School Board Recording: February 15, 2018

Please watch the meeting by clicking the “play” button on the video below!

February 2018 School Board Watch Blog

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the February 15th, 2018 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 tweet @UnifiEdHC, follow along at #HCSchools.


To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click here.


Hot Topics:

    • Ezra Harris, President of the Woodmore Neighborhood Association and a member of the The Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition, will present the Coalition’s findings based on their research regarding bus transportation issues in Hamilton County. The Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition is a group of concerned citizens, community leaders and organizations that came together after the tragic school bus accident in late 2016. While some actions have been taken since the accident to make children safer on school buses, the Coalition believes there is more that needs to be done.
    • Superintendent Johnson will present the Partnership Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the State Department of Education. This MOA establishes a new school improvement model—a Partnership Model—intended to improve academic outcomes through evidence-based strategies and allocation of additional resources to low performing schools. Through this Agreement, HCDE and TDOE shall build a plan to ensure success for every student enrolled in schools within the Network, such that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark upon their chosen path in life.


  • Board Policy 5.604 Overtime Pay of Classified Personnel- First Reading: Current policy regarding overtime pay for classified personnel needs to be revised to document current practices and ensure equity and compliance with call-in pay. Language has been added to reflect overtime provisions for maintenance employees including overtime calculations for call-in pay.  



Recognitions, Presentations, and Delegations:

  • There will be a presentation given to the Board on the status of the County Working Group.
  • Dr. Justin Robertson will give a presentation on teaching and learning reorganization.
  • Dr. Nakia Towns Edwards, Chief of Staff, will present Calendar Draft options to the Board to vote on the development of a new calendar for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. The two new calendar drafts were crafted by the Calendar Committee, a community feedback group consisting of parents, community members, and staff. A third calendar draft will be crafted based on additional survey and board member feedback and presented at a later board meeting.
  • Karen Glenn will address any questions regarding HCDE’s 1st Semester Bullying Compliance Report for the 2017-2018 school year. There were 106 total number of reported confirmed cases of bullying and harassment. Staff, students, and community/parent trainings and programs regarding bullying and harassment continue.


Field Trips:

  • Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts and East Ridge High School will send members of their youth in government to the Youth in Government Conference in Nashville, TN.
  • Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Upper will send members of their science
    fair to compete in the Tennessee Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.
  • East Hamilton School, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Upper, Lookout Valley Middle High School, Ooltewah High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School, and Lookout Mountain Elementary will participate in music related field trips
  • Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts and STEM School Chattanooga will send members of their robotics teams to compete in Robotics tournaments.
  • Members of the Signal Mountain Middle High School science teams will compete in the High School and Middle School Science Bowls.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School will participate in a theater related field trip.
  • Members of the Soddy Daisy High School forensics team will compete in the forensics tournament.
  • Soddy Daisy High School JROTC students will visit historical locations on the Cumberland Trail.
  • Central High School, Lookout Valley Middle High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School, Soddy Daisy High School, and East Hamilton School will participate in sports related field trips.
  • Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts will send students to North Carolina to study American history.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School Model UN students will attend the University of Alabama Model UN Conference.
  • Calvin Donaldson Elementary will send students to Rock Eagle Environmental Center to participate in environmental education.
  • Hixson High School will send students to attend the Future Farmers of America State Convention, Future Business Leaders of America Competition, and the Health Occupational Science Association State Conference.



Board approval is sought for:

  • The re-roofing and repairs of the Tyner High School Auditorium totalling $286,928.00 with funding from the 2016-17 Capital Fund.
  • The furnishing and installation of utility serving counters at DuPont Elementary School totalling $65,621.00 with funds to be provided by the School Nutrition Budget.
  • The purchase of McRel Balanced Leadership workbooks for Assistant Principals to participate in the Balanced Leadership Program. Materials will total $12,000.00 with funds to be provided by the Federal Title II Part A funds.
  • The purchase of motor fuel totalling $16,256.00 with funds provided by the Warehouse Inventory Fund.


