Candidate Responses

District 2

Below are questions community members submitted during the school board candidate debates. See what the candidates in your district had to say!

1. Is student- based budgeting something you support?

Kathy Lennon

Yes, I support Student Based Budgeting (SBB).  It is an innovative approach and it is working in other districts.  This change could have big effects on school funding in general.  It is a better use of funds because the funds follow the students where they are attending.  The student would receive funding at the school they are attending.  SBB gives schools equitable resources to meet the needs of the students they serve.  Principals are given greater autonomy over how to use those resources.  It gives principals control over as many resources as possible to personalize instruction for students and try innovative practices.  SBB will allow students with exceptional needs to attend their own neighborhood schools vs. a cluster site.  SBB will increase the equity and transparency for students with exceptional needs.

2. Every child is not on a path for college. Are you supportive of technical schools in every school?

Kathy Lennon

Without question we need to have increased emphasis on Career and Technical Education, as all students are not going to take the college path.  We need networking at every high school.  We need businesses to know our students and students to know businesses.  We need to train students for jobs as we have 15,000 existing jobs in Hamilton County that are not being filled due to lack of training, skills and education.  We can add programs to existing high schools that would keep students in their own communities. Increase the work-study programs in schools. Chattanooga has a history of having a strong, thriving middle class supported by good paying manufacturing jobs. This can be our future as well.  However these new manufacturing jobs require a skilled labor force. We need to make sure that whatever technical curriculum we adopt for our schools is built to fulfill the needs of tomorrow’s economy, not yesterday’s.

Jonathan Welch

Yes, I voted to have an expanded technical path in all 17 high schools in the last budget.

3. What supportive resources would you recommend for school system to keep teen parents in school?

Kathy Lennon

Successful school-based programs for teen parents with active involvement of school social workers and collaboration with outside community organizations will help keep teen parents in school.  It is a challenge but we need to provide opportunities for these students to engage with positive role models and mentoring opportunities to prevent teen parents from dropping out of school.

Community Schools is a model that is working in other school districts.  Community Schools is about coordinating with partner organizations to provide direct services onsite, including academic enrichment, cultural and youth development programs, mental, social, physical and dental health promotion and disease management, and other services to youth, families and the broader community.

Jonathan Welch

Some schools provide a daycare, but we need to expand partnerships with the city and local churches to provide access to high quality day care.

4. What are your top 3 physical infrastructure priorities in the D2 district?

Kathy Lennon

Justin Witt, director of maintenance and operations for the Hamilton County Department of Education, told all 18 school board members and commissioners in attendance about the problems plaguing the county’s aging schools that add up to more than $206 million of deferred maintenance.  First, I would use the resources that we have NOW to fix immediate repairs so that all schools function on an equitable level.

Jonathan Welch

I can’t limit it to just three.  Rivermont needs windows among other work, Alpine crest needs a playground, Red Bank high school needs a new track surface and drainage fixed at the far end of the field, Thrasher needs a HVAC and windows.  There are many others but those are the top at this time.

5. What ideas do you have to reduce suspension rates?

Kathy Lennon

Students who get out-of-school suspensions are far more likely to drop out of high school than their peers.  Frequent use of suspension has many undesirable and unintended outcomes, including a less healthy school environment, lower academic achievement, higher levels of disruptive or antisocial behavior, and higher school dropout rates.  Suspension doesn’t work.  We should do our very best to keep students engaged and on campus.  

• Community Schools allow schools to provide a broad range of behavioral, health, and family support to help students’ improve their success.  Schools and community partners work together to combine resources to support children in a successful learning environment that helps ensure positive academic and non-academic outcomes.  The schools form the hub of the community, connecting students with needed resources and support. Schools that have pursued these partnerships have been successful in improving student learning, attendance, behavior and development.


• Community Service Programs – Community service programs allow students to engage in meaningful community activities, either in lieu of suspension from school or during periods of suspension. Programs often offer students a chance to develop skills.  Frequently, local nonprofits work with schools to provide service opportunities.  Philanthropies and government grants may fund community service programs.


• Increase Enrichment / Arts Activities

Jonathan Welch

Add to the in school services in lieu of suspension, also add to the vocational paths so that students feel they are working toward something meaningful to them.

6. Do you think new teachers should have access to a strong mentorship program?

Kathy Lennon

Yes!  A strong mentorship program will help new teachers be successful during their first few years of teaching.  A quality mentorship program can help a new teacher navigate everything from the paperwork of a field trip to monitoring classroom behavior. New teachers should have an orientation, mentors, and workshops on becoming an effective teacher.  The high expectations, instructional demands, considerable paperwork and discipline problems combine to drive many promising young teachers from the profession.

