September 2017 School Board Watch Blog

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the September 21, 2017 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. The livestream video will be shared via the Department of Education’s Facebook page starting at that time. 

To see the entire agenda with supporting documents, click here.

Hot Topics:

  • New officers of the board will be elected, including Chairman and Vice Chairman.

Recognitions and Presentations:

  • Dr. Lee McDade and Transportation Director David Eaves will present the School Bus Consultants Audit Report. Consultants completed their audit of our entire transportation system this summer. They reviewed and assessed HCDE staffing, logistics, and contracts and they will present their recommendations and assessment of our current transportation department.
  • There will be a Custodial Services presentation and update from ABM to discuss their current improvements and future contract options.
  • Katelyn Baker, a third grader teacher at Battle Academy, has been chosen as the recipient of the Milken Educator Award for Tennessee this year for her excellence in teaching and leadership. The Milken Family Foundation’s Milken Educator Awards is the longest-running teacher recognition program of its kind in the nation and rewards teachers, principals, and specialists around the country who are furthering excellence in education.
  • HCDE will recognize Allen Elementary School and Loftis Middle School for their hard work and achievements with the 2017-2018 National PTA School of Excellence designation.
  • Tiffanie Robinson, District 4 School Board member, and Peter Woolcock will present on Project Get Active, an initiative which is currently set to work with 14 elementary schools this fall.

Field Trips:

  • Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences will send students in the Model UN to attend the Southeastern High School Model United Nations Conference.
  • Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts will send students to study at Nature’s Classroom in Alabama.
  • East Hamilton Middle High students will attend the Virtual Enterprise Midwest Trade
    Fair.
  • East Hamilton Middle High and Hixson High School will participate in music related field trips
  • Hixson High School and Signal Mountain Middle High School will participate in sport and tournament related field trips.
  • Hixson Middle School will send members of the Jr. Beta Club to compete in the Tennessee Jr. Beta Club Convention.
  • Ooltewah High School. Soddy Daisy High School, and Sale Creek Middle High will send students enrolled in JROTC to competitions and championships.

Bids/Contracts:

Board approval is sought for:

  • The re-roofing of Spring Creek Elementary School totalling $565,400.00.
  • The purchase of freon for the Maintenance Department totaling $51,490.00 with funds to be provided by the Maintenance Budget.
  • A contract extension for periodical subscriptions totalling $2,548.46 with funds to be provided by the Operating and School Budgets.
  • The renewal of PPO Medical ASO Insurance with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee and HMO Medical ASO Insurance with CIGNA at the current rate of $35.96 per subscriber per month for a 3 year contract and no increase in cost.
  • The purchase of motor fuel for totaling $25,272.00 in July and $28,672.00 in August with funds from the Warehouse Inventory Fund.   

Budget Amendments:

  • Board approval is needed to amend the FY18 General Purpose Operating Budget for transfers between accounts reclassifying existing budget appropriations for office supplies, contracts, employee benefits, and employee development.  
  • The following budget amendments for Federal Grants and Self-Funded Programs for FY2018 are recommended for board approval:
    • School Improvement Grant III, totaling $130,147.
    • Homeless Grant, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $14,873.
    • Safe Schools, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $17,044.
    • Family Resource Centers, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $1.
    • 21st Century Community Learning Centers (Year 1), totaling $187,500.
    • Focus Grant, with a net increase of $1,837.
    • Read To Be Ready Coaching Network, totaling $10,000.
    • Read To Be Ready Summer Program, totaling $ 266.
    • Bible History Teachers Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $192,225.
    • Carl Perkins IV Reserve Vocational Self-Funded Program, totaling $20,726.
    • Maintenance Recyclables Self-Funded Program, totaling $5,014.
    • Character Education Self-Funded Program, with transfers between line items and
      a net increase of $9,558.
    • Career and Technical Surplus Self-Funded Program, totaling $5,255.
    • Benwood Foundation Self-Funded Program, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $13,766.

Grants:

Approval is sought for the following grant applications. If the requests are approved, a budget amendment will be brought to the School Board for the actual amount awarded:

  • UTC – REU Site: An Interdisciplinary CubeSat Research and STEM Education
    Platform at UTC funded by NSF for $359,783.00.
  • UTC – Real-world Additive Manufacturing Projects for Underrepresented
    Participants (RAMP UP) funded by NSF for $996,102.00.
  • UTC – RET Site in Computer Science and Engineering: Cybersecurity Education
    for All – Developing a Broad-based Cyber Defense Workforce for the 21st
    Century funded by NSF for $511,821.00.
  • HCDE – Safe Schools Act Grant funded by TDOE for $162,244.35.
  • UTC – NSF Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program funded by NSF for $1,538,844.00.