Budget Amendments:

  • The following budget amendments for Federal Grants and Self-Funded Programs for FY2018 are recommended for board approval:
    • Title I, Improving Basic Programs, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $129,110.00.
    • Title II, Teacher & Principal Training & Recruitment, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $10,432.00.
    • Homeless Education, with transfers between line items.
    • Title I A, Local Neglected, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $9,517.00.
    • Title I Delinquent, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $766.00.
    • Title IV Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment, with transfers between line items.
    • IDEA Preschool, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $7,411.00.
    • TN Disability Coalition Self-Funded, totaling $10,000.00.
    • Supplemental Salaries Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $43,828.00.
  • Additional Approval is sought for:
    • The amending of the FY 2017-2018 budget for the Pre-K State Grant Award. The amendment reclassifies existing budget appropriations between various accounts, and increases the budget for $6.00 additional awarded by the State.
    • The appropriation of the unassigned fund balance of $850,000.00. These funds will be used to negotiate for the purchase of property adjacent to Sale Creek Middle High School to allow for the school campus to grow with additional facility expansions.


Curriculum and Instruction:

  • Board approval is sought for the ratification of early approval to add General Music/Vocal Music to the list of textbook committees approved at the December Board Meeting since this committee was originally overlooked.
  • The Textbook Adoption Committee is requesting the addition of 2 parents to the committee.


Human Resources:

  • The Chief Talent Officer is requesting the addition of one supervisory position for the Exceptional Education department effective March 1, 2018. No additional funding is needed. The purpose of the position will be to supervise ten Elementary Schools and focus on grant writing to be able to fund additional paraprofessional positions, instructional resources, and transportation.


Administrative, Business, and Board Matters:

  • The Union Fork-Bakewell Utility District have requested an easement from the existing water treatment plant that would run from the plant along the stream to Back Valley Road. In addition to providing additional water supply for the community it will also improve fire protection to North Hamilton County Elementary School as well as throughout the district. Board approval for the easement is recommended.
  • Chairman Steve Highlander will present a proposed resolution to be considered by the Board to urge the State of Tennessee General Assembly to overturn the A-F school grading system in favor of a new rating system with multiple measures that focuses on the unique strengths of each school. This will better inform parents, students, and the teachers about the strength and needs of each school while not diminishing the worth of students within the school. Further, the new system should reduce high stakes, standardized testing to more accurately reflect what students know.
  • Legal Services: A total of $9,085.83.00 was paid in the month of January for legal fees to Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and the Markel Firm.




  • February 20, 2018 – Tuesday at 6.00pm: Community Listening Tour at Hixson High School
  • February 22, 2018 –  Thursday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Signal Mountain Middle/High


  • February 26, 2018 – Monday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Ooltewah High School
  • February 27, 2018 – Tuesday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Red Bank High
  • March 4, 2018 – Tuesday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Tyner Academy
  • March 7, 2018 – Wednesday at 4:15pm: Superintendent Parent Advisory Meeting in the School Board Room
  • March 8, 2018 – Thursday at 4:00pm: Budget Work Session in the School Board Room
  • March 8, 2018 – Thursday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Lookout Valley Middle/High
  • March 12, 2018 – Monday at 4:15pm: Superintendent Student Advisory Meeting in the School Board Room
  • March 13, 2018 – Tuesday 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at CSAS Upper
  • March 14, 2018 – Wednesday 4:15pm: Superintendent Teacher Advisory Meeting in the School Board Room
  • March 15, 2018 – Thursday 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Howard High School
  • March 19, 2018 – Monday 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts
  • March 20, 2018 – Tuesday 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Central High School
  • March 22, 2018 – Thursday 4:00pm: Budget Work Session in the School Board Room
  • March 22, 2018 – Thursday 5:30pm: Quarter Board Meeting in the School Board Room

Stand Against the Schoolhouse Heist Bill

Tennessee Senate Bill 1755 was proposed on January 23, 2018 by State Senator Todd Gardenhire. The bill proposes that all property and assets in a municipality that belong to a county school system would be forcibly transferred to the municipality if it forms an independent school district.

There are a variety of consequences of this bill, if it passes, that run counter to the desires expressed by the Hamilton County community through the recent process of the forming the Action Plan for Educational eXcellence (APEX Project).

That’s why UnifiEd is organizing the community to contact your state legislators and urge them to defeat the Schoolhouse Heist Bill.

Senate Bill 1755 – An Overview

“If a municipality creates or reactivates a city school system . . .  all real and personal property that is located within the boundaries of the municipality and is owned by the county school system shall be declared surplus property by the county school system, and transferred to the municipal school system.” (Read the full bill here.)


