School Board Watch Blog – August 2017

August 2017 School Board Meeting Agenda

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the August 17, 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. It will be livestreamed and recorded, and the link will be posted on our blog following the meeting.

To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click here.

Hot Topics:

  • Board Policy 3.202 Emergency Preparedness Plan- Second and Final Reading: Due to changes in state law, it is necessary to revise our current policy on Emergency Preparedness Plan order to correct the fire and intruder drill information. The old policy stated that one fire drill requiring full evacuation shall be given every month during the school year, with an additional fire drill to be conducted within the first fifteen (15) days of operation. The new policy states that an additional fire drill is to be conducted within the first thirty (30) days of operation.

Recognitions and Presentations:

  • The Director of College Career and Technical Education and the Principal at Hixson High School will recognize students earning top honors at the recent HOSA: Future Healthcare Professionals International Leadership Conference with five students placing in the top 10 within their respective competitions. There were over 7,400 competitors in 57 events demonstrating competencies developed through Health Science class instruction, technical training, and HOSA activities.
  • The Director of JROTC will honor the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners of the JROTC marching competition, during last May’s Annual Armed Forces Parade, by the presentation of plaques provided by the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council (CAVC).
  • Robin Copp, principal of Ooltewah High School, will be recognized for being named the Southeast Region Principal of the Year by the Tennessee Department of Education for 2017-2018.
  • A presentation will be given to update the board on curriculum and instruction plans for the 2017-2018 school year. The update will include a summary of summer professional development, shift in standards for ELA/Math, and supports that will be provided during the upcoming school year.

Field Trips:

  • Brown Middle School students will travel to Washington, D.C. to study the foundations of our American government.
  • Chattanooga High, Center for Creative Arts will send students enrolled in musical theatre to New York, NY to attend master classes with Broadway professionals.
  • Red Bank High School will send students to participate in JROTC competitions.
  • Signal Mountain Middle/High School will send members of the volleyball team to compete in the Showdown at the Sunsphere.


Board approval is sought for:

  • Printer toner cartridges and drum cartridges for the School Nutrition Program with funds to be provided by the School Nutrition Budget.  
  • The utilization of selected architectural, engineering, and design firms for the 2017-18 school year on an “as-needed basis” for HCDE projects.
  • An extension of the STEM Lease Agreement with Chattanooga State for the 2017-18 school year.
  • Exceptional Education Contract with Momentum Behavior Analysis for 2017-2018 school year to provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to students with disabilities. Funds will not exceed $35,000.
  • Agreement with Stellar Therapy for speech and language services for private and homeschool students. The private school proportional services plan is paid for from the IDEA, Part B Grant  and IDEA, Preschool Grant with funds not to exceed $406,518.
  • Contract between HCDE and STARS for school climate personal support, student training, early intervention student support, and the Kindness Matters Campaign totalling $15,400 pending approval of the Safe Schools Grant.
  • Contract renewal with GeniusSIS for the Virtual School Program for students information systems. This will total $100 a month for hosting fees and $3.00 per enrollment with funds coming through the operations of the Hamilton County Virtual School.
  • Purchase Rosetta Stone Language Learning Suite Software to provide course services for ELL students at several campuses and participation in On-Site Professional Development session during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. This will total $89,099 with funds to be provided from the Title III budget.
  • Purchase texts and resources from Staff Development for Educators, Inc and Crystal Springs Books, a division of SDE, Inc for literacy instructional support. This will total $25,000 with funds provided by the General Purpose account and Federal Programs budget.
  • Purchase texts and resources from Pioneer Valley Educational Press, Inc (dba Pioneer Valley Books) for literacy instructional support. This will total $25,000 with funds provided by the General Purpose account and Federal Programs budget.  
  • Ratification of Emergency/Early approval of 2-3 year contract for MyPath Math and Reading License from Edgenuity to support online learning in HCDE schools. This license includes 800 individual seats to be used at any secondary site in Hamilton County Schools. This will total $40,000 per year from the General Purpose budget.


