Letter to School Board Chairman Steve Highlander: Where’s the Plan for Superintendent Search?

The following letter was sent to Board of Education Chairman Steve Highlander (copying all members of the Board) on May 5, 2017.

To: Chairman Steve Highlander

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

Dear Chairman Highlander:

UnifiEd calls on the Hamilton County Board of Education for the immediate release of its plan for the school superintendent search and selection process. This call comes after the board’s move this week to trim the list of candidates with input through private email and a decision process based upon criteria that have not been made public.

In the absence of a public plan for the search and selection process, the community is left without a transparent view of the process. It also creates a lack of accountability on the board for its actions.

We call for the restoration of transparency in this process going forward. The community deserves to know how candidates are being evaluated, when decisions will be made, and how they can be involved in this important decision impacting the future of our public schools.

Four recommendations emerged from public meetings UnifiEd held in every district in Hamilton County in 2016 on the topic of the superintendent search. For more than a year, we have called for the following elements to be included in the board’s search and selection plan to ensure community involvement in this important decision:

  • Live streamed public interviews of potential candidates
  • Public access to finalist candidate resumes online
  • Open forums for community members
  • The creation of a community advisory council

At the October 2016 school board meeting, you committed to creating a plan to involve the community in the process and indicated that the search firm’s first task should be the creation of a plan for engaging the community. You also asked that the board’s policy committee draft a plan. To our knowledge, none of these recommendations was implemented.

Now is the time to release your plan for this process that includes a community involvement component. On behalf of our community, UnifiEd looks forward to seeing this position filled by the most qualified candidate after a thorough and transparent search that takes into account perspectives as diverse as our population.

Best regards,

Jonas Barriere
Executive Director, UnifiEd



Digging in to HCDE’s Proposed Budget Increase

Understanding the schools’ request

Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) presented a general operating budget for the 2017-18 school year to the Board of Education finance committee last Thursday that totaled $397 million, a $33.5 million increase over the current year’s budget.

“Download full details” sample document for each focus area

Let’s dig into how the requested additional funds would be spent if granted. The requests are organized by HCDE’s six areas of strategic focus.

Each section has a link to documents issued by HCDE with more details like:

  • Why these investments?
  • Details on each request
  • Expected outcomes
  • What if these needs are NOT funded?

Strong Foundations: Literacy and Math

Total requested increase: $1,600,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Added literacy support for priority and on-the-cusp schools ($900,000)
  • Expanding innovative and effective math instruction ($100,000)
  • Supporting schools with literacy materials ($500,000)
  • Kindergarten readiness support ($52,000)

See full details >

Engage Every Child. Every Day.

Total requested increase: $8,700,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • School technology upgrades and support ($7,600,000)
  • Robotics program continuation and expansion ($63,200)
  • Hands-on science and art pilots ($250,000)
  • Art and eLab teachers ($780,000)

See full details >

Future Ready: Prepare All Students for College & Career

Total requested increase: $1,900,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Core funding for the new Chattanooga Polytechnic Academy ($586,000)
  • Expanding post-graduation options for high school students, including work-based learning and technical credentials for high-demand jobs ($1,300,000)

See full details >

Closing the Opportunity Gap

Total requested increase: $4,000,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Support for our growing English Language Learner population ($677,000)
  • Strategic and differentiated support for priority and cusp schools ($1,500,000)
  • Additional support for student health services ($289,000)
  • Increased supports for students with special needs ($964,000)
  • Charter school enrollment increases ($474,000)
  • Replicate Graduate on Point program at additional schools ($150,000)

See full details >

Great Teachers, Great Leaders

Total requested increase: $14,500,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • Cost of living adjustment and step pay increase for all educators ($11,000,000)
  • Strengthening our pipeline to ensure a great leader in every school ($417,000)
  • Additional teaching positions for projected enrollment increases ($1,500,000)
  • Professional learning to support beginning teachers ($1,400,000)
  • Increase capacity to recruit and train top talent ($148,000)

See full details >

Building Our Values: Culture, Climate, and Communication

Total requested increase: $2,800,000

Additional funds request at a glance:

  • School-based telephone support for communication and safety ($500,000)
  • Increase in block grants to allow more site-based decisions ($1,000,000)
  • Increases in custodial and transportation services ($1,300,000)

See full details >

UnifiEd’s take

The requested increase in funds has been tied to expected student outcomes, a first for HCDE and a step UnifiEd has called for as part of the Pact for Public Education. We are very pleased at this big step toward the goal and hope HCDE administration will expand on this approach by tying the full budget to outcomes in the future.

The Pact also calls for a multi-year operating budget. Dr. Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent, told the Board at the April 13 finance committee meeting that he would be presenting a multi-year budget “soon.” We commend the commitment to this Pact goal and look forward to seeing it presented!

Still unaddressed is a long-term plan for building and expanding schools, as well as addressing the massive backlog of maintenance issues. UnifiEd calls for HCDE and the county to work together to create and fund a multi-year capital plan that creates efficiencies and opportunities for equitable access to quality education for every student in Hamilton County.

Take action!

Our school funding campaign hub gives you all the tools to take action in support of increased funding for our schools.

  • “Find your elected officials” feature: Select your neighborhood to see who your school board member, county commissioner, and county mayor are, plus their contact info.
  • Tools to contact your county officials: Download a letter to sign and mail, get a phone script for making a call, or get suggested text for an email.

