October 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 October 19th 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:

  • First 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.
  • First 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.”

Recognitions and Presentations:

  • Dan Liner, representing HCEA, Brenna Kelly, representing the Southeast Conservation Corps, and Wayne Brown, President of the Hamilton County Council of PTAs, will all give presentations at the beginning of the school board meeting.

Field Trips:

  • Brainerd High School, East Hamilton School, and Signal Mountain Middle/High School will participate in sports related field trips.
  • Brown Middle School, Loftis Middle School, Lakeside Academy will send members of the Jr. Beta Club and Beta Club to compete and participate in the Tennessee Jr. Beta and Beta Club Conventions.
  • Students from Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, Ooltewah High School, and Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Upper School will participate in music related field trips.
  • Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, Sale Creek Middle/High School, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, and East Hamilton School will send students to attend Model United Nations Conferences.
  • Battle Academy, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Lower School, and East Lake Academy will send students to study at the Jekyll Island 4H Center.
  • Students at East Ridge Middle School and Soddy Daisy Middle School will travel to Washington, D.C. for a firsthand experience of American history.  
  • Signal Mountain Middle/High School will participate in the Tennessee Theatre Association Conference.
  • Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts will send members of the Destination Imagination Team to Soddy Daisy to participate in team building workshops.
  • East Ridge High School and Sequoyah High School will send students to attend the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Nationals engine competition in Indianapolis Indiana.
  • Spring Creek Elementary will send students to the Rock Eagle Environmental Center to participate in Math, Reading, and Science.


Board approval is sought for:

  • The reroofing of Soddy Daisy Middle School totalling $1,104,250.00 with funds provided by the 2017/18 Capital Funds.
  • The purchase of doors, frames and hardware for Orchard Knob Middle School totalling $97,850.00 with funds provided by the 2016/17 Capital Funds.
  • The purchase of dual purpose paper for warehouse stock totalling $73,248.00 with funds provided by the Warehouse Inventory Funds.
  • Lease agreements and security charges for 2018 Graduations totalling $51,744.67.


Board approval is sought for:

  • ACT Practice Testing and Services from College Prep Alabama LLC. Testing materials and analysis will be provided for 3000 students and professional development services will be provided for teachers. These materials and the professional development will be used to determine where students need additional instruction and support. The cost of these services will be $42,000.00 with funds to be provided by the CTE Perkins Grant

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 increase of $1,856,644.00.
    • ESSA Consolidated Administration, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $97,435.00.
    • Title II: Teacher & Principal Training & Recruitment, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $33,426.00.
    • Title IV Part A: Student Support and Academic Enrichment, totaling $335,167.00.
    • 21st Century Community Learning Centers (Year 4, East Lake Academy), with transfers between line items and a net increase of $10,000.00.
    • IDEA Preschool, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $4,000.00.
    • IDEA Part B, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $744,577.00.


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

  • UTC – In Loco Parentis: The Assistant Professor of Psychology is requesting a grant for a research study with Hamilton County schools. This research will study the impact of teachers and school contexts in socializing social-emotional competence and self-regulatory abilities in early childhood. Funds will be provided by the Foundation for Child Development for $225,000.00.

Administrative and Business Matters:

    • Approval is sought for an agreement between Benchmark Physical Therapy and CSAS. Benchmark Physical Therapy has provided an Athletic Trainer Service Agreement so they can provide services and athletic trainers to CSAS. The wording on the Service Agreement has been approved by the Risk Management Department.
    • ABM Custodial Contact 2 year extension-During the September 21, 2017 school board meeting, improvements that ABM made as well as their future plans to provide service was discussed. Some of their improvements and plans include pay increases, transportation for employees, a full time recruiter, and an increase to their management team. Thus, it is recommended that the school board approve the 2 year contract extension.
  • Legal Services: A total of $23,248.90 was paid in the month of September for legal fees to Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and Markel, Von Kessler & Cox.



  • October 20, 2017: Report Cards
  • November 2-5, 2017: TSBA Leadership Conference and Convention – Nashville, TN
  • November 16, 2017: School Board Meeting 


September 2017 School Board Watch Blog

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the September 21, 2017 regularly scheduled session of the Hamilton County School Board Meeting. The meeting will be held in the Hamilton County School Board Meeting Room at 3074 Hickory Valley Road and is set to begin at 5:30 PM. The livestream video will be shared via the Department of Education’s Facebook page starting at that time. 

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

Hot Topics:

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

Recognitions and Presentations:

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

Field Trips:

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


Board approval is sought for:

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

Budget Amendments:

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


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

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

Human Resources:

The following new positions are being requested:

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

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

Administrative and Business Matters:

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

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


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



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

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

To: Dr. Bryan Johnson and Chairman Steve Highlander

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

Dear Dr. Johnson and Chairman Highlander:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best regards,

Jonas Barriere
Executive Director, UnifiEd



School Board Recording: August 17, 2017

The HCDE School Board met on August 17, 2017, to discuss matters concerning the upcoming school year. You can watch the meeting by clicking the “play” button on the video below!

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Bootcamp


Hamilton County ESSA Bootcamp:
The Tennessee Plan and the Role of Advocates

For the next event in the APEX Project to support educational equity in Hamilton County schools, we’re hosting a one-day “bootcamp” to share all you need to know about the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Tennessee’s state plan under it. Join UnifiEd and members of the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition for a full day of learning about Tennessee’s ESSA plan and what it will mean for students, schools and communities across the state.

Tues., August 29, 2017
9:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Chattanooga State Community College

You’ll get a history and overview of ESSA and participate in an in-depth examination of the key pieces of the Tennessee plan. You’ll also be equipped to share this important information with your local networks and community members. 

Register now, and you’ll receive a a list of pre-reading materials before the event for a bit of background.

There is no cost to attend, and breakfast and lunch will be provided.



Hosted by:

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. StaywithHCDE.com.” 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