November 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 November 16th 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 stream the board meeting on our Facebook page here.


To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click here.


Hot Topics:

  • First reading of Board Policy 4.205: Magnet Programs– The current policy for magnet school programs is being revised. The revision allows for all students who attend a Hamilton County school or reside in the Hamilton County school zone to have the opportunity to apply for or attend a magnet school.
  • First reading of Board Policy 5.304: Extended Leaves of Absence for Certificated/Classified Personnel– The current policy is being revised to include maternity leave and a new approach to absences longer than eight weeks. Now it reads: “if an employee needs to extend leave beyond the eight-week leave period, the employee must formally request an extension from Human Resources no less than 30 days before the expiration of that eight-week leave period, unless the notice period is waived by the director of schools upon receipt of a certified statement by a physician.”


Recognitions and Presentations:

  • Dr. Justin Robertson, Assistant Superintendent, will give recognition to the following five Hamilton County schools for being in the top 5 percent for achievement (Performance) and/or growth (Progress): Lookout Mountain Elementary, Nolan Elementary, Thrasher Elementary, STEM School, and East Ridge Middle.
  • Robertson also will acknowledge the grant from the Leonore Annenberg Scholarship, Fellowship, and School Funds, that made possible the improvements for the following schools: DuPont Elementary School’s Epicenter of Learning and Collaboration Library and East Ridge Elementary School’s Synergy Station: The Story of Us.
  • There will be a presentation to give the board an update on the McRel Balanced Leadership Training, a program establishing a district-wide leadership framework to support leaders at all levels.
  • Jill Levine will present an update to the board on the status of the Opportunity Zone.
  • The Superintendent will present updates regarding recruitment efforts within the HR department and the Transition Team’s work.


Field Trips:

  • Students from East Hamilton School, Red Bank High School, Signal Mountain Middle, Signal Mountain High School, and Soddy Daisy High School will participate in sports related field trips.
  • Students from Central High School, Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, Hinson Middle School, and Red Bank Middle will participate in music related field trips.
  • East Ridge High School will send students to attend a Model United Nations Conference.
  • Students from Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, Loftis Middle School, and Signal Mountain Middle/High School will participate in history related field trips.
  • Ooltewah Middle School will send students to participate in the Beta State Convention in Nashville, TN.
  • Soddy Daisy High School will send students to participate in a forensics tournament and also a group of JROTC students to compete in the 2018 Ragnar Trail.



Board approval is sought for:

  • The partial reroof of Wallace Smith Elementary School totalling $583,900.00 with funds to be provided by the 2016/2017 Capital Fund.   
  • A contract with Public Education Foundation and Principal Leadership Academy for $100,000.00 from the General Purpose Budget. The contract will provide training, mentoring, and support to Assistant Principals interested in moving into a Principal role.
  • The purchase of motor fuel totalling $28,608.00 from the Warehouse Inventory Fund.



Board approval is sought for:

  • The consultant agreement between Haley Brown, Principal at Red Bank Elementary and Jessica Kaminski for a total of $35,200.00 from their school based Federal Title I budget. The purpose for hiring Jessica Kaminski for Red Bank Elementary is to significantly elevate the quality of instruction by providing staff with a substantial opportunity for professional development.


Budget Amendments:

  • School Board approval is needed to amend the FY18 Property Tax revenue in the amount of $1,000,000.00 and increase the appropriation to the School Instructional Supplies account in the amount of $1,000,000.00.


Administrative and Business Matters:

  • Second and final reading of Board Policy 3.502: Offer Versus Serve– In compliance with USDA regulation changes, the current “Offer Versus Serve” policy is being updated to now exempt all Pre-K students from the policy. This policy outlines breakfast and lunch services that are eligible for federal reimbursements.
  • Second and final reading of Board Policy 6.304:Student Discrimination, Harassment, Bullying, Cyber-Bullying, and Hazing– The General Assembly has mandated timelines for responding to reports of bullying, so current policy is being revised to incorporate the required deadlines. The policy has now added a section on reported incidents which reads “All allegations shall be fully investigated by a building administrator and/or school official. Investigations must commence as soon as possible but in no event more than 48 hours after the report. Investigations must be resolved within 20 days of the report.”
    • Approval is sought for an agreement with the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Unit. The purpose of this agreement is to establish working procedures between the LEA and AGENCY in provision of services to all eligible children with disabilities who are detained or incarcerated in county/city-operated detention centers to provide free appropriate public education.
    • Approval of an agreement is sought with the Silverdale Correctional Facility and Hamilton County Jail. The purpose of this agreement is to establish working procedures between Hamilton County Department of Education and any County-Operated Detention Center in the provision of services to eligible children with disabilities, who are detained or incarcerated in county/city- operated detention centers to provide free appropriate public education in compliance with Federal and Tennessee State laws and regulations.
    • Dr. Bryan Johnson, Superintendent, seeks approval to change the title of the formerly proposed Teacher Talent and Induction Specialist position to Teacher Talent and Induction Coordinator. He asks that this new title is compensated accordingly. Johnson also requests that the current Compliance Coordinator role’s title be elevated to Compliance Director.
    • Karen Glenn will present the 1st Quarter Bullying Compliance Report to the board. The 2016-2017 end year total for reported confirmed cases of bullying and harassment is 2017, and the 2017-2018 1st Quarter total is 44 cases.  
    • The administration has agreed to accept Commissioner Discretionary bond funds totalling $5,000.00 to purchase a tarp for Sale Creek High School’s girls’ softball field.


  • Legal Services: A total of $39,938.30 was paid in the month of October for legal fees to Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and Markel, Von Kessler & Cox.




    • November 21, 2017 – Woodmore Memorial Woodmore Elementary – 4:00
    • November 22-24, 2017 – Thanksgiving Holidays


  • December 6, 2017 – Superintendent Parent Advisory Committee Central Office Board Room – 4:15 p.m.
  • December 12, 2017 – Hamilton County High Graduation Bayside Baptist Church – 6:00 p.m.
  • December 19, 2017 – Last Day of Classes Before Winter Break
  • December 20, 2017 – Teacher Professional Development No Students
  • December 21, 2017 – School Board Meeting 5:30 p.m.


December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 – Winter Break

School officials must put meat on bones of capital plan


UnifiEd commends Hamilton County Department of Education’s new leadership team on its quick work to develop a plan for the $100 million recently granted by the county for capital projects. We appreciate that the plan integrates the priority projects previously identified by the Board of Education and incorporates many of the recommendations of the budget working group report about increased efficiency as a source of cost savings.

We are also pleased to see that the plan takes steps toward reassessing zoning and school usage while calling for a full assessment of capital needs to inform a seven-to-10-year strategic capital plan. In the capital plan adopted by the school board last month, the Department of Education outlined three essential next steps that UnifiEd fully supports — community meetings for affected schools, reassessment of zoning lines and development of a long-term strategic capital plan with an external consultant.

It is clear that given the vast and diverse needs across our community and schools, there must be a community-driven, equitable, and fully funded approach to capital needs in the school system.

That’s why we urge the district to take the following specific actions to make these critical goals become concrete reality.

Outreach and community engagement:
Opportunities for the community to engage with the district in decision-making should be accessible and structured. Access means that the opportunities are promoted across multiple media and communication channels to ensure exposure to many audiences. Structure means community members should have a defined platform for voicing their specific concerns and raising issues not pre-identified by the district. In-person meetings should be interactive and facilitated by a third party, while surveys can draw wider participation to prioritize issues.

Strategic planning:
The current capital plan approved by the school board was not on the meeting’s public agenda, and the report provides few details about the actual investment planned for each affected school. In the future, when plans are shared with the public, there should be accessible and easily understandable information about how estimates and figures were established.

Inclusive decision-making:
To develop and implement better policies that reflect the diverse interests in Hamilton County, we urge the district to develop a community engagement plan that ensures all future initiatives and strategic plans have a focus on equity, inclusion, and shared decision-making.

Future efforts to address potential zoning solutions should include controlled family choice, a commitment to equity, and the elimination of schools with concentrated populations of students living in poverty.

Transparent and accessible information:
All future plans should be comprehensive, easy to understand, and open for community review in advance of decision making.

Our community’s values should be reflected in decisions on how resources are allocated across our schools, and this community has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that all children, regardless of background, have the opportunity to succeed.

We urge our community, elected officials and the school system to consider the importance of a community-driven, equitable and fully funded approach to capital management in our schools. We can easily identify need, but it is much more difficult to build solutions to those needs that are fair to each child and representative of this community’s values. However, these are the factors that will make systemic changes both effective and sustainable in the success of our school system.


This editorial was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 5, 2017 and signed by UnifiEd Executive Director Jonas Barriere. See the original here >