7. Has the school board kept the previous superintendent accountable to children and families?

Kathy Lennon

No!  Hamilton County schools have fallen behind the state in every single high school test since 2012.  Nearly 60% of 3rd grade students are not reading on grade level.  The inability to follow the current Five Year Strategic Plan (2013-2018) created by the Hamilton County Department of Education.  The $206 million of deferred maintenance.  The Superintendent has an obligation to post a bi-weekly memorandum at the very least, on the current state of, progress, successes and/or failures of HCDE Schools.

8. How do you think teachers should be evaluated?

Kathy Lennon

The current Coach Model is ambiguous but vaguely adequate.  There is no way to measure student/teacher success not associated with mandated testing in fine arts, PE and others.

Jonathan Welch

A tweak of the current system where there is less emphasis on standardized tests, and more given to the progress of individual students.

9. What plans do you have to improve diversity in Hamilton County schools?

Kathy Lennon

Student exchange programs, workshops diversifying educators, using arts in the curriculum to promote tolerance and diversity, celebrate diversity.

Jonathan Welch

The candidate did not provide a response.

10. What do you think of student-based budgeting as a tool to implement maximal inclusion the way Metro Nashville Public Schools has done with great success?

Kathy Lennon

Student Based Budgeting will increase the equity and transparency for students with exceptional needs.

Jonathan Welch

I like student based budgeting and will support it.

11. How would you say that your campaigns are going?

Kathy Lennon

Beyond my expectations!  My passion to serve has led me to research and investigate educational systems that are working in other parts of the country.  I attended numerous community meetings about education and the need for change.  These events were shared with many passionate community members from every District in Hamilton County.  My husband, an educator and coach for over 20 years, and I participated in dialogues and forums including the video at the Edney Building, the Forum at the Camp House, Chattanooga’s Economic Imperative:  A presentation and discussion featuring David Dodson, Public Education Forum at Bessie Smith Cultural Center, Funding Smarter Schools, State of Education Town Hall Meeting at WRCB TV, Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Tiffany Anderson and Town Hall Meetings in District 2.  I was an active participant in; How to Hire a Superintendent and was invited and attended the CSLA Lunch and Learn.  There have been many community celebrations to meet families that I will be serving in District 2, as well as an interview with HCEA, a Forum with the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors and an interview with the Times Free Press.  I have met with Dan Challener, PEF President and Dr Jared Bigham, Coordinator of Chattanooga 2.0.  I recruited and organized volunteers to walk door-to-door, phone bank and stood proudly at voting polls across town all day July 15th & 16th for the kick-off of Early Voting.

These events presented me with the opportunity to talk to community members, voters in District 2 and beyond.  I enjoyed the research and citizen discussion as I prepared for the District 2 Debates organized by Unified Ed and WTCI.  I set up a website and FB page for Kathy Lennon School Board District 2.  I have prepared mailers, robo calls, Meet & Greets, Porch Talks and Community Events, which constantly keep me, connected to the Electorate.

Jonathan Welch

I would say we will find out on August 4.

12. Would you retain any of the school board members that are up for re-election?

Kathy Lennon

That is what elections are for.  It is up to the voters.  I am running in District 2.

13. How do you feel about the country’s current teacher evaluation system?

Kathy Lennon

There are no federal guidelines on country’s teacher evaluation system.

Jonathan Welch

I’m not comfortable with it.

14. Do you support the community school model?

Kathy Lennon

Yes, a Community School is a partnership between the school and other community resources to ensure students receive all of the support needed to achieve success.  Community Schools are a hub for education, health, social services and community engagement.  Community Schools have a connection between teachers, students, parents, community members and organizations.  This concept could be implemented in the schools in District 2 by getting the support of the Superintendent, School Board, Principals, Teachers, Students and Community Partners.  Information meetings would need to be held in different schools in District 2 giving FAQs and results of student achievement of Community Schools.  Bring in guest speakers like Tiffanie Anderson.  I attended her talk at Dalewood and hearing 1st hand about the success of Community Schools made a big impact on me.  I think the model would have a positive effect on student achievement. Community Schools will address this need and increase academic success for all students.

15. Are you supportive of gender neutral bathrooms?

Kathy Lennon

The candidate did not a provide response.

Jonathan Welch

No, there are already accommodations in place.

16. What will you do as a school board member to decrease the number of schools in concentrated poverty in Hamilton County?

Kathy Lennon

Creating opportunities to help all students succeed no matter what their zip code is or where they live in our community.  Ensure every school offers:  a safe environment for teaching and learning, equitable curriculums and updated facilities.

Jonathan Welch

Continue to have discussions about our current neighborhood schools and what we want those to look like.

17. Do you think the schools in D2 are diversified according to racial and/or socio-economic factors? If no, how do you propose addressing this issue?

Kathy Lennon

No, all students deserve the same access to a quality education regardless of race, color, gender, zip code.  All students should have access to schools that can help them overcome the challenges associated with poverty. While there are promising schools in each District in Hamilton County where students are learning enough to start to catch up, sustaining that learning over a full academic career remains a challenge that must be faced.  All Children deserve to learn.

