May School Board Watch Blog 2018

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the May 24th, 2018 regularly scheduled session of the Hamilton County School Board Meeting. The meeting will be held in the Hamilton County School Board Meeting Room at 3074 Hickory Valley Road and is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed by HCDE through their Facebook page and the recording will be posted here on the UnifiEd blog afterwards.

View the full agenda and supporting documents >

Hot Topics

  • Superintendent Dr. Johnson will recognize the outgoing Student Representative, Tyrese Jones, of UnifiEd’s Student Voice Team. Mr. Jones will introduce the newly elected Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council Chairperson (SSAC) for the 2018-2019 school year. Elected by their peers, the SSAC Chairperson serves as the Student Representative to the Hamilton County Board of Education.
  • Approval is sought for the renewal of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for the 2018-19 SY to continue serving the same 39 schools as this current school year. The program anticipates continuing to provide breakfast and lunch meals at no cost to approximately 22,531 students at the 39 eligible schools across the District. This represents 49.75% of the total enrollment of students.
  • Board approval is sought for the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between HCDE and HCEA agreed upon by both sides in the Collaborative Conferencing session for the 2018-19 SY. As of result of collaborative conferencing, there as been an increase in the professional development compensation from $15 to $20 per hour, an applied 2.5% raise to the base generator of the salary scale, and a one-time $250 bonus. The 2.5% raise and $250 bonus were previously approved in the balanced budget.
  • Board Policy 3.501 Wellness Policy- Second and Final Reading: The 2010 Healthy Hungry-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. Current policy is being revised to include the promotion of healthy food choices and nutrition throughout the school and cafeterias, the marketing of healthy foods, and the encouraging of healthy snack options given to students during classroom celebration, parties, and student birthdays.

Recognitions, Presentations, and Delegations

  • Board member Kathy Lennon will present the the plaque recently awarded to HCDE by Tobacco Free Chattanooga through the Hamilton County Health Department.
  • An update of the New Teacher Academy will be presented to the board.
  • Jean Saunders of the American Heart Association will present Allen Elementary, Red Bank Elementary, and Westview Elementary Principals and Physical Education teachers  with plaques for the top schools for Jump Rope for Heart.
  • Spring Creek Elementary will be recognized for their fifth grade students collecting data  for GLOBE (Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment) since August 2017. NASA and NSF sponsors the GLOBE Program and it is supported by NOAA and US Department of State. GLOBE scientist, Dr. Tony Murphey, used the data collected from the fifth grade students for air and surface temperatures research. Spring Creek Elementary students were invited to participate in the Southeastern Regional Student Symposium. Spring Creek was the only elementary school invited. This distinction was given due to their consistent and accurate research findings.
  • Director of JROTC will present and recognize the student achievement and honors of JROTC Cadets who have garnered significant scholarships and/or national or state awards.

Field Trips

  • Central High School, East Ridge High School, Sale Creek Middle High School, Soddy Daisy High School, and Brainerd High School will participate in JROTC related field trip.
  • East Hamilton School will send students to participate in arts, music, and theatre related field trips.
  • Hixson High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School, Soddy Daisy High School, and Brainerd High School will participate in sports related field trips.
  • Hunter Middle School will send students to Washington, D.C. to study American history.
  • Loftis Middle School and Orchard Knob Elementary will send members of the Beta Club to attend the National Beta Convention and the National Junior Beta Club Convention.
  • Red Bank High School quiz bowl members will attend the National Academic Quiz Bowl Championships.
  • Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts will send members of the Destination Imagination team to attend the Destination Imagination Global Finals.
  • Hixson High School will send students to attend Camp Clements.
  • CSAS Upper and Signal Mountain Middle High School will send students to compete in the TSA National Conference.