Human Resources:

The following new positions are being requested:

  • Two full-time-with-benefits positions, a kindergarten and 5th grade teacher, at Clifton Hills Elementary School.
  • One half-time position in foreign language (temporary end of year position) at CSLA.
  • Two full-time-with-benefits nurses at Lakeside Academy and Lookout Mountain Elementary.

These 4.5 positions will be funded through the General Purpose budget.

Administrative and Business Matters:

    • Approval is sought for a new lease agreement between HCDE and Chattanooga State for the location of the STEM School Chattanooga. The new lease will extend the agreement to June 30, 2022.
    • There is a request to revise the schedule of meeting sessions since the board meeting scheduled for May 17, 2017 is the same date as Ooltewah High School’s graduation. Therefore, it is requested that the May meeting be moved to the next week, Thursday, May 24, 2017.
    • The Chattanooga Preparatory School (CPS) submitted their charter application on February 14, 2017 and it was approved by HCDE on April 27, 2017. Since its approval, the working in the contract has been reviewed and approved by attorney, Scott Bennett, so the administration is recommending board approval of the contract. 

Legal Services:
A total of $25,566.00 was paid in the month of August for legal fees to  Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and Markel, Von Kessler & Cox.

Events/Announcements:

  • September 22-23, 2017: Board Retreat
  • October 6, 2017: Teacher Professional Development #1v(School-Based) NO STUDENTS-End of 1st Quarter (41 days)
  • October 9-13, 2017: Fall Break (5 Non-Paid Days)
  • October 16-December 1, 2017: Schools choose one extended day (3.5 hours) for Parent-Teacher Conferences (FIRST half [½] of Administrative In-Service #6)
  • October 18, 2017: Hamilton County Council of PTAs State of the Schools- Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson
  • October 20, 2017: Report Cards

 

 

Open letter to HCDE: Capital audit and plan needed for new county money

The following letter was sent to School Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson and Board of Education Chairman Steve Highlander (copying all members of the Board) on September 12, 2017.

To: Dr. Bryan Johnson and Chairman Steve Highlander

CC: Joe Galloway, Karitsa Jones, Kathy Lennon, Tiffanie Robinson, Joe Smith, David Testerman, Rhonda Thurman, Joe Wingate

Dear Dr. Johnson and Chairman Highlander:

The county commission’s move last week to provide $100 million to the school system for capital projects was bold and encouraging. However, that amount will not come close to fully funding all immediate capital needs for our schools. Estimates for replacing, expanding, and repairing our schools have varied in recent years from $180 million up to double that amount, though no definitive dollar value is known because a comprehensive facility assessment has not been conducted.

As a result, UnifiEd calls for a capital audit and multi-year plan to ensure increased efficiency in spending and decisions that achieve equitable distribution based on need rather than politics. Further, such an audit and capital plan are fundamentally necessary to restore and maintain the public’s confidence that their tax dollars are well spent.

The audit should provide an unbiased assessment of facility safety issues due to deferred maintenance, school capacity and population growth trends, building quality, and estimated cost to repair or replace schools.

The findings of this audit should be used to create a multi-year plan that prioritizes projects that:

  • Address safety issues due to deferred maintenance,
  • Result in operational savings that can be reinvested into the classroom,
  • Reduce the concentration of students living in poverty in certain schools, and/or
  • Eliminate overcrowding.

A long-term capital plan was also recommended by a group of business and community leaders whose independent review of school system spending and report on recommendations for efficiencies was released this spring. The group applied approaches utilized by the largest corporations and smallest businesses alike to ensure fiscal responsibility, and UnifiEd backs their best practice recommendations on this issue.

UnifiEd, on behalf of the community, therefore calls on the Board of Education to pass a resolution as soon as possible to hire an external audit firm or allocate dedicated staff to perform a thorough review of the state of our schools’ facilities and needs. We further call for the Board  to commit to making the resulting audit report publicly available and using it as the basis of its decisions on allocation of funds for capital projects.

Best regards,

Jonas Barriere
Executive Director, UnifiEd