The July 20, 2017 school board work session and regular meeting were recorded – watch the video here.

Work session recap

The July 2017 school board meeting was preceded by a one-hour work session focusing on the TN State Dept. of Education’s proposed partnership district to turn around five iZone schools in Hamilton County. 

Board chairman Dr. Steve Highlander opened the meeting by welcoming Dr. Bryan Johnson, the recently hired superintendent who began work in Hamilton County this week.

Dr. Highlander asked Karitsa Jones to give a recap of two community meetings held on the topic of the proposed partnership district. Candice McQueen from the State Dept. of Education gave a presentation first which gave a timeline of events and what the partnership would look like. There were a lot of comments and questions, including examples in the past where Hamilton County was able to turn schools around on their own. There are other schools that could be coming into the list (up to 16), in addition to the five already on the list. McQueen said she would give HCDE until August to reply to the state’s proposed options for these schools with either a memorandum of understanding or letter of intent. There are two options being presented at this time: partnership district with the state and the fully state-run Achievement School District.

Highlander said that although more board members wanted to be at the meetings, they did not want to attend for fear of coming out of compliance for the Sunshine Law. Tiffanie Robinson and Jones could come because the meetings were within their district.

Robinson said that approximately 25 people attended the two meetings that she attended and that most people left feeling like they better understood what the partnership district would look like. The big concerns were still funding and a 60/40 (state-appoitned/locally-appointed) split in the board. She felt that a lot of community members seemed to be having a more positive understanding of the partnership district.

Highlander asked that Dr. Johnson speak to the partnership. He’s met with McQueen several times to better understand her vision. He also met with the five principals of the current iZone schools today to get their input. He agrees that there are questions he still has about funding and governance. He understands that this is something that the state has been doing a lot of exploration about and been thinking of for several years.

Highlander said that he has had several conversations with McQueen. He said that we do need to be concerned with the validity of recent years’ standardized test results. He said that McQueen reiterated that those schools have been in the bottom 5%, to which he responded that that is true, but the schools have been improving vastly. Additionally, testing for the last two years has been a failure and he has concerns that what the schools are being evaluated against may or may not be valid and accurate.

Joe Wingate raised a concern that the McQueen has been pressed several times on funding and the answer continually given is that the funding will be made available at a later time, but there isn’t a guarantee or a plan for that. He also has a concern about addressing other non-academic challenges. It seems that the state is abdicating themselves from other responsibilities implicit in this partnership.

Joe Galloway had questions about the governance (60/40). HCDE has been seen as not getting the job done, but there isn’t evidence that the state has been getting the job done either for other schools through its Achievement School District. He feels that it should be an equal amount for governance.

David Testerman’s main concern was that the partnership option is currently against state law. He feels we should be looking at tools that are already lawful. He said the state needs to be a real partner operating under legal measures. If they want to be a real partner, they should come in and partner with us to work with one school and prove they have what it takes to make the change, rather than taking over all iZone schools. He then indicated support for charter schools.

Robinson said that we need to be very honest with ourselves. Whatever decision made will cause 2,300 students to either win or lose. She believes that this is an attempt within this proposal of the state to partner with us and not taking over the schools. She does still have questions, but it shows that they’re trying to partner with us. There is a socioeconomic component that is addressed within this plan, including community schools. She has been talking about community school for a year, as Jones had been for years. Robinson feels charter schools are not the answer. Principal autonomy is another component of interest to her in the state’s proposal. Robinson said she was not sure if they are able (legally) to refuse either of the options presented by the state or ask for a delay on making the decision.

Attorney-sitting (not board attorney Scott Bennett) seemed to feel that the state would intend for us to stay with the timeline provided. Robinson pressed to clarify whether or not the school board can legally request a stay so that the board can talk about the real options available. The attorney said that she did not think they could request to delay.

Jones said that according to the meeting held with Representative JoAnne Favors, there were steps outlined which would preclude us being able to request a delay. She referenced the code annotated which talks about Achievement School District.

Rhonda Thurman clarified that the code annotated was specific to the Achievement School District, but did not include a partnership district. Additionally, she is concerned about the legality of a school board that is not elected by the community. She also raised concern that McQueen may not be a commissioner after the next 1.5 years.

Thurman says she is tired of our students being used as guinea pigs. She specifically raised LeFrederick Thurkill as an example of a great educator who is of the community and knows what is best in the community. She said students need stability and that educators need to understand what type of baggage these students are coming to school with. 

Jones said the rhetoric is getting old. We keep saying what we can do, but these schools have been on the list since 2002. She reiterates Robinson saying that we need to be honest and start doing right by these kids. She agreed with Thurman that stability and continuity of support is key. We can’t better the community’s they live in because we’re not city council or county commission. We can’t stop gentrification or urban renewal. This is where we need to be advocating to the government bodies about what they can do.