Visit the campaign hub now >

Finally, turn out to support school funding! The school board will vote on HCDE’s proposed budget on Thursday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. Whether you support HCDE’s proposed budget specifically, or more funding for our schools in general, be there to show the school board that our community values investment in education!

UnifiEd will be there with pizzas and posters to help you share your voice – let’s fund Hamilton County’s future! Board meeting info >

School Board Watch Blog – April 20

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

  • Turn Out for More School Funding! Join UnifiEd at 5:00pm before the school board meeting to support our schools in making more funding for education a priority. We will have posters available! 
  • Board approval is recommended for the FY 2018 Budget presentation to the County Commission. The proposed budget is as follows:     
    • General Purpose School Fund totaling $396,747,961.00
    • Federal Projects Fund totaling $26,109,427.00
    • Food Service Fund totaling $20,954,014.00
    • Self-funded Projects Fund totaling $6,039,657.00

Recognitions and Presentations:

  • David Cowan, Director of Career and Technical Education, is recognizing East Hamilton High School’s Virtual Enterprises International Program for receiving first and second place at the Midwest Regional Trade Fair Business Plan Competition..
  • Lakesha Carson, the Principal of East Lake Academy, and Jill Levine will recognize Erin Glenn, eighth grade American History teacher, as the winner of the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies Middle School Teacher of the Year Award.
  • The music teachers of Hamilton County schools will recognize the students from various programs who have achieved the title of Tennessee All-State Musician.
  • Jill Levine will announce Shellie Gibson from Smith Elementary, Kristin Burrus from CSAS, and Jessica Hubbuch from Howard High School, as Teachers of the Year. Ms. Burrus has been chosen as the Southeast Regional Middle School Tennessee Teacher of the Year.
  • HCDE is recognizing two educators, Erin Glenn from East Lake Academy and Kay Goodgame from Signal Mountain Middle/High, who have have recently achieved National Board Certification (NBC).
  • The Principal at Brainerd High School will give an iZone update to the school board.  

Field Trips

  • Soddy Daisy High School, Brainerd High School, the Howard School, Red Bank Middle School, Sale Creek Middle High School, CSLA, CCA, CSAS Upper, and Signal Mountain Middle High will send students to participate in competitions or tournaments.
  • CCA, CSAS Lower, Hixson High School, Hixson Middle, the Howard School, and Normal Park will send students to attend camps.
  • CSAS Upper will send students to visit the capitol at Washington, D.C.
  • CSLA will host a lock in on campus that will serve as an auction fundraiser.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School and East Hamilton School will participate in music related field trips.
  • STEM School will travel to Boston to attend the 2017 MIT Eureka Fest.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School will send students to travel to Germany to complete a cultural comparison project with the German-American Partnership program.

Bids and Contracts:

  • Board approval is requested for contract extensions for several maintenance projects. The board had previously awarded contracts for these described goods and services and right was reserved to extend the contracts for an additional twelve-month period. Funding Source: Operating/Maintenance and Capital Projects Budgets:
    • Contracts to Service Fire Extinguishers & Kitchen Hood Suppression Systems, Asbestos Abatement for School System, Air monitoring Services for Asbestos Projects, Furnish Labor & Materials for Electrical Projects, Annual Elevator Inspection, Repair & Preventative Maintenance Program, Furnish & Install VCT & Rubber Base, Furnish Heating Fuel, Furnish & Install Aluminum Walkway Covers & Canopies, Relocate Portable Classrooms, and Routine Roof Repairs & Replacement
  • Recommended approval is sought for:
    • A Request for Proposal to provide a Drug & Alcohol Testing program.
    • Contracts to furnish library books and Processing & Card Catalog Kits.
    • Purchase of air cooled chiller for Battle Academy, Brown Middle, and Woodmore Elementary.
    • HVAC Control Upgrades for Spring Creek Elementary School totalling $201,000.00 to Electronic Controls, Inc. with funds provided by 2016/17 Capital Projects Fund.
    • Bid renewals for the School Nutrition Program 2017-18.
    • School Annual Publishers for 2017-18.
    • Purchase of new vehicles totalling $193,313.95 with the funding from Maintenance General Funds.
    • Contract with Zonar Systems, Inc. for 69 GPS Tracking Systems to be installed in owner operated buses totalling $22, 083.41 from the Transportation budget. This will provide data on the path, speed, and location of these buses.  
    • Purchase of 75 Motorola Radios and charging devices from Motorola Solutions, Inc. Current radio systems will be obsolete in 2018. This will total $181,137.03 from the Transportation budget.
    • Working on repairing and replacing music/band equipment with Giant Steps, a local vendor for musical equipment repairs and parts, for school year 2017-18.
    • Emergency and early approval for commodity processing for the Hamilton County School Nutrition program.  
    • Emergency and early approval to contract with School Bus Consultants, LLC to assess existing contracts to establish requirements for contract compliance and oversight, develop a contractor accountability plan for all operators, and ensure adequate staffing to oversee contracts. This will total $15,500.00 from the Transportation Budget.   
    • The purchase of motor fuel from JAT Oil Company totalling $13,529.60 from the Warehouse Inventory Fund.       