Jonathan Welch

Some are and some are not.  However they reflect their communities in many cases.  The no child left behind act had helped diversify some schools but was repealed and we are seeing the effects in terms of diversity.

18. How do you plan on allocating resources to exceptional-education students?

Kathy Lennon

Student Based Budgeting will increase the equity and transparency for students with exceptional needs.  The School Board, the administration, central office and all community members must include exceptional education students in all conversations and they do not need to be left out of planning for the future of education in our community.  More training and education needs to be provided for staff and administrators to serve all children with special needs with current best practice guidelines.

Jonathan Welch

Through student based budgeting.

19. What are your thoughts on providing the necessary funding to schools with greater need to achieve success even if an unequal allocation is required?

Kathy Lennon

I am open to any and all options and discussions to fulfill the needs of every school in my district and elsewhere to provide an equitable education for all students.

Jonathan Welch

We have to hold schools harmless and work from there.  Even those schools that are achieving at a higher level have needs.

20. How do you propose to provide equal provision of service instead of stressing only equal opportunity?

Kathy Lennon

Each school in each District is inherently different.  It is demanded now that we take a close look at every family, every school, and every situation and assess accordingly.  Again, this is why I support Student Based Budgeting (SBB).

Jonathan Welch

The candidate did not provide a response.

21. How do you think we can improve upon attracting good, intelligent new teachers and how do you think we can ensure unqualified teachers are not kept in schools based on the number of years they have taught?

Kathy Lennon

We need to recruit and retain teachers from excellent universities.  Pay teachers what our neighboring states are paying them.  Hamilton County is the 4th largest district in the state, but teacher pay ranks 34th in the state.  Teacher Mentoring Programs and Teaching Advancement Programs.  All teachers should have access to all the resources, supplies and tools needed to be successful in the classroom.  Professional Development and training that pertains to their subject matter and grade level will help teachers serve students better and boost moral of the teachers. Promote the nobility of their profession.

The qualifications necessary to teach are determined by the State of Tennessee and HCDE.  Any other behaviors, activities and performance are based on the Project Coach (see question #7).

Jonathan Welch

Already there is a way to ensure unqualified teachers are not retained.  It is dependent on school leadership (principals) and their evaluations that must be fair.  The same thing will help attract great teachers, creating a working environment where success is celebrated and expected and supported.

22. Why are you invested in District 2 schools?

Kathy Lennon

I live in Red Bank.  I am passionate about education for all of our children.  I am an active member of my community.  My husband is a teacher at SMMHS and is a coach at Central High School and the disparities between the two schools is glaring.

Jonathan Welch

As a lifelong district 2 resident, I’ve been invested for as long as I can remember and seen how the schools become the center of the community.  As a parent of three kids in public schools in district 2 it becomes very personal for me.

23. Because teacher evaluations involve how well students do on standardized tests, many teachers have to “teach to the test.” How do you think we can improve this system so teachers are more focused on teaching the material rather than to the test?

Kathy Lennon

It is not an easy fix since federal funding is attached to standardized testing.  The burden of standardized testing overwhelms students yet the federal funds attached to the testing presents a dilemma to say the least.   Move towards Project-Based Learning Methods and increase engagement in the fine arts.

Jonathan Welch

By reducing the amount that the test counts toward their evaluation.

24. Many of the innovative ideas you are suggesting will require funding; however, when the superintendent requested a budget increase for innovation in 2015, he was denied. How will you work to actually make these things happen when they are expensive?

Kathy Lennon

The future of Hamilton County Schools has to be a shared vision.  That is going to take all of us working together.  We have to work together with the County Mayor and Commission to ensure the allocation of resources is available and distributed equitably.  Align the budget to fund our schools and establish a strategic financial plan to achieve long-term change.

Jonathan Welch

Some won’t.  Others need to be prioritized and focused on with the funding we have.  We need to take another look at programs in place and change those that can be improved on.

25. How do you plan to ensure there is diversity in our schools and what, if any, benefits do you see diversity in our schools brings to the education system?

Kathy Lennon

The more diverse the classroom – the stronger the community.

Jonathan Welch

The candidate did not provide a response.

26. Which issues that stem from poverty do you feel need to be addressed first?

Kathy Lennon

A student that arrives to school hungry and neglected is a student NOT ready to learn.

Jonathan Welch

School readiness and being ready to learn from day 1.

27. How do you plan on addressing the issues our schools in concentrated poverty face?

Kathy Lennon

With all due respect this is redundant.  See above.

Jonathan Welch

The candidate did not provide a response

28. What are your recommendations for increasing the number of students who qualify for gifted programs in high need schools?

Kathy Lennon

Equitable curriculum for all students in all schools is NON-NEGOTIABLE!

Jonathan Welch

Better identification and an increase in priority for those that receive special education services for their gifted IEP.