the same opportunity to free meals. 

Robinson stated she held a forum with her constituents to talk about the state’s proposed takeover plan for failing schools in her district. She proposed a committee or working group be formed to explore the state’s proposal in more depth. She said the forum opened her eyes to other possibilities and ways to bring community into the process. She said she spoke with Representative Todd Gardenhire about the potential state takeover, because the move is currently not legal. The state department of education would have to pursue a change to legislation to make the state takeover legally viable. That change would have to go through Gardenhire’s education committee.

Lennon thanked the delegation from Signal Mountain for attending. She pointed out the meetings happening on Signal Mountain every week on the topic of the potential breakaway. She then asked board attorney Scott Bennett what would happen to buildings and property in the event of a breakaway.

Bennet said that the schools belong to the Hamilton County board of education. Signal Mountain would not just get the buildings. State law says that the title is vested in the county board of education. The general assembly spelled out that municipalities could buy, sell or lease school building (but not take them).

The contract between the town of Signal Mountain and the school board agreed the board would own the facilities for the duration of their life. The town of Signal Mountain committed in the contract that Signal Mountain Middle High School is owned by Hamilton County. Lennon stated that since the board owns the schools, she does not want to sell them.

Thurman asked if the Signal Mountain school buildings were paid for. Attorney Scott Bennett said that the county issued bonds to pay for the schools, so one cannot say there is a note like a deed on a house house. It is his understanding that there are still bonds issued, so legally they cannot transfer ownership.

Lennon reminded the audience that there are meetings regarding the potential district breakaway the first and third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Signal Mtn. Town Hall.  

School start times were next discussed. Changing to a two-tier start time would cost more money than the current three-tier start time to operate. Since the schedule is already tight, there would be increased expenses in the transportation budget to make this change.

Thurman then asked about bus contracts and suggested a work session and committee to evaluate bus contracts to present an alternative contract to the board for its approval. Dr. McDade agreed he would work with the committee on revising the contract. Wingate, Thurman, Highlander, Robinson, and Lennon volunteered to sit on the committee. A work session will be announced one week prior to meeting.


Your Audio Guide to School Funding

We’re excited to be featured on the latest episode of the Camp House Podcast, a weekly podcast exploring the culture and community of Chattanooga.

UnifiEd Executive Director Jonas Barriere and Communications Director Natalie Cook spoke with host Matt Busby about funding issues in Hamilton County schools. Catch the last 24 minutes of this episode for the quickest way to get up to speed on what’s been happening this year around the school budget and funding process leading up to next week’s county commission budget vote.

Also get details on how you can take action to tell your commissioner you support their vote to support increased school funding. (Hint: Get their contact info here)

Note: The entire podcast is 36 minutes. The first 12 focus on UnifiEd in general – we hope you’ll listen, but to cut to the funding chase, advance to minute 12:00.

Listen now

School Board Watch Blog: June 2017

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the June 15, 2017 (5:30 PM) regularly scheduled session of the Hamilton County School Board Meeting.  A special Work Session will be held immediately prior, beginning at 5:00 PM, for the school board to discuss the five finalist candidates for the position of superintendent, which will be voted on during the following regular session. 

Both meetings will be held in the Hamilton County School Board Meeting Room (3074 Hickory Valley Rd.). We will live tweet @UnifiEdHC, follow along at #HCSchools.

To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click here.

Hot Topics:

  • The board will discuss superintendent finalist candidates (Dr. Wayne Johnson, Mr. Stuart Greenberg, Dr. Timothy Gadson, Dr. Bryan Johnson, and Dr. Kirk Kelly ) at a Work Session from 5-5:30 PM. They will vote to appoint a permanent superintendent at the beginning of the 5:30 PM regular session. Ballots will be taken until one candidate receives a minimum of five votes.
  • The School Nutrition Director is recommending the approval and renewal of the Community Eligibility Provision for the SY 2017-2018. This allows the same 39 schools that are being served this year to provide a meal at no cost to approximately 19, 624 students across the District, which represents 45.2% of total student enrollment.
  • Board Policy 1.407 School District Records- Second and Final Reading: The State Board of Education now requires all boards to have a public records policy in place by July 1, 2017. The director of schools must maintain all school district records required by law, regulation, and board policy. This also includes how to handle requests for copies or inspections of district records.
  • Board Policy 3.501 Wellness Policy- Second and Final Reading: The 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act requires each Local Education Agency (LEA) participating in the National School Lunch Program or other child nutrition programs to review our local school wellness policy annually. The revisions include a commitment to nutrition, understanding the connection between health and academic performance, promoting nutrition education, physical activity, and health goals, and the creation of a School Health Advisory Council.

Recognitions and Presentations:

  • The Director of Career & Technical Education will recognize Richa Cherukuri for finishing second in the state in the Future Business Leaders of America state competition in the “Introduction to Information Technology” category. She will go on to represent Hamilton County at the FBLA National Conference.  