Business and Finance:

  • Approval sought for two HCDE employees from the Information Technology Department to attend the International Society for Technology in Education Conference to learn and exchange information in field of educational technology. This will not exceed $10,000.00 coming from the General Fund Budget.
  • Approval sought for a contract with Public Education Foundation and the Principal Leadership Academy for training, mentorship, and support for Assistant Principals interested in moving into a Principal role. This will total $100,000.00 from the General Fund Budget.
  • HCDE has accepted a donation for $5,000.00 from Commissioner Discretionary bog funds for the installment and purchase of acoustic blankets for CCA.
  • The board will be asked to approve the charging of basic school fees to students for the FY 2017-2018. These fees will vary from school to school and between grades.
  • The board will receive the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Hamilton County for the 2016 year as a matter of record for the minutes. This covers the financial statements for the Board of Education as well as the audit report which indicates the statements fairly presents the financial position of Hamilton County. This report is publically available on the Hamilton County website.
  • The board will receive the School Activity Fund Audit Report for Hamilton County Schools for the 2016 year as a matter of record for the minutes. The audit report indicates that the financial statements fairly present the financial position of the School Activity Funds in accordance with the accounting practices prescribed by the Tennessee Internal School Uniform Accounting Policy Manual. This report is publically available.   

Budget Amendments

  • The following budget amendments for Federal Grants and Self-Funded Programs for FY 2017 are recommended for approval:
    • Maintenance Recyclables Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $13,029
    • Character Education Self-Funded Program, with transfers between line item Supplies for Regular Instruction to Hardware/Software Licences totally $1.389.00.
  • Board approval is needed to amend the FY17 General Purpose Operating Budget for the attached transfers within the Transportation and Instructional School Supplies accounts.
  • Approval is recommended to appropriate the unassigned fund balance of $5,324,000 for funds roofing projects at Hunter Middle School, Lookout Valley Middle/High Vocational, Soddy Middle, Tyner High Vocational and Auditorium, and Wallace Smith Elementary, installation of HVAC Controls at Wolftever Elementary, and the completion of the district wide telephone installation and 50 intercom or paging systems at schools for additional school safety.  

Curriculum and Instruction:

  • The Textbook Adoption Committee selected high quality instructional resources for use in Hamilton County classrooms and are recommending the approval of a list of textbooks totalling $284,166.40.
  • Approval is sought to submit the secondary education special courses applications to the State Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year.

Campus Support:

  • Soddy Daisy High School and community would like to transfer the name of the Gymnasium at the old school to the current existing high school. The name was approved by the School Board previously. The name is in honor of Ernest “Big Boy” Eldridge, who was a major influence on hundreds of student athletes in the northern Hamilton County area.
  • Lee McDade will recommend a 2017-2018 tuition rate of $3,305 for out-of-county students (in-state of Tennessee) and $8,570 for out-of-state students. Tuition is based on the revenues that are not received since the student resides either out-of-county or out-of state. Out-of-county proposed tuition increased by $13 or 0.39% compared to last year, while the out-of-state proposed tuition increased by $258 or 3.10%. Additionally, it is recommended that out-of-county or state exceptional education students be evaluated for admission on a case-by-case basis.
  • A presentation will be given for HCDE’s 3rd Quarter Bullying Report for the 2016-17 school year. There were a total of 203 reported confirmed cases of bullying.   
  • Policies:


  • Board Policy 4.210 Credit Recovery-2nd and Final Reading: This policy states that the director of schools shall ensure that credit recovery facilitators receive training regarding course organization, online instruction management and related technology. Credit recovery teachers shall comply with all State Board of Education certification requirements. Students will be eligible for credit recovery if they get written consent from a parent/guardian or previously taken an initial, non‐credit recovery section of the proposed course and received a grade of at least 50%.
  • Board Policy 4.211 Work Based Learning Program-2nd and Final Reading: This policy states that students shall have access to a system of structured work-based learning (WBL) experiences that allow them to apply classroom theories to practical problems as well as explore career options.  The director of schools shall develop administrative procedures to govern the efficient administration of the WLB program. Such procedures shall include, among other things, a process for evaluation and assessment of the program to ensure that it is of high quality and meets the needs of students.
  • Board Policy 4.606 Graduation Requirements-2nd and Final Reading: Graduation requirements are being updated to say that before high school graduation, every student must achieve the specified units of credit, take the required end of course exams, have satisfactory records of attendance and conduct, take the ACT or SAT in the 11th grade, and successfully complete a United States civics test. In addition requirements for early or special education graduation are detailed in the new policy.
  • Board Policy 4.607 Graduation Activities-2nd and Final Reading: Policy has been updated to now say that participation in the graduation ceremony is optional and students who participate must not behave in a disruptive manner. Additionally.  ceremonies and all activities included shall not be religious in nature. The content of any students’ speeches shall not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position, or expression of the school, employees, or the board. Additionally principals shall ensure that students graduating with distinction, state honors, or voluntarily completed at least 10 hours of community service each semester are recognized at graduation.
  • Board Policy 5.117 Procedures for Granting Tenure-2nd and Final Reading: A revision is being made to procedure granting tenure. Now the superintendent will recommend persons eligible for tenure at a board meeting with enough time to give notice of non-renewal to each teacher or educator not granted tenure within five (5) business days following the last instructional day of the school year.
  • Board Policy 6.205 Student Assignments-2nd and Final Reading: Students, including those in kindergarten, shall attend the school to which they are assigned. Principals shall be responsible for assigning students to classrooms based on records. Additionally, principals shall separate an alleged victim of child sexual abuse from an alleged perpetrator if the abuse allegedly occurred while the child was under the supervision or care of the school.
  • Board Policy 6.415 Student Suicide Prevention-2nd and Final Reading: All school certified staff must attend a suicide identification and prevention education training. This policy corresponds with and supports other federal, state and local efforts to provide youth with prevention education, early identification and intervention, and access to all local resources to promote health and prevent personal harm or injury.
  • Board Policy 6.505 Students in Foster Care-2nd and Final Reading: The Hamilton County School System shall provide all students in foster care, to include those awaiting foster care placement, with a free and appropriate public education. This policy include provisions for placement, enrollment, and transportation of foster students to schools.