Board approval is sought for:

  • The contract extension to furnish HP Print Cartridges effective from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020 with funding to be provided by the Operating and Schools Budget.
  • The contract extension for laminating film and maintenance on machines effective from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 with funding to be provided by the Operating and Schools Budget.
  • The contract to service fire extinguishers and kitchen hood suppressions systems with funds to be provided by the Maintenance and Operating Budget.
  • The contract for asbestos abatement for the school system with funds to be provided by the Maintenance and Operating Budget and Capital Funds.
  • The contract for grease trap and interceptor pumping and cleaning with funds to be provided by the School Nutrition Budget.
  • The yearly bid contracts for School Year 2018-2019 including: instructional, library, and office materials and supplies, P.E. and athletic equipment and supplies, science equipment materials and supplies, chartered coach carrier service for student field trips, instructional computer software, German reading and teaching materials, and medical and first aid equipment and supplies. All funds for these contracts will come from the Operating and School Budgets.
  • The contract extension for solid waste collection, removal, and disposal effective from July 1. 2018 to June 30, 2019 totalling $393,944.80 with funds to be provided by the Operating Budget.
  • The renewal of the annual contract for asbestos in compliance with AHERA for environmental consulting services with Helton totalling $89,292.00.
  • The contract extension for routine roof repairs and replacement effective July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 with funds to be provided by the Operating and Maintenance and Capital Projects Budgets.
  • The contract with Chattanooga State for the Graduation Diploma Completion Program not to exceed $183,000.00.
  • The purchase of motor fuel totalling $18,000.00 with funds coming from the Warehouse Inventory Fund.
  • The purchase of Pre-K curriculum from Teaching Strategies, LLC totaling $131,174.96. Currently our Pre-K teachers are using a curriculum that is over 10 years old that no longer aligns with the state’s Early Learning Standards. A team of teachers, administrators, directors, and community members found the proposed curriculum provides a comprehensive curricula to meet the needs of students while being the state’s number one Pre-Kindergarten curriculum on the state’s recently released approved curriculum list. It has also been purchased by the City of Chattanooga to use in their Pre-K programs in order to align Pre-K learning across the district.

Conferences and Consultants

Board approval is sought for:

  • The use of two consultants with funds to be provided by the Federal Partnership Model Grant and the Partnership Agreement with the State.

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
  • Title II, Teacher & Principal Training & Recruitment, with transfers between line items
  • Safe Schools, with transfers between line items
  • Title III, English Language Acquisition, with transfers between line items
  • Title IV Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment, with transfers between line items
  • Priority Schools State Grant, totaling $670,384.00
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers (Year 1, Year 4, and Year 5), with transfers between line items
  • Read To Be Ready Coaching, with an increase of $200.00
  • Read To Be Ready Summer, with transfers between line items
  • Carl Perkins Vocational, with transfers between line items
  • Bible History Teachers Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $3,830.00
  • Nursing Services Self-Funded Program, with transfers between line items
  • Maintenance Recyclables Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $933.00
  • HR Planning Projects Self-Funded Program, totaling $65,000.00
  • CampK Self-Funded Program, totaling $187,600.00
  • FRI Externship Self-Funded Program, totaling $100,000.00
  • HCEA Representative Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $1,095.00
  • Future Ready Institutes Self-Funded Program, totaling $6,400.00
  • Photography Commission Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $16,842.00
  • Hamilton County Virtual School Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $7,500.00
  • School Paid Positions Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $275,863.00
  • Supplemental Salaries Self-Funded Program, with a net decrease of $37,481.00
  • PEF Projects Self-Funded Program, totaling $1,000.00

Additional approval is sought for:

  • The amending of the FY2018 General Purpose Operating Budget to appropriate the additional State and Local Revenue received. There is a total revenue increase of $6,733,734.00 allocated for contracts, supplies and materials, salaries and benefits, and so forth.
  • The proceeds from the sale of East Brainerd Elementary School to be appropriated to the Capital Maintenance Fund to be used primarily for renovations related to the safety and security of school buildings. Proceeds from the sale totaled $4,227,793.07.
  • The grant application from UTC for the National Science Foundation Grant for Gig City: Creating an Inclusive 21st Century Gig-Enabled Teaching and Learning Community for a total of $281,003.00.