  • Approval is sought to contract with Dr. Maren Halvorson to identify Bible teachers, maintain and enhance the quality and effectiveness of Bible history teachers, and to improve the overall learning experience of the Bible in the Schools Program. Funds are not to exceed $36,000 and will be provided from the self-funded Bible in the Schools Program.

Budget Amendments:

The following budget amendments for Federal Grants and Self-Funded Programs for FY2018 are recommended for board approval:

  • Title III English Language Acquisition Grant, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $40,142
  • IDEA Discretionary Supplemental, totaling $20,229
  • IDEA Discretionary, totaling $80,194
  • Carl Perkins Vocational Grant, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $63,535


  • The Administration is requesting acceptance and approval of a grant application for the UTC – STEM ICE: Inspire, Communicate, Educate project. This project examine efficacy of multiple strategies and activities to encourage different under-represented groups to pursue careers in STEM fields. The amount is for $350,356.


  • The board will receive the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Hamilton County, Tennessee as a matter of records. The audit covers the financial statements for the Hamilton County Department of Education as a discretely presented component unit of Hamilton County.

Human Resources:

  • The Assistant Superintendent is requesting a full-time with benefits STEM-Lab teaching position be added at Soddy Elementary School for the 2017-18 school year.  This position is a temporary position and will be funded through the donation from Earl and  Almeda Frazier. This position is for one year only at this time, and will have no impact on the General Purpose budget.

Administrative and Business Matters:

  • The Director of Exceptional Education is requesting approval for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between HCDE, Division of Exceptional Education, and Mental Health Cooperative. The purpose of this MOU is to provide school-based mental health services in Hamilton County schools for students exhibiting significant emotional and behavioral challenges.
  • Approval is sought for an addendum to the lease agreement for the cell tower located at East Ridge High School. The addendum makes a slight adjustment to the footprint of the leased space in order to shift away from an existing drainage ditch and to accommodate the cell carrier’s equipment.
  • Legal Services: For the month of July, a total of $42,680.96 was spent on legal services from Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC, Markel, and Von Kessler & Cox, and Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams.


  • August 21, 2017: Eclipse-Schools Closed
  • August 21, 2017: Community Listening Tour-Clear Creek Church of Christ (District 3) 6:30 pm
  • August 24, 2017: Listening Tour-Apison Baptist Church (District 7) 7:00 pm
  • August 28, 2017: Listening Tour-Brainerd High School (District 5) 6:30 pm
  • August 29, 2017: Listening Tour-Soddy Daisy High (District 1) 6:30 pm
  • September 4, 2017: Labor Day-No School and Central Office Closed
  • September 21, 2017: Board Meeting-Quarterly Session  



School Board Recap – July 2017

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.


  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.



  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

School Board Watch Blog – July 2017

July 2017 School Board Meeting Agenda

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the July 20 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:


  • Board Policy 3.202 Emergency Preparedness Plan- First Reading: Due to changes in state law, it is necessary to revise our current policy on Emergency Preparedness Plan order to correct the fire and intruder drill information. The old policy stated that one fire drill requiring full evacuation shall be given every month during the school year, with an additional fire drill to be conducted within the first fifteen (15) days of operation. The new policy states that an additional fire drill is to be conducted within the first thirty (30) days of operation.


Recognitions and Presentations:

  • Karen Glenn will be presenting the Year End Bullying Compliance Report. 615 incidents were reported for the school year of 2016-2017. 979 staff members participated in Olweus Bullying Prevention/Restorative Practices Professional Development. 1072 students participated in student trainings including Youth Summit, Move2Stand, Youth Conference, and Peer Mediation. There were 157 attendees at community/parent forums including the Hixson Community Forum, Delta Kappa Gamma, and the Latino Faith Leaders TASSW Conference.
  • Board approval is sought for revised contracts for independent contractors and HCDE employees who are independent contractors for the 2017-18 school year.  Scott Bennett has reviewed these contracts.
  • Dr. Lee McDade will be giving a presentation regarding CLASS.