Administrative Matters:

    • Lee McDade and the Transportation Supervisor are requesting the approval of independent bus driver contracts, contracts from HCDE employees who are independent contractors, and the contract with Durham Bus Services for the 2017-18 school year. These contracts have been reviewed.
    • For the month of March, a total for $16,978.50 in legal fees was paid to the firms Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and Markel, von Kessler, & Cox.


  • Board Policy 6.503 Homeless Students-1st Reading: In order to be more comprehensive and comply with the Every Child Succeeds Act, the current policy on Homeless Students is being revised. These revisions include that homeless students will be automatically enrolled in school even if they are not able to produce records normally required for enrollment, placement in a school shall be determined based on student interest but also preference is given to a student’s school of origin (school they were enrolled in when last holding a residence), and schools shall keep records on homeless students.


  • Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly will present a suggested schedule of sessions for the remainder of 2017.  

Important Dates and Events

  • May 19th and 20th, 2017→ Graduation Ceremonies at the Tivoli and the Memorial Auditorium
  • May 8th-20th, 2017→ Graduation Ceremonies at McKenzie Arena
  • May 25th, 2017→ Half Day for Students
  • May 26th, 2017→ Last Day of School/Report Cards (Buses will not run)

School Board Watch Blog: February 2017

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the February 16th 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 5.1041 Americans with Disabilities-First Reading: Due to federal law, there will an adoption in board policy regarding the American Disabilities Act (ADA) so that all employees specifically understand the ADA requirements. It details how employees can request for ADA Assistance.
  • iZone and Strategic Plan Update: Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly will give an iZone update at the start of the school board meeting. Beginning last year, HCDE created a Strategic Plan draft for the 2017 year and Dr. Kelly will also give an update on its progress. This plan had a detailed focus on better supporting iZone schools.
  • Vote on the Title transfer of East Ridge High School Athletics Complex: An Interlocal Agreement has been made and entered into between the Hamilton County Board of Education and the City of East Ridge, Tennessee. HCDE agrees to transfer the title of the East Ridge High School Athletics Complex to the City of East Ridge for such time as the Board of Education operates East Ridge High School and East Ridge Middle School at their present locations.

Recognitions and Presentations:

  • The Principal of Orchard Knob and the iZone Director are requesting to honor the Orchard Knob Middle School Spelling Bee winners. In the District 4 Spelling Bee, student from OKMS placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and we are excited to honor their incredible work and achievement.
  • The Principal of Lookout Valley Middle High will give a recognition of a student who maintained perfect attendance for all 12 years of his schooling.

Field Trips

  • Hixson High School will send students to students to attend Future Business Leaders of America State competition.
  • Lakeside Academy will participate in a science field trip at the Nature’s Classroom in Mentone, Alabama.
  • Signal Mountain High School, Lookout Valley Middle High, East Hamilton School, East Ridge High School, and Sale Creek High will send students to participate in the Tennessee YMCA Youth in Government Capital Conference and Tri-Star Conference.
  • East Hamilton Middle High School and Ooltewah High School will participate in the Special Olympics Winter Games.
  • Central High School will send students to Hendersonville to compete in a tournament.
  • CSAS Upper will send students to present research at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.
  • East Hamilton School, Hixson High School, Ooltewah Middle School, and Signal Mountain Middle High will participate in sports related field trips
  • Hixson High School, Red Bank High School, and Sale Creek High School will send students enrolled in JROTC to participate in related field trips.
  • Sale Creek High School will participate in an Art related field trip.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School will participate in the Science Bowl 2017.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School will participate in arts and music related field trips.
  • Soddy Daisy High School will participate in the National Forensics Qualifier Tournament.
  • STEM School will send students to compete in a robotics competition.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School will participate in the Model United Nations Conference.


  • The Principal at Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts is requesting the purchase of 21 pianos for music classes and programming totalling $45,178.97 for cost of equipment and installation.
  • The Director of Exceptional Education is requesting that the board approve the amendment with Stellar Therapy, for the provision of speech and language services to Private and Home School students. This contract amendment is for the private school proportional services plan paid for from the IDEA, Part B Grant $ 291,341 and IDEA, Preschool Grant $7,804 not to exceed $299,145.00.
  • The Director of Exceptional Education is requesting that the board approve the amendment with Stellar Therapy for a staffing contract for the 2015-2016 SY. The amendment is needed to cover additional staffing needs to cover two leave of absences, and one full time unfilled SLP position that has been vacant all school year. The contract amendment is for an additional $76,000 for the 16-17 school year making the total contract not to exceed $2,065,972.00.
  • A request to the board is being made for the approval to utilize CARTA for transportation services and as an additional charter bus carrier for the remainder of school year 2016-17, and include the 2017-18 school year.
  • The Principal at Red Bank Elementary School is requesting the approval of the purchase of leveled reading books collections A through E with Pioneer Valley Press/Books for a total of $1,606.50 from their school based Federal Title I budget.
  • A request is being made for the contract purchase of Reading Plus for Hamilton County High Schools. This contract includes Reading Plus seat access for 18 district high schools and program access for 36 months. The total investment is $174,400. with an agreement between HCDE and McClellan Foundation both paying half the amount ($87,200), which will come out of their General Budget.