Jones is against the Achievement School District option, saying it has not worked in other communities. She still has questions about the partnership. McQueen made it clear that one of the state’s presented options must be taken. Jones said she would like to say no to the state’s options, but if they cannot say no, they need to come up with a plan. 

Lennon agrees that we need stability and autonomy, but we need to do something different for our kids. She is against theAchievement School District option, but still has questions about the partnership. She said she doesn’t trust the state and pointed out they had not gotten most recent test scores. She also is concerned about the legality of the partnership option. She said she doesn’t want these schools to be a guinea pig and reiterated McQueen does only have 1.5 years left in her office. She doesn’t like the 60/40 board governance and feels like the current schools board members representing those districts should be a part of any partnership district board.

Galloway wanted to clarify that there would not be a replacement of principals with the partnership.

Dr. Johnson said that the commissioner has given them until the end of August to make a decision. He would like to work with the leadership, principals, and community to develop a plan for how we can move forward and then see how the two plans overlap. He wants to identify what the non-negotiables are. He wants to know what is the district’s plan to move the five schools forward, as well as the other 11 schools that are on the cusp. He said they must have community and teacher voice in that plan.

Highlander’s fear with the 60/40 board governance is that mid-way through the partnership district tenure (5 years), that board might not be a strong proponent of public education, and they may decide to turn the partnership schools into for-profit charters.

Robinson asked when they would receive standardized test scores. Highlander spoke with McQueen today and she said they’re not ready yet and are still being compiled. She also encouraged all of the school board members to reach out to and speak with the principals of the five iZone schools to hear their thoughts. Jones said that community members want to see the rest of the board because the community members feel like the board doesn’t care about them.

Dr. Johnson said he has been impressed with the principals and their commitment, passion and insight into each of the schools. He believes there is a lot of overlap between what the schools want and what the state wants, but they want to be sure that the community is consulted and heard.

Regular Session (5:30 PM) 

Callie Stuart, assistant principal from Apison Elementary, led the pledge and meditation.

Recognition and Presentations:

  1. CLASS – Dr. Lee McDade 
    1. Robert Galwin and Elizabeth Milshaps from CLASS took over. Includes the big four school systems in TN. Contract requires that they make a report with each legislative session. There were 47 K-12 bills that were passed and over 100 that were introduced but did not pass and may still be pending for 2018.
      1. For the third year in a row, at least $200 million (this year, almost a quarter million) in new money for K-12, including $100 million for teacher salary and increased BEP funding. HCS additional funding it $5023000, total HCS 2017/2018 BEP allocation is $154,465,000. 22.2 million to serve ELL students.
      2. Legislation filed but not passed that would have required teacher salary in TN be used as the BEP salary component. It would have required the state to provide a minimum level of BEP funding for all districts. Also, $500 would be required to be given to first-year teachers for classroom supplies. No additional BEP funding would have been provided for that increase ($250).
      3. Vouchers were approved in both House and Senate but deferred in funding committees.
      4. Statewide voucher program or Empowerment Scholarship Program was introduced but did not pass.
      5. Legislation was filed but did not pass that would have required students’ rising grades be reported to the Achievement School District.
      6. Charter schools – they feel that SB1197/HB310 did some really good work. 3% of student population would mean that the minimum amount of administrative costs paid by HCDE would be $140,000. There is also an immediate revocation of charter status for schools put on the priority list. Establishes a grant program for facilities. A new application fee will be up to $2500 – previous fee was up to $500.
      7. ESSA – Limits Achievement School District takeover of a school to ten years. Also changes priority schools to include high schools failing to graduate 1/3 or more of their students and schools with chronically low-performing subgroups. Revises current intervention to provide for turnover through an LEA-led intervention. Prohibits ASD from adding grades unless approved by LEA.
      8. Assessments/TN Ready – legislation introduced but did not pass. Allowed school districts to use ACT rather than TN Ready scores. 
      9. School bus safety – establishes a school transportation supervisor to oversee complaints/concerns. Requires driver to be 25 years old with at least 5 years unrestricted license. Also additional training time for drivers. Introduced but did not pass – seatbelts and cameras on school buses, allowed law enforcement to inspect portable electronic devises at the scene of a crash.
      10. Pre-K – would have created a Pre-K program to allow districts to use pre-K dollars for programs other than those currently required under current pre-k law. Introduced but did not pass.
      11. Transsexual Restrooms – Will continue to advocate on HCDE’s behalf and believes the principal knows the student and will continue to advocate that the district has the abilities to make decisions on this matter at the local level.
      12. Administrative Hearings for LEA – would require an admin hearing prior to the Commissioner of Education to be able to withhold funds from an LEA. Introduced but not passed. Will be discussed again in 2018.
  1. Year-End Bullying Compliance Report – Karen Glenn
    1. Powerpoint report/presentation was shared.
    2. Information is collected from every school and will be submitted to state
    3. Incidents have been significantly reduced. Attributed to extensive training, both professional development and student development (1072 students took it this year). This is more of a “train-the-trainer” model where students are encouraged to create an action plan.
    4. Would like to improve community forums and parent engagement.
    5. Robinson asked if there was anything the board could do to support their efforts. Mrs. Glenn said currently the students work to develop an action plan for upcoming students and follow up with them.