  • Ezra Harris will be speaking on behalf of the Woodmore Community.

Field Trips:

  • Central High School, Ooltewah High School, and Tyner Academy will send students to participate in camps.
  • Thirty-five students enrolled in an AP Program at East Hamilton School will travel to Cocoa Beach, Florida.
  • Forty-two students enrolled in eighth grade at Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts will travel to Washington, D.C.
  • Twelve members of the Hixson High School volleyball team will travel to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to compete in the Rocky Top Classic.
  • One student enrolled in tenth grade at STEM School Chattanooga will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend the Civic Action Conference.  


Board approval is sought for:

  • Contracts to Furnish Propane Fuel and to Furnish & Install Fencing with funds coming from the Operating/Maintenance and Capital Projects Budgets.
  • Contract Extension for Telecommunication Cabling Infrastructure Installation totaling $885,050.00.
  • Contract for Dish Machine Chemicals, Ware-Washing and Sanitation for the School Nutrition Program totaling 98,639.30 with funds provided by the School Nutrition Budget.
  • Contract for Dr. Adams, Medical Consultant for school year 2017-2018 totaling $10,000 per school year with funds provided by School Health Program Department.
  • The Athletic Trainer Service Agreement with Benchmark Physical Therapy for Hixson High School to provide the services of athletic trainers to Hixson High School. Benchmark will be compensated by the school $300 per month, to be paid on the first of the month beginning August 1, 2017 and continuing until the last payment on May 1, 2018.
  • The Renewal of Book Systems, Inc.-Atrium totaling $31,795 which will be funded through a self-funded program.
  • A three-year subscription Contract with Naviance, Succeed, and E.Docs totaling $44,498.40 per year with funds provided through the GP budget.
  • Purchase Annual License, Maintenance and Support with TRA, Inc. totaling $25,236.
  • Contract with Stellar Therapy for Nursing & School Health Services at rates of $80.00/hour for a Physician’s Assistant and $160.00/hour for a physician.
  • Annual Renewal Fees of International Baccalaureate (IB) at Ooltewah High School ($11,650.00), Signal Mountain High School ($11,147.00), and Signal Mountain Middle School ($9,547.00) totaling $32,344.00 with funds provided by General Purpose Budget.
  • Contract to Furnish Food Supplies to Brainerd High School Bistro Restaurant totaling $24,064.18 with funds provided by Brainerd High School Internal Funds.
  • Ratification of Emergency Early Approval of Maintenance Renewal for SchoolInSites Web Hosting Agreement Legacy Hosting Package-District Site ($1,200/ July, 2017- June, 2018) and Legacy Hosting Package-71 Schools Sites ($63,900/ July, 2017-June, 2018) totaling $65,100 with funds provided by the IT Department.

Human Resources:

  • The following teachers have been recommended for reinstatement of tenure: Vanessa Bell, Abby Bryant, Leanne Chesney, Leigh Grady, Michelle Greene, Martha June Hill, Lauren Lindsey, Amanda Pettit-Shaheen, Eric Smith, and Romonda Walker-Word.
  • The Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources is recommending one employee to serve as a trustee for the Certified Sick Leave Bank and one employee to serve as a trustee for the Classified Sick Leave Bank. These employees will each serve a three-year term and both have a reputation among their peers for professionalism and confidentiality.

Administrative and Business Matters:

  • Board Policy 3.206 Community Use of School Facilities- 2nd and Final 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.
  • Legal Services: For the month of June, a total of $30,295.26 was spent on legal services from Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and Markel, and Von Kessler & Cox.