Business and Finance:

  • The Principal at Boyd-Buchanan High School is requesting the approval to attend the TAIS Global Education in the classroom and beyond to be held in Nashville TN totalling the amount of $701.25. Funding for this request will come from the school’s based Federal Title II budget.
  • Approval is being requested for up to 10 staff members from Signal Mountain Middle School to attend an upcoming International Baccalaureate workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. Because the school has implemented the Middle Years Program, teachers are required to receive continuous training in their subject area for certification. The Conference Attendance Request totals $18,314.20. This includes registration and travel expenses for the group. Funds are to be provided by the General Purpose Budget.
  • A+Educators will provide a Dive into Google Drive one day training workshop for all 25 teachers, 2 school administrators, and 3 paraprofessionals totalling $4,500.00.
  • Assistant Superintendent of Finance will present the monthly financial report comparing budget to actual through December, 2016.

Budget Amendments

The following budget amendments for Federal Grants and Self-Funded Programs for FY2017 are recommended for approval:

  • Title I, Improving Basic Programs, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $46,093
  • Title II, Teacher & Principal Training & Recruitment, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $7,268
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers at Year 3 for East Lake Academy, with transfers between line items
  • Volkswagen Teacher Training & Development Self-Funded Program, totaling $1,717
  • Gigabit Community Fund Self-Funded Program, totaling $10,000
  • Supplemental Salaries Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $27,798

Additionally, board approval is needed to amend the FY17 General Purpose Operating Budget for the transfers between accounts for staffing, human resources, and system-wide benefits.

Human Resources:

  • Approval sought for a one-year Sabbatical Leave request by current I-Zone Director, Sheryl Randolph. Approval would result in Ms. Randolph receiving 50% of her current  salary during this leave while working through her doctoral studies. Her position would need to be back-filled during this time.

Administrative and Business Matters

  • To combat issues with a dated phone system in HCDE, the board has approved the Metro Nashville Contract for internet services and voice services for ENA in April 2016. Education Network of America (ENA) provides a voice over IP (VoIP) solution for telephones and for paging. In the August 2016 board meeting, the HCDE board approved $2 million for these telecommunication improvements. Contract and funding is in place to cover this purchase and it is recommended to provide the ENA SmartVoice solution for the entire school district.
  • Lee McDade will provide the board with a transportation update.
  • For the month of January, HCDE paid $25,697.84 in legal fees to Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC.

Important Dates and Events

  • President’s Day-February 20, 2017 (non-paid Holiday for School Staff-12 month employees report-offices will be open)


School Board Recap: January 2017

Before the regularly scheduled school board meeting, the Finance Committee met to discuss different busing options available for Hamilton County in an effort to move forward with a new transportation plan. Christie Jordan, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, gave a presentation of the possible costs associated with moving to an in-house transportation system. According to Jordan’s estimates, if HCDE took over transportation in-house, it could save the district up to 1.9 million dollars a year in transportation costs; however, there would be initial start up costs of about 10 million dollars to purchase used buses for the school system. The other options discussed were to work with current independent bus owners and operators in the county or enter into a contract with another large service provider like Durham.  

The regular session began with recognitions for incredible gifted staff in Special Education. Karen Glenn then gave a report on bullying from the fall school semester. There were 122 confirmed cases of bullying and 122 safely plans provided. Glenn went on to describe some incredible anti-bullying initiatives now taking place including 311 middle school and 286 high school students engaged in school climate leadership trainings. A career and technology update was given to the board sharing student success stories from the partnership with Volkswagen, Mechatronics Academy and the upcoming program Polytechnic Academy.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly, gave an update on iZone schools and highlighted ways in which the school system plans to further support these schools as outlined in the district’s strategic plan. Dr. Kelly and Jill Levine discussed many programs that are currently underway to better support our most vulnerable populations including: earlier recruitment efforts for high needs schools, mentorship programs for new teachers, innovative literacy programs, increased numbers of guidance counselors and behavior specialists, engaging summer school options, and grants for teachers who want to integrate hands on science and art curriculum in the classroom. Dr. Kelly will continue to update the board on iZone strategies at their strategic planning session this weekend.

In the delegation portion of the meeting, Dan Liner asked the board to write a resolution, joining Knox County and Oak Ridge City schools, to publicly state opposition for vouchers, citing that they were a diversion of funding for public education, not adequately oversighted, and allowed for public tax dollars to support a private entity. Kirsten Johnson then spoke on behalf of Harrison Elementary and their need for a new building. She urged the board members to tour the school and prioritize a new building after students and staff became dizzy and ill while working in conditions with high carbon monoxide levels due to inadequate CO2 detectors. Last, Michael Walton spoke to the board, inviting them to a Greenspaces event, focused on reducing utility costs through sustainable energy.