Field Trips:

  • CSAS, Central High School, Red Bank High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School,  Ooltewah High School, and Soddy Daisy High School will participate in competitions.  
  • East Hamilton School, Sale Creek Middle High School, and Soddy Daisy High School will send students to participate in camps.
  • Students from East Hamilton School and Hunter Middle School will travel to Washington, D.C.
  • Ooltewah High School will send students to the Republic of Panama for community service.

School Operations:

  • Ooltewah High School and East Ridge High School are requesting approval to add the special course “Facing History and Ourselves” to school curriculum.


Board approval is sought for:

  • Contract Extension for Solid Waste Collection, Removal, and Disposal totalling $383,988.80 provided by the Operating Budget.
  • Contract Extension for Wood Carpet at original bid price coming from the Operating and Capital Projects Budgets.
  • Contract to Annually Inspect Wet & Dry Sprinklers, Backflow Devices and Floor Valves Systems with funds coming from the Operating Budget.
  • Contracts for Plumbing Projects with funds coming from the Maintenance Budget and Capital Projects Fund.
  • Contracts to Furnish Labor & Materials for Sheet Metal & Duct Work Projects with funds provided by the Maintenance Budget and Capital Projects Fund.
  • Contracts to Furnish & Install Acoustical Ceiling Grids with funds provided  by the Capital Projects Fund and Maintenance Budget.
  • Contracts for Drywall Installation & Related Projects with funds from the Maintenance Budget and Capital Projects Fund.
  • Contracts for Carpentry Related Projects with funds provided by the Maintenance Budget and Capital Projects Fund.
  • Contracts for Masonry Projects with funds from the Maintenance Budget and Capital Projects Funds.
  • Contract for Book Fairs with funds coming from the School Operating Budget.
  • Contract to Furnish Used Adopted Textbooks & Dispose of Out-of-Adopted Textbooks with funds coming from the Operating Budget.
  • Purchase of Locks/Hardware Replacement for Spring Creek Elementary and North Hamilton County Elementary totalling $16,992.00 for Spring Creek Elementary $11,615.00 for North Hamilton County Elementary.
  • Non-Exclusive Contract for Instructional, Library, Office Materials & Supplies with funds coming from the Operating and School Budget.
  • Non-Exclusive Contract for Instructional Computer Software with funds provided by the Operating and School Budgets.
  • Non-Exclusive Contract for Medical/First Aid Equipment & Supplies with funds provided by the Operating and School Budgets.
  • Contracts for the School Nutrition Program with funds coming from the School Nutrition Budget.
  • Purchase EMS Control Equipment & Supplies from Electronic Controls, Inc. and Automated Logic.
  • Annual Contract with Helton and Associates, Inc. for Asbestos (AHERA) and Other Indoor Air Quality Services, including Schedule of Fees for Engineering Services totalling $89,292.00.
  • Property and Casualty Insurance Renewal totalling $2,617,504 for all lines of coverage representing a 1.5% increase from 2016.
  • Contract Renewal with EBS Consulting for Employee Benefits and Risk Management totalling $6,951.00 per month for services.
  • Service Agreement with ATI Physical Therapy for Lookout Valley High School for 2017-18 School Year totalling $1,500.00.
  • Maintenance Renewal with SeachSoft for Applicant Tracking System (ATS) totalling $22,669.00 funded by the IT Department.
  • Use and Maintenance Agreement with eSchool Solutions for Smart Find Express totalling $31,713.00 funded by the IT Department.
  • Agreement with Educator Software Solutions for T-Eval Data Management Site totalling $36,000.00.
  • Speech/Language Billing and Related Administrative Services Agreement with Stellar Therapy, LLC.
  • Contract with Stellar Therapy Services, LLC to provide Speech/Language, Occupational & Physical Therapy Services not exceeding $1,989,972.00 with funds provided by Medicaid Reimbursement, IDEA Part B, and Ex Ed General Purpose Budget.
  • Contract with City of Chattanooga Dept. of Youth & Family Development Head Start/Early Head Start Program.  
  • Contract with Nova Southeastern University totalling $24,100.00 withs fund provided by the General Purpose Fund.
  • Contract with Orange Grove Center, Inc. for Educational Training of Students not exceeding $1,353,388.00 with funds provided from the General Purpose Fund.  
  • Contract with Orange Grove Center, Inc. for Work Training Placement Services totalling $30,000.00 with funds provided by the Exceptional Education General Purpose Funds.
  • Request Approval of Contract with Parkridge Medical Centers, Inc., dba Parkridge Valley Hospital for Therapeutic Treatment Services not exceeding $20,000.00 to be paid with IDEA Part B funds.
  • Contract with Signal Centers, Inc. for Special Education Services $666,287.00 to be paid with IDEA Part B Funds.
  • Contract with Signal Centers, Inc. for Adult Services Program totalling totalling $10,000.00 with funds coming from the Exceptional Education General Purpose Funds.
  • Memorandum of Understanding with Centerstone Mental Health Centers, Inc.
  • Contract with Chattanooga State Graduation Diploma Completion Program totalling $175,176.00 from the Title I School support funds.
  • Renew PPO Medical Reinsurance with Blue Reinsurance Insurance Company of Tennessee and HMO Medical Reinsurance with CIGNA totalling $325,000.00.
  • Renew Contract with Harland Technology division of ScanTron for Maintenance & Support of ScanTools Scanners totalling $25,000.00 with funds coming from the General Purpose Fund.
  • Annual Software Fee with Education Logistics  for the EDULOG Software used for routing of school buses. MM.Request Approval of Contract with Mose & Garrison Siskin Memorial Foundation, Inc totalling $10,361.00 with funds coming from the Transportation budget.  
  • Ratification of Emergency/Early approval for Bid File 17-58 Foundation Underpinning and Slab Jacking Repairs at Westview Elementary, Barger Academy, and East Ridge High School totalling $156,993.00 for all three schools with funds to be provided by the 2016-2017 Capital Projects fund.  