Delegations:

  1. Dan Liner, HCEA
    1. Appreciates the challenge currently being faced by the school board. Many other districts have faced similar problems and turned towards partnership. Not a partnership district, but partnership with: universities, churches, civic orgs, United Way, etc. Schools in Minneapolis have turned towards partnership. He said this is, in reality, community schools. There is a plethora of data that shows that community schools work. Not only academic improvements, attendance, etc. He commended the board for their support of the first community school and advocated for a community school director.
    2. He says community schools should be at the center of the community: open all day, open to everyone in the community – even the homeless – and it presents great results. It brings together academics, health, social services and leads to these three results: Improved learning, Stronger Families, Addresses socioeconomic issues
  2. Ezra Harris, Woodmore Community
    1. Referenced bus tragedy and wants to show appreciation to Mrs. Jones for showing her support and caring. Presented her with a tshirt and wanted to be sure that she knows how much they love her. Mr. Highlander wanted to note that Mr. Eaves has appointed a few new bus drivers and the one assigned to the route of the accident is going to each home to introduce himself to the families.  
  3. Representative JoAnne Favors
    1. We are all here because of our desire to provide an optimal education for our students. She has been active in the newly formed Chattanooga Hamilton County Public School Coalition which has been heavily researching the proposal from Dr. McQueen. Originally they requested a one year moratorium on moving forward. However, she said to disregard based off of the decision made in the 4:30 meeting and commended them for that decision (to try to create a community written plan). It is obvious that opposition to charter schools is on the rise. The group asked that the board request the following information:
      1. The attorney general be consulted to see what the legality of this option.
      2. Wants to know how much additional Race to the Top funding that was given to other schools in Hamilton County.
      3. School board can legally explore the opportunity to build another alternative (said she would provide the code to the board which shows that).
      4. She said the ASD option is not a good option because it is dysfunctional.
  4. Crier Bacon with D9 Education Association
    1. Wants to share with Dr. Johnson about the things that D9 has accomplished since its formation 3 years ago. D9 has expanded from elementary to now working in middle and high schools and is working to elevate community voice.

Approval of Consent Agenda:

No items to pull. Thurman would like to explain to the public the decision around Dr. Kelley. Dr. Highlander said that when we agreed to have Dr. Kelly as the interim it was on a month-to-month basis. During the transition, there was still someone needing to sign the paperwork, etc. He basically changed position but was required to stay on payroll through the end of July per the month-to month. After that he will be retired and further employment will be between him and Dr. Johnson.

  1. Executive Committee Report
  2. School Operations
    1. Field Trips
  3. Business and Finance
  4. Campus Support
  5. Human Resources

Administrative/Business Matters

  1. Board Policy 3.202 ER Preparedness
  2. Revised Bus Driver Contracts
    1. Dr. Highlander asked what the financial increase would be – a little over $50,000 annual.
    2. Mrs. Lennon asked to clarify that this basically gives the driver a raise. She thought the finances were already decided in the contract. Mr. McDade said yes, so it brings them into comparative salary with employees.
    3. Mrs. Jones said she also struggled for this additional raise. Although she recognizes the importance of bus drivers, but there are folks in the schools and ways in the schools that that $50,000 could be utilized.
    4. Mrs. Thurman said that by equalizing the pay we made the contract more palatable to drivers. She said the drivers didn’t think it was fair that the pay was not equal prior to this increase.
    5. Mrs. Lennon said that owner/operators have been doing this a lot longer and that an increase at this level for independent bus drivers isn’t keeping in line with the way the district does business. We don’t pay first-year teachers the same as veteran teachers.
    6. Mrs. Thurman wanted to clarify that some independent drivers have been driving for a very long time – even longer. Additionally “this board has been very generous in giving teachers raises in the past several years”.
    7. Mr. Wingate said that we weren’t even able to fill the 20 spots that opened up, so it must not be a very lucrative business. What we’re doing is trying to provide a fair employment opportunity.
    8. Roll call – Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Lennon vote no, Mr. Smith absent. Motion carries.

 

Events/Announcements

  1. Clarification of next meeting to discuss community plan/partnership zone. Dr. Johnson will be meeting with community and will keep board updated. Next scheduled meeting is August 17 but may have a work session prior to that if Dr. Johnson thinks it is necessary.
  2. Orchard Knob Middle School had several community groups come in to help with a face lift. Mrs. Robinson wanted to say thank you to the community.
  3. Sale Creek’s new addition will be opening soon.

July 2017 school board meeting attendees: All board members except Joe Smith