“Dismantling segregation” talk with Nikole Hannah-Jones

We are honored to host nationally-renowned journalist and expert on housing and school segregation Nikole Hannah-Jones on March 22! She’ll be speaking on the role of and importance of desegregating our schools to achieve equity and will share her research on the relationship between housing segregation, school segregation, and the role of individual choice. 

We welcome you to join us in creating a safe space for authentic conversation about the role race and class play in maintaining a separate and unequal school system.

Topics discussed will include:

  • History and relationship between housing and educational segregation

  • Role of individual choice and white flight in fostering inequities

  • Why the conversation around race is essential when speaking about addressing educational inequities

  • Importance of adopting policies that encourage racial and socioeconomic integration in public schools

Following her talk, we will break into small groups to strategize how desegregating schools would impact equity for the Hamilton County community. 

Food will be provided.

This is a free ticketed event. Seating is limited so you must reserve a free ticket in advance. If you wish to help cover the cost of your attendance, a suggested donation of $10/person is greatly appreciated.


Reserve your free ticket now >


Visit Nikole Hannah-Jones’ website >


Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City” (New York Times Magazine)

Segregated by Choice” video

Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?” (New York Times Magazine)

Schools are Segregated Because White People Want Them That Way” (Vox)

“The Problem We All Live With” (NPR This American Life podcast) – Part 1 and Part 2

School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson” (ProPublica)

Segregation Now – The Resegregation of American Schools” (ProPublica)

The Resegregation of American Schools” (The Atlantic Education Summit – video)

How School Segregation Divides Ferguson — And the United States” (New York Times Magazine)

Reflecting on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act” (CBS News – video starting @ 3:40)

What’s causing the racial segregation in schools?” (MSNBC – video starting @ 3:30)

Choosing a School When Race Matters” (Video)

Gentrification Doesn’t Fix Inner-City Schools” (Grist)

Are Private Schools Immoral?” (The Atlantic)

Nikole Hannah-Jones was named a 2017 MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow (one of only 24 people chosen, globally) for “reshaping national conversations around education reform” and for her reporting on racial re-segregation in our schools. This is the latest honor in a growing list: she’s won a Peabody, a Polk, and, in 2017, a National Magazine Award for her story on choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated city.

Nikole Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created—and maintains—racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity. She has written extensively on the history of racism, school resegregation, and the disarray of hundreds of desegregation orders, as well as the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. She is currently writing a book on school segregation called The Problem We All Live With, to be published on the One World imprint of Penguin/Random House. 

Her piece “Worlds Apart” in The New York Times Magazine won the 2017 National Magazine Award for “journalism that illuminates issues of national importance” as well as the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. In 2016, she was awarded a Peabody Award and George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story, “The Problem We All Live With.” She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was also named to The Root 100. Her reporting has also won Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership, and was a previous finalist for the National Magazine Award. 

Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her BA in History and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal healthcare on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report, 2007. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublicaThe Atlantic MagazineHuffington PostEssence MagazineThe Week MagazineGristPolitico Magazine, and on Face the NationThis American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now, and radio stations across the country.  

February 2018 School Board Watch Blog

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the February 15th, 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 PM. We will live tweet @UnifiEdHC, follow along at #HCSchools.


To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click here.


Hot Topics:

    • Ezra Harris, President of the Woodmore Neighborhood Association and a member of the The Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition, will present the Coalition’s findings based on their research regarding bus transportation issues in Hamilton County. The Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition is a group of concerned citizens, community leaders and organizations that came together after the tragic school bus accident in late 2016. While some actions have been taken since the accident to make children safer on school buses, the Coalition believes there is more that needs to be done.
    • Superintendent Johnson will present the Partnership Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the State Department of Education. This MOA establishes a new school improvement model—a Partnership Model—intended to improve academic outcomes through evidence-based strategies and allocation of additional resources to low performing schools. Through this Agreement, HCDE and TDOE shall build a plan to ensure success for every student enrolled in schools within the Network, such that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark upon their chosen path in life.


  • Board Policy 5.604 Overtime Pay of Classified Personnel- First Reading: Current policy regarding overtime pay for classified personnel needs to be revised to document current practices and ensure equity and compliance with call-in pay. Language has been added to reflect overtime provisions for maintenance employees including overtime calculations for call-in pay.  



Recognitions, Presentations, and Delegations:

  • There will be a presentation given to the Board on the status of the County Working Group.
  • Dr. Justin Robertson will give a presentation on teaching and learning reorganization.
  • Dr. Nakia Towns Edwards, Chief of Staff, will present Calendar Draft options to the Board to vote on the development of a new calendar for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. The two new calendar drafts were crafted by the Calendar Committee, a community feedback group consisting of parents, community members, and staff. A third calendar draft will be crafted based on additional survey and board member feedback and presented at a later board meeting.
  • Karen Glenn will address any questions regarding HCDE’s 1st Semester Bullying Compliance Report for the 2017-2018 school year. There were 106 total number of reported confirmed cases of bullying and harassment. Staff, students, and community/parent trainings and programs regarding bullying and harassment continue.