Business and Finance:

  • Approval sought for the authorization to carry over school accounts payable for schools with outstanding contractual obligations. Sufficient funds are on hand to cover these obligations totalling $240,218.03.
  • Approval is sought for a federal grant application for Title and IDEA services totalling $22,593,163.

Budget Amendments:

Board approval is sought to amend the FY2-17 General Purpose Operating Budget with transfers between accounts for:

  • Social Security, Retirement, and Teachers at East Ridge High School. No additional funds are requested, simply reallocation of approved funds.

Human Resources:

  • Approval is sought for the 2017-2018 Differential Pay Plan as is required by state law. There has been two changes from last year’s plan: 1) All references to the TIF School have been eliminated due to the end of the grant. Additional funds have been retained in  the FY18 budget for performance/retention bonuses at current Priority Schools and 2) Because of the major cuts to Title-I and Title-II funding, references to additional days for Instructional Coaches have been removed.

Administrative and Business Matters:

  • Board Policy 3.206 Community Use of School Facilities- First Reading: In order to allow school facilities to be used for memorial services, it is necessary to revise the board policy regarding the community use of school facilities. The addition to the current policy states that school facilities may be used for memorial services if approved by the principals. Funeral services are not to be held in school facilities.
  • Approval is sought of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between HCDE and HCEA. As of result of collaborative conferencing, the professional development compensation has increased from $10 to $15 per hour, a 3% raise has been applied to the base generator of the salary scale, and a one-time $250 bonus has been allowed.  The 3% raise and $250 bonus were previously approved in the balanced budget.
  • Legal Services: For the month of May, a total of $27,133.50 was spent on legal services from Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams.


Superintendent Finalist Candidates Interview Videos

Five superintendent candidates visited Hamilton County last week for final interviews and site visits. The school board will vote on the candidates to select a new superintendent at this week’s school board meeting. The community is encouraged to share your input on which candidate you want to see become the next leader of Hamilton County public education. You can watch recordings of the interviews below and contact your school board member before they vote on Thursday, June 15.

The board will meet to discuss the candidates at 5:00 on June 15 at the Department of Education (3074 Hickory Valley Road). The regular board meeting and vote on the candidates will start at 5:30. Both meetings are open to the public.

Find your board member and their contact info >

Dr. Wayne Johnson final interview

Stuart Greenberg final interview

Dr. Timothy Gadson final interview

Dr. Bryan Johnson final interview

Dr. Kirk Kelly final interview

Find your school board member & contact info

Business Leaders’ Report Backs UnifiEd’s Call for More Funds for Schools


A report was published this week that brings further momentum to public support for increased funding for Hamilton County schools. The report and recommendations were prepared by several prominent members of the local business community following a six-month study of the school system’s budget and spending.

The three calls for funding in UnifiEd’s “Fund Hamilton County’s Future” campaign (increased funding, a multi-year budget, and increased efficiencies in spending) were all backed by this group’s findings and recommendations.

View Full Report


Our executive director, Jonas Barriere, weighs in: “With more than a thousand community members having already contacted their county commissioner in support of increased funding, the grassroots voice demanding better school funding and budgeting practices is strong,” he says. “The business community has now stood alongside that voice to say that Hamilton County’s students have been sold short by these practices, and now is the time to make changes that better serve our kids and our community’s future.”

These business leaders analyzed the Hamilton County Department of Education’s spending and concluded that investments must be made in order to realize future savings and efficiencies. The creation of a multi-year budget and capital plan was supported by the group as a prime opportunity to increase efficiencies as well. The report concludes that current funding levels would remain insufficient to meet the school system’s needs even after inefficiencies were reduced.