The consent agenda was unanimously approved. Notably, the board approved an agenda item to extend the ABM custodial contract only by 11 months, which will give the board and ABM time to make needed changes and come back with a proposal including increased pay for their employees and adequate supplies necessary to effectively carry out their job. The County Commission Bond Donation of $500,000 to replace Central High School’s track has been postponed pending discussion on county wide facility needs. The agreement for the East Ridge athletic fields contract has also been postponed until discussions can occur between the city and state regarding grant funding. Finally, the board ended the meeting with a continued discussion about transportation and busing. They will call a special session on Saturday, January 21, at 12pm to discuss bus routes, issues concerning independent owners and operators, and take a vote on an RFP for a bus service.


School Board Recap: Dec. 15, 2016

Prior to the regularly scheduled school board session, the finance committee met to discuss the school budget. Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Purchasing, Christy Jordan, gave a presentation to the board describing in detail where the school system receives funding and how money is being spent across the county. The finance meeting ended with discussions about contract renewals with independently contracted bus drivers and our contract with Durham School Services. The board agreed to hold a work session on Dec. 28 at 3 PM to further discuss all contracted bussing services. 

The regularly scheduled board meeting began with statements from board members and the superintendent regarding Woodmore Elementary. Steve Highlander, Karitsa Jones, and Kirk Kelly all thanked the community for their continued support and praised Woodmore Principal Brenda Adamson-Cothran for her strength and leadership during this tragedy. A moment of silence was held for the 6 children who lost their lives in the bus crash and prayers were shared for all affected families. There will be a Christmas for Woodmore event on Dec. 17 from 12-4 PM which will include fun activities for the community and presents for over 100 students at Woodmore Elementary.

The Loftis Beta Club was recognized for receiving 1st place in the Power of Tower competition, making them state champions two years in a row. They are qualified to go to Disney World in June to compete nationally. The president of HCEA, Dan Liner, approached to board to discuss the importance of implementing the community schools model in Hamilton County and asked the board to add this to their discussion at their upcoming strategic planning work session in January. Kirsten Johnson, the Harrison Elementary PTA president, addressed the board about the dilapidating conditions at Harrison Elementary. She described hazardous conditions including sewage backup, faulty heating systems, chipping lead paint, and lack of space for classroom activities. District 4 board member, Tiffanie Robinson, agreed to host a work session to prioritize facility repairs, and student board member, D’Andre Anderson, applauded the teachers at Harrison Elementary for continuing to be exemplary educators despite their working conditions.

All items on the agenda were approved which included a vote on the selected calendar for SY 2017-18, the second and final reading of Board Policy 5.305, and the renaming of the PALS Center. Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly walked the school board through the updated TN Report Card available on tn.gov and discussed the iZone plan the school system has begun to implement in the 5 priority schools across Hamilton County. The iZone plan includes strategies such as: increased truancy officers, additional bussing options, a PATHS program to improve college and career readiness through literacy, ACT bootcamp, a WAY program for students who don’t fit into the regular school day, a new mentoring program for new teaches, community school expansion, principal coaches, and a new principals network.

The meeting closed with a discussion about municipalities wanting to breakaway from the Hamilton County school district. Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, Lee McDade, has met with one of the municipalities and has offered assistance in investigating the breakaway. Many board members voiced that they believe our system is stronger together and that we should all work to support an informed decision.

The next agenda session will be on January 12th at 5 PM. There will be a work session prior to the meeting at 4 PM to discuss the superintendent selection process with Coleman Lew and Associates.


School Board Watch Blog: November 17, 2016

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the November 17th 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 5.305 – Family and Medical Leave: Provisions are being added to the Family and Medical Leave policy that states an employee may submit any form of medical documentation to Human Resources to have leave authorized under FMLA. In addition, the School District is able to designate leave as FMLA under their discretion if they feel adequate medical documentation or information was provided to the District. This policy change provides an important area of clarification for the system regarding medical documentation.

Field Trips

  • CSAS Upper and Hixson High School will participate in band and orchestra related field trips.
  • Brainerd High School, Hixson High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School, Central High School, East Hamilton School, Red Bank High School, and Sale Creek Middle High  will participate in sports related field trips.
  • CSLA will participate in a travel related field trip.
  • Hixson High will participate in a college and leadership related field trip.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School, Lookout Valley Middle High School, and Sale Creek High will participate in Model UN or Youth in Government related field trips.
  • East Ridge High School, Ooltewah High School, and Sequoyah High School will participate in competitive Hot Rodding and JROTC related field trips.
  • Brown Middle School will participate in an American government related field trip.


  • Approval sought to purchase restroom panels for Washington Alternative School in the amount of $15,665 from Service Systems.
  • Approval sought for Brainerd High School to contract with Reading Plus for a total of $2,166 from their Title I budget.
  • Approval sought for Sequoyah High School to contract with Reading Plus for a total of $5,500 from their Title I budget.
  • Approval sought to amend contract with Stellar Therapy Services, LLC for nursing services reimbursement for HCDE. The reimbursement is for Medicaid eligible students through Stellar Therapy.

Conferences and Consultants:

  • Approval sought from the Principal at Orchard Knob Elementary for the consultant agreement with Jessica Kaminski for a total of $9,600.00 from the iZone Federal budget. The consultancy will work on professional development for teachers aimed at increasing student achievement in literacy.

Financial Report

  • Presentation of the monthly financial report comparing actual year-to-date expenditures to the original adopted budget and the year-to-date amended budget from up to September 2016.