Opportunity Zone

  • Board approval is sought for a grant to design a learning model for the new Howard Middle School. The District believes that the new Howard Middle School can be an innovative educational model showcasing forward-thinking instructional design, strong leadership and active student engagement which may introduce socioeconomic diversity to the feeder pattern. HCDE has been advised that in order to maximize design planning, an administrator should be hired a year before the school opens to work in partnership with 2Rev in the development of the instructional plan, recruit students and faculty, consult on building renovations, and build a strong curriculum. Benwood would like to support the work by providing up to $242,000.00 to the District which will cover the design assistance through the first two phases, learning trips for the local design team, and hiring the educational leader early.  
  • Approval is sought for the hiring of nine Full Time Employees (FTEs). One will be an Associate Principal at Howard Middle one year in advance of the school’s opening in August of 2019 to help with planning and design. A Math Curriculum Facilitator will be for Brainerd High School, Dalewood Middle School, and Orchard Knob Middle School. Two Community Schools Specialists will be for Brainerd High School and Woodmore Elementary School (one for each). Two Behavior Specialists will be for Orchard Knob Middle School and Woodmore Elementary (one for each). Brainerd High School will have the remaining two positions, one for a Night School Educational Assistant and one for a Night School Teacher.

Administrative and Board Matters

Board approval is sought for:

  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and HCDE regarding the employment of off-duty Sheriff’s Deputies as independent contractors to provide security and other related support for HCDE at board meetings, hearings, and any other meeting where the public is invited.
  • The agreement between HCDE and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office for additional School Resources Officers (SROs) effective July 1st, 2018 through June 30, 2020. This agreement would provide two SROs, one for Orchard Knob Middle School and one for Hixson Middle School.
  • The adaptation of the 2019-2020 proposed school calendar that takes into consideration community feedback in the form of 8,600 surveys. Community feedback showed majority support for maintaining a week long fall break, a short week for Thanksgiving, and a spring break that is attached to the Good Friday and/or Easter holiday.

Legal Services

A total of $18,125.50 in legal fees was paid in the month of April to Benett & DeCamp, PLLC.



2018-2019 HCDE Budget: What You Need to Know

Dr. Johnson recently presented the operating budget for the Hamilton County Department of Education for 2018-2019.

Last year we called for the school board to focus on transparency in the new budget, in addition to finding efficiencies in spending. We are happy to see that the budget started $1 million less than the previous year, and are happy to see an overall increase in efficiency and transparency in this years budget.

Another thing we called for was a multi-year budget. While a full multi-year budget still remains to be seen, the board did include 3 year projections for the budget, which is the first time that they’ve done that. Overall, we feel the board is moving in the right direction with the budget!

Here are some resources to help you get more acquainted with the budget:

Digital Copy of the Budget

Dr. Johnson’s Budget Presentation

Budget Explainer Video from HCDE

The Story of the APEX Project

We wanted to take the opportunity to share a more in-depth look at the history of the APEX Project and the methods we employed to gain understanding from our community. The following video does a nice job of coalescing the first 6 months of the community input process that gathered the experiences of diverse community members from all over Hamilton County.

Learn more about the process that drove the priorities identified in the APEX Project Report!

The Pocket Guide that Alexa mentioned

The APEX Project Report

See where your 2018 school board candidates stand on education issues in Hamilton County!


At the heart of our community organizing work at UnifiEd is the mission to empower Hamilton County community members to use their voice to drive change. In this election year, our goal is to provide the information and channels you need to cast an informed vote for the school board candidate who shares your values and vision for excellence in our schools. We invited candidates to share their vision with voters in two ways:

Click on a name to view that candidate’s responses.


District 3 Candidates

Miracle Hurley

Joe Smith

District 5 Candidates

Karitsa Mosley Jones

Challenger Ann Pierre has not responded to the questionnaire.

District 6 Candidates

Michael Henry

Jenny Hill

District 8 Candidates

Tucker McClendon

Incumbent David Testerman has not responded to the questionnaire.

District 9 Candidates

D’Andre Anderson

Dr. Steve Highlander


Don’t know your district?

Find your district and elected officials

School Board Recording: April 19, 2018

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

The APEX Project Report Has Been Published!

The UnifiEd team is excited to announce the completion and publication of the APEX Project report. This report details the work that has been accomplished thus far and what to expect from the The Equity Collective, the implementation phase of the APEX Project, moving forward.

A printed version of the report will be available soon, but you can download the digital version now.

Download the APEX Project Report Now

We are eager to continue this important work with the community in order to affect positive change in Hamilton County.

School officials must put meat on bones of capital plan


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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.