Field Trips:

  • Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts and East Ridge High School will send members of their youth in government to the Youth in Government Conference in Nashville, TN.
  • Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Upper will send members of their science
    fair to compete in the Tennessee Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.
  • East Hamilton School, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Upper, Lookout Valley Middle High School, Ooltewah High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School, and Lookout Mountain Elementary will participate in music related field trips
  • Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts and STEM School Chattanooga will send members of their robotics teams to compete in Robotics tournaments.
  • Members of the Signal Mountain Middle High School science teams will compete in the High School and Middle School Science Bowls.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School will participate in a theater related field trip.
  • Members of the Soddy Daisy High School forensics team will compete in the forensics tournament.
  • Soddy Daisy High School JROTC students will visit historical locations on the Cumberland Trail.
  • Central High School, Lookout Valley Middle High School, Signal Mountain Middle High School, Soddy Daisy High School, and East Hamilton School will participate in sports related field trips.
  • Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts will send students to North Carolina to study American history.
  • Signal Mountain Middle High School Model UN students will attend the University of Alabama Model UN Conference.
  • Calvin Donaldson Elementary will send students to Rock Eagle Environmental Center to participate in environmental education.
  • Hixson High School will send students to attend the Future Farmers of America State Convention, Future Business Leaders of America Competition, and the Health Occupational Science Association State Conference.



Board approval is sought for:

  • The re-roofing and repairs of the Tyner High School Auditorium totalling $286,928.00 with funding from the 2016-17 Capital Fund.
  • The furnishing and installation of utility serving counters at DuPont Elementary School totalling $65,621.00 with funds to be provided by the School Nutrition Budget.
  • The purchase of McRel Balanced Leadership workbooks for Assistant Principals to participate in the Balanced Leadership Program. Materials will total $12,000.00 with funds to be provided by the Federal Title II Part A funds.
  • The purchase of motor fuel totalling $16,256.00 with funds provided by the Warehouse Inventory Fund.


Budget Amendments:

  • The following budget amendments for Federal Grants and Self-Funded Programs for FY2018 are recommended for board approval:
    • Title I, Improving Basic Programs, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $129,110.00.
    • Title II, Teacher & Principal Training & Recruitment, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $10,432.00.
    • Homeless Education, with transfers between line items.
    • Title I A, Local Neglected, with transfers between line items and a net decrease of $9,517.00.
    • Title I Delinquent, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $766.00.
    • Title IV Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment, with transfers between line items.
    • IDEA Preschool, with transfers between line items and a net increase of $7,411.00.
    • TN Disability Coalition Self-Funded, totaling $10,000.00.
    • Supplemental Salaries Self-Funded Program, with a net increase of $43,828.00.
  • Additional Approval is sought for:
    • The amending of the FY 2017-2018 budget for the Pre-K State Grant Award. The amendment reclassifies existing budget appropriations between various accounts, and increases the budget for $6.00 additional awarded by the State.
    • The appropriation of the unassigned fund balance of $850,000.00. These funds will be used to negotiate for the purchase of property adjacent to Sale Creek Middle High School to allow for the school campus to grow with additional facility expansions.


Curriculum and Instruction:

  • Board approval is sought for the ratification of early approval to add General Music/Vocal Music to the list of textbook committees approved at the December Board Meeting since this committee was originally overlooked.
  • The Textbook Adoption Committee is requesting the addition of 2 parents to the committee.


Human Resources:

  • The Chief Talent Officer is requesting the addition of one supervisory position for the Exceptional Education department effective March 1, 2018. No additional funding is needed. The purpose of the position will be to supervise ten Elementary Schools and focus on grant writing to be able to fund additional paraprofessional positions, instructional resources, and transportation.


Administrative, Business, and Board Matters:

  • The Union Fork-Bakewell Utility District have requested an easement from the existing water treatment plant that would run from the plant along the stream to Back Valley Road. In addition to providing additional water supply for the community it will also improve fire protection to North Hamilton County Elementary School as well as throughout the district. Board approval for the easement is recommended.
  • Chairman Steve Highlander will present a proposed resolution to be considered by the Board to urge the State of Tennessee General Assembly to overturn the A-F school grading system in favor of a new rating system with multiple measures that focuses on the unique strengths of each school. This will better inform parents, students, and the teachers about the strength and needs of each school while not