Budget Amendments

The following budget amendments for Self-Funded Programs for FY2017 are recommended for School Board approval:

  • Therapy Services Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $300,000
  • Character Education Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $26,482
  • Photography Self-Funded Program, totaling $400,000
  • Ochs-Oakes Self-Funded Program, totaling $2,250

First Reading of Board Policy

  • Board Policy 5.305 – Family and Medical Leave: Provisions are being added to the Family and Medical Leave policy that states an employee may submit any form of medical documentation to Human Resources to have leave authorized under FMLA. In addition, the School District is able to designate leave as FMLA under their discretion if they feel adequate medical documentation or information was provided to the District. This policy change provides an important area of clarification for the system regarding medical documentation.

Administrative and Business Matters

  • Dr. Lee McDade will recommend the approval of the 2016-2017 Local Education Agency (LEA) Compliance Report. The TN Department of Education requires that local school boards certify that they are in compliance with TN and State Board of Education rules and regulations. The compliance report was reviewed by HCDE staff.
  • Justin Witt will address the school board to recommend approval of a request by Crown Castle to extend our current lease agreements for cell towers at Orchard Knob Middle School, CCA, and Central High School. The current agreement regarding cell towers will expire in 2023 and the base rental fee is $1,064.00. After discussing different options HCDE mutually agreed to extend the lease to 2043 with a new base rental fee of $1,500.00. The new rate will increase by 2% annually.

Important Dates and Events

  • December 8th, 2016: Board Agenda Work Session at 5:00pm in the Board Room
  • December 15th, 2016: Quarterly Session Board Meeting at 5:00pm in the Board Room
  • December 16th, 2016: Last day of Classes
  • December 19th-30th 2016: Winter Break

School Board Recap: August 18, 2016

The meeting began with Dan Liner from the Hamilton County Educators Association responding to the Times Free Press article released on Sunday about the number of effective teachers in the county. He urged the community to celebrate that the majority of Hamilton County teachers (71.71%) are effective in the classroom rather than focusing solely on the teachers who did not receive an effective score (29%).

Jim Watson approached the board about a program called “Paws to Read” which will allow elementary aged children to read to the animals at  McKamey Animal Center to improve literacy outcomes. He plans to send a detailed report to the board outlining the cost and intended effectiveness of the program.

Linda Sullivan, a past educator at The Howard School, approached the board about issues concerning English Language Learners at Howard as well as the fact that the racial representation of teachers at Howard does not reflect their student body. She called for the school board to increase the number of black teachers so students have teachers they can relate to in the classroom.

All of the items from the consent agenda were approved by the board. The board discussed in detail why they were hiring a new Communications Coordinator who will coordinate meetings with the media and hopefully improve communication between the school system and the community. Thurman, Martin, and Highlander all voted against budgeting for the position. Ultimately, the board voted to approve the new position.

The board also voted to approve a new policy regarding the selection of a chairman/vice chairman. The new policy will allow for longest serving member of the board to be the acting chairman in the absence of the chairman and vice chairman. Rhonda Thurman will be the temporary chairman until the board officially votes on the new chair and vice chair of the board during the specially called session on September 13th. The board will also interview the three superintendent search firms during this meeting.

To conclude the meeting, George Ricks proposed a resolution to request funding from the County Commission and partners to build a new stadium and track for The Howard School. The board voted to approve the resolution with only Thurman voting against.

School Board Recap: July 2016

The school board meeting began with Dan Liner, president of the HCEA teachers union, announcing his excitement “about this meeting more than any other board meeting” because the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was finally going to a vote. The MOU was created by a committee of 13 individuals who represent the best interest of management, employees, students, and teachers.

The MOU was later ratified with an almost unanimous approval, with the exception of Dr. Greg Martin. Dr. Martin expressed concern over Insurance Section 9 which pays 60% of health insurance for 55 year old retirees who have worked for ten years at HCDE and 100% of the health insurance for teachers that have spent 30 years in the system. Dr. Martin stated “I just have a real problem with that aspect, because any other company, such as Volkswagen, would not give you insurance after only working for ten years.”

Highlights of the MOU include teacher’s individualized planning time, stipends (pending available funding) to teachers attending professional development, a 2% increase in teachers salary, a $250 teacher bonus around Thanksgiving, and a new Fringe Benefits section that gives teachers $20 per unused sick day to attract and retain teachers upon retirement if they announce their intention to retire by February 1 of the school year.

The Ooltewah girls soccer team then pleaded the board to find the funds for a girls soccer field. Ten years ago parents threatened a Title 9 lawsuit for not providing the girls team with a soccer field, whilst all the boys teams had one. The girls team now practices in the baseball field, and one community member voiced he felt that the team was “slowly becoming the black sheep of the community.” The soccer team is now being forced to reschedule three of their home games because of the painting schedule of the field they play on. The Lady Owls closed their request stating “we are only asking for equal opportunity.”  

The board went on to unanimously approve the minutes of the Special Called Session on April 14th, 2016 and on the Consent Agenda.

The July 21st session closed with the board voting on three superintendent search firms to interview within the next two weeks. The search firm finalists are Coleman Lew and Associates (6 votes), McPherson Jacobson L.L.C. (6 votes), and TSBA (4 votes).

School Board Watch Blog: July 2016

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the July 21st 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:

  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between HCDE and HCEA is set to be approved. The MOU outlines an agreement on educator’s working conditions, salary, payroll deductions, sick leave, insurance, grievances, fringe benefits, and overall basic provisions. Highlights include a choice of three different health insurance plans educators can choose from to fit the needs of themselves and their families. To view the MOU in its entirety click here.
  • The School Board will narrow down search firms for the hiring of the new superintendent. To view all Superintendent Search firm proposals click here.