Reverse Robin Hood Effect

Under this bill, the state would force the transfer of assets from one entity to another without compensation. Taxpayers own their schools, yet this bill would allow for their property to be seized. Historically across the state, and within our own community today, the municipalities that have formed independent districts have been affluent suburbs.

This situation creates a transfer of wealth from lower income neighborhoods to more prosperous communities. It is, in effect, a “reverse Robin Hood” effect — stealing from the poor to give to the wealthy.

Equity, Fairness, and Community Voice

For six months in 2017-2018, we collected community input from across Hamilton County to identify issues of inequity across the school system along with potential solutions to those issues through the APEX Project. The 25 most commonly cited issues and solutions were then voted on by the community through the APEX Bus Tour to prioritize the most urgent solutions for achieving equity for every child in our schools. Three of those solutions would be severely obstructed if SB 1755 is adopted.

Capital Planning and Investment

One of the APEX Project’s solutions states “Funds must be provided to make all school facilities safe and healthy learning spaces, and there must be a long-term plan to keep them that way.” This statement gets at the need for an adequately funded long-term capital plan for our school system. There would be little incentive for the county to fund capital projects, though, if it they could be forced to cede those assets at any time in the future while still being responsible for any debt on the assets. This bill would incentivize municipalities to exit county systems and leave taxpayers continuing to foot the bill of schools to which their students no longer have access to attend.

The passage of SB 1755 would also stifle long-term capital planning efforts because there would be little confidence to assume debt for assets with an uncertain future. Lack of long-term planning leads to inefficient capital spending and creates an environment in which maintenance, expansion, and construction of schools would be gravely deferred.


Racial and Socioeconomic Segregation

Two additional APEX Project solutions state that “Community members must demand the end of socioeconomic and racial segregation in our schools” and “A plan must be developed [by the Department of Education’s Central Office administration] to end socioeconomic and racial segregation in schools.” SB 1755 directly threatens efforts to end segregation in our schools, and here’s how.

Receiving school buildings and property for free from the county lowers a primary barrier to municipalities seceding from county school systems. An incentive would be created for municipalities to exit county systems and leave county taxpayers footing the bill of schools to which their students no longer have access to attend.

Municipalities with the resources and political clout to effectively establish independent school systems would be left with an unfair advantage with new budgets free from capital debt that would remain shouldered by the county system. Such communities would be incentivized to segregate themselves while lower-income communities are left at an even greater disadvantage due to ongoing debt service and loss of assets.

As affluent independent districts segregate themselves from their surrounding community, the already grave issue of concentration of poverty in our schools becomes worse.


About Signal Mountain

To illustrate the above position, let’s examine the impact SB 1755 could have on Hamilton County schools. One municipality in our county, Signal Mountain, has recently explored a plan for creating a separate school district. If that plan were to be revived, the residents of Signal Mountain could vote to create an independent school district. Under SB 1755, Hamilton County Department of Education would then be forced to transfer Signal Mountain schools’ property, buildings, and assets to the new district while continuing to pay the debt on those buildings.

Mayor Jim Coppinger has stated that Hamilton County currently owes $17.5 million on the bonds for those school buildings on Signal Mountain. The new school system would not assume that debt and Hamilton County taxpayers would continue paying for the buildings.

In addition, the schools on Signal Mountain were built to serve not just Town of Signal Mountain residents, but also children residing in Walden and unincorporated areas of the mountain. The children and taxpayers residing in these areas would be unfairly penalized by this bill because they would no longer be able to attend schools they paid for and that were designed to serve them.

One of the gravest issues facing Hamilton County schools and negatively impacting student success is the high number of schools of concentrated poverty. One-third of schools in Hamilton County are considered such, meaning that more than 80% of the school’s student population lives in poverty. The community has demanded through the APEX Project that racial and socioeconomic segregation come to an end in our schools, yet the secession of Signal Mountain from the school system would provide a major roadblock to efforts to increase every school’s diversity.

The Schoolhouse Heist Bill would make it all the more easy for that secession to happen, leaving the rest of the county not just with big debt but also even bigger challenges to increasing diversity and student outcomes.

Take Action!

Contact your state legislators and tell them to vote no on the Schoolhouse Heist Bill!

Get legislators’ contact info >