  • August 3-4, 2017 – Administrative In-Service (School-Based)


  • August 7, 2017 – Administrative In-Service (School-Based)


  • August 7, 2017 – Registration Day for Students (no classes)


  • August 8, 2017 – Administrative In-Service (System-Wide)


  • August 9, 2017 – Administrative In-Service (System-Wide)


  • August 10, 2017 – First Full Day of School


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.


Community Voice: It’s time for a long-term capital plan

In addition to increased funding for our schools, UnifiEd calls for the county and school district to work together to create a long-term plan to address current and future facilities and capital needs. If you agree, we encourage you to take a few moments to contact your county commissioner and tell them so! Visit the Fund Hamilton County’s Future campaign hub here to get your commissioner’s contact info plus templates for letters, emails, and calls on the subject. 

Lesley Rice, a Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts parent, wrote this “Community Voice” guest blog with her perspective on why such a long-term plan is vital.

I have been tirelessly advocating for a new building for Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) over the past few months, and it has become apparent that neither the Hamilton County Department of Education nor the Hamilton County Commission has a strategic plan for how to address the many facility needs in our county’s schools. When UnifiED approached me regarding their current “Fund Hamilton County’s Future” campaign (which includes a call for creating a multi-year strategic plan), I knew the CSLA story needed to be told in this context. CSLA is a very tangible symbol of the failure of Hamilton County to properly resource our schools and to create and fulfill effective long term planning strategies.

Back in March of 2014 WRCB’s School Patrol journalist David Carroll wrote an article titled “CSLA’s sad situation: Who’s to blame?” He writes:

“Back in 1999, I attended a Hamilton County School Board meeting of the Facilities Committee. Dr. Jesse Register was superintendent. Board members included Debra Matthews, Charles Love, Joe Conner, Janice Boydston, Bill Eldridge and Everett Fairchild, among others. All have since retired, resigned, or moved out of town, and in Ms. Matthews’ case, passed away. Their Facilities Committee was made up of community leaders who spent months visiting every single school building in the county. This committee listed each school’s physical condition, wiring infrastructure, student capacity, classroom space and enrollment. From those visits, they created a massive report listing the pros and cons of each building, particularly the ones that needed to be replaced or renovated in the first 5-10 years of the new century. Near the top of the list was the Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts (CSLA). By 2004, so the experts said, it needed to be replaced.”

Wait – so are you telling me there was some sort of 5-10 year plan regarding facility planning created in 1999 and which has absolutely not been followed? Is this because the money wasn’t there? Is this because the politicians who came along in the subsequent years weren’t committed to the vision or the plan? I suspect the answer is a combination of those two things.

Mr. Carroll goes on to tell the story of how CSLA, an award winning school, has been the victim of the local political system. Carroll says, “within that word called ‘politics’ resides smaller words like ‘clout,’ ‘power,’ and ‘turf.’ Ever since that Facilities Committee recommended a new school for CSLA in 1999, our elected leaders have used their clout and power to shore up their own turf.”

There are nine districts in Hamilton County, and the elected leaders in those nine districts tend to favor projects and investments that work to get them re-elected. This is just the nature of the system. But for a school like CSLA – a small, dedicated magnet school with students from all nine districts – there simply isn’t enough power or clout to compel the overwhelming members on the school board or county commission to act on its behalf.

Currently facilities are voted on every 2-3 years by the school board. This means that, rather than following a multi-year approach, the facility needs in Hamilton County are open to political posturing every few years based on the whims of the current batch of politicians.

The parents at CSLA have utilized various strategies to try to work within the existing political system over the years to win over the hearts and minds of politicians. It is a frustrating and exhausting process that seems to start all over with each election.

One of our newly elected school board members told me a few weeks ago that CSLA parents were not being “objective” in our approach for a new building. Perhaps that individual is right. It is difficult to be objective when you see a political system that takes a strategic plan that was created in 1999 and fails to see it through to fruition and that has yet to create a similar plan for a new crop of needs some 18 years later.