Overnight Field Trips for the 2016-2017 School Year:

  • Brainerd High School will send four students enrolled in JROTC to attend VenturingFest.
  • Ooltewah High School, Signal Mountain Middle/High School, and East Hamilton will send students on sports related field trips.
  • Sale Creek Middle/High School 7th and 8th graders will travel to Washington DC to learn about our nation’s government.
  • Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts students enrolled in musical theatre will travel to New York, New York to attend master classes with Broadway professionals.


  • Approval sought from HCDE to utilize the services of the attached list of architectural/engineering and design firms on an “as-needed basis” for HCDE projects. These are considered “Professional Services” and as such are not required to be bid or quoted. This list is presented annually to the Board for approval, with updates as necessary.
  • Recommended Award of Bid to Knight Electric’s bid to furnish and install softball field lighting at Central High School totalling $80,835.00 (funding source: Sale of the former Summit Child Development Center).
  • Recommended Award of Bid to Birmingham Restaurant Supply Inc.’s to supply a Walk In Cooler/Freezer at Dupont Elementary and a Walk In cooler at Soddy Daisy Middle totalling $45,159.00 (funding source: School Nutrition Budget).
  • Recommended Award of Bid to Mac Papers Inc. to supply paper supplies at the Print Department totalling $13,458 (funding source: Operating Budget).


  • Approval requested for a contract with Orange Grove Center, Inc. for Facility Based Work services at the Orange Grove Center and the adjoining recycling center for students believed to benefit from this experience. Funds will be disbursed in ten equal installments and will not exceed $30,000 for up to 10 students (funding source: Exceptional Education General Purpose Funds).
  • Approval requested for an agreement with Stellar Therapy for the provision of speech and language services to Private and Homeschool Students. Funds will not exceed $298,836 (funding source: IDEA Part B Grant and IDEA Preschool Grant).
  • Approval requested to fund two additional School Resource Officers and Orchard Knob and Hixson Middle Schools totalling $118,057.90 (funding source: pending).
  • Approval requested to purchase a contract for MyPath Math and Reading Site for Existing Edgenuity Site to support online learning programs in Hamilton County Schools totalling $40,000 (funding source: $40,000).
  • Approval requested for payment of International Baccalaureate Annual Fees at Ooltewah High School, Signal Mountain High School, and Signal Mountain Middle School totalling $31,560.00 (funding source: General Purpose Budget).
  • Approval sought to fund Intensified Algebra for Howard High School and East Ridge High School for English Language Learners totalling $32,455.00 (funding source: Immigrant Grant and Title III Grant).
  • Approval sought for the renewal of a contract with Book Systems Inc. to manage the library’s web-based automation system totalling $31,795 (funding source: self-funded program).
  • Approval sought for a two-year contract with Naviance eDocs to submit electronic documents to over 2,000 colleges and universities totalling $32,424.00 (funding source: General Purpose Budget).

Conferences and Consultants:

  • Approval sought for eight HCDE employees from the Information Technology, Human Resources, and Finance Departments to attend the Sun Guard National User Group (SNUG) conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Funds will not exceed $10,000.00 (funding source: General Fund).
  • Approval sought to renew the Medical Consultant Contract. Funds will not exceed $10,000 (funding source: School Health Program General Fund).
  • Approval sought to contract with NCS Pearson, Inc. to facilitate a 3-day Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) Institute at the Howard School. The Institute will help educators learn the SIOP Model to teach both content knowledge and academic language skills for English Language Learners totalling $15,000.00 (funding source: Title III Federal Budget).

Monthly Financial Report:

  • Attached is the monthly financial report comparing budget to actual through May 31, 2016.  

Budget Amendments to Federal Grants for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year

  • Title III Immigrant Grant: HCDE was awarded The English Language Acquisition Discretionary Grant totalling $12,067.00.
  • IDEA Discretionary Supplemental: HCDE was awarded funds for staff development and other supplies for special education totalling $19,854.
  • IDEA Discretionary: Soddy Daisy and Hixson High Schools were awarded the Transition Program for Work Based Learning totalling $80,000.
  • Carl Perkins Vocational Grant: HCDE was awarded funding for vocational instruction, student support, and staff support totalling $60,780.

Budget Amendments to Self-Funded Programs for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year

  • Literacy Institute Self-Funded Program: HCDE was awarded funding for the Literacy Institute totalling $4,208.
  • Career and Technical Surplus Self-Funded Program: HCDE was awarded funding for Career and Technical programs totalling $5,255.

Administrative and Business Matters:

  • Volunteer Electric Cooperative Load Reduction Pilot

VEC (Volunteer Electric Cooperative) has asked HCDE to participate in their “Load Reduction Pilot Agreement” at Ooltewah and Snow Hill Elementary Schools. The purpose of the agreement is to commit to energy use reductions in order to receive credits on HCDE’s electrical bill. If HCDE cannot comply, the agreement will be terminated without penalty.

  • Thrasher Athletic Field

The Town of Signal Mountain has requested the use of the athletic field behind Thrasher Elementary to help with the overcrowding of their youth programs. While using the fields, the Town will assume all responsibility for grounds maintenance and mowing. The Town will provide the necessary insurance required and any school events that require use of the field will take priority.