While I can’t pretend to be objective when it comes to the very apparent and long-standing needs at one of our county’s flagship schools, I hope I can at least point out that the existing system and the failures of nearly two decades of leadership are not unique to CSLA. CSLA is merely a symptom of a much greater problem countywide.

It is past time for our school board to create a new multi-year strategic capital plan similar to the one that was created in 1999. HCDE must take inventory of the facility needs that exist and prioritize those needs based upon the immediacy of the findings. There was a list presented at a Facility Committee meeting back in February of 2017 that can be expanded upon and further developed.

It is time for the County Commission to ascertain how to fund the plan and to properly resource ALL of our schools so that every student in our county has access to the best education possible in a clean, safe, and modern facility. How will the commissioners generate the necessary revenue to fund such a robust program? How can the state of Tennessee assist in that process? These are the questions with no easy answers – and yet it seems clear that there is simply not enough revenue coming in at the present time to fund the existing needs.

Perhaps most importantly, it is time for the voters of Hamilton County to demand that our leaders act in the best interest of all of our students. It is unlikely that anyone can develop a plan that can withstand the ever-present political turnover. Therefore, voters must be watchful in seeing that well thought out plans are implemented by whoever happens to be in office.

While I hope that our current leaders will take the call to create a plan seriously, I know all too well that the existence of a plan isn’t worth anything if it isn’t implemented. Let us not repeat the follies of the last two decades. We MUST do better, and we must begin now. And it is okay with me if we start by granting Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts that building they were promised 18 years ago.

By Lesley Rice
Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts parent


School Board Recap – May 2017


The full May 18, 2017 school board meeting was recorded – watch the video here

Awards and Recognitions

  • HCDE Chief Academic Officer Jill Levine recognized Hamilton County High School teacher Rachel Turner for receiving the Outstanding Humanities Educators Award.
  • Colonel Tom McConnell recognized JROTC cadets and units with exceptional academic achievements and scholarship awards. The cadets recognized received scholarship awards totaling $4.5 million.
  • Margaret Abernathy from the Exceptional Education Department announced the renaming of the PALS Center to the Amy Piazza PALS Center in honor of the devoted late teacher Amy Piazza.
  • Cathy Jennings, the 2017 Southeast Regional Coordinator for RN School Health, was recognized by Sheryl Fletcher for her work to promote student health and wellness.


  • Dan Liner from Hamilton County Educators Association recognized the celebration of teachers in the month of May
  • Tennessee State Representative JoAnne Favors spoke on behalf of the delegation representing the community of the five schools being considered for a “partnership zone” within the school district. She stated that the there is not sufficient data to support moving forward with a partnership zone and suggested it could be a civil rights issue to do so due to de facto segregation of these majority African-American schools. Favors called for the board to postpone commiting to a partnership zone for at least one year in order to gather more data and involve the community in the discussion. She announced the creation of the Chattanooga Public School Coalition, which is currently organizing to address the partnership zone debate on behalf of the community.

The April 20 board meeting minutes were approved, as was the consent agenda.

Several field trips were approved. Board member Rhonda Thurman raised concern that no administrators were scheduled to be on these overnight trips and suggested exploration of a policy modification that would require an administrator be present on every overnight field trip.

Campus report

Superintendent selection process and plan – A plan and timeline was proposed and adopted for narrowing the list of superintendent candidates and making a final selection. A community involvement component calls for community forums with each finalist candidate when they are in town for final interviews. View the full plan here

Chairman Highlander said Coleman Lew (search firm) indicated the board should not expect reference letters to be entirely candid as they are open to public record.

Board member Karitsa Jones advocated for having a standardized list of questions for candidates in finalist interviews.

The board voted to table the vote of a contract related to contract bus drivers due to changes in the contract language related to driver penalties following the board’s review and discussion.

Board attorney Scott Bennett presented a revision to the board’s remote participation policy. The board voted to allow board members to participate in meetings electronically if unable to be physically present up to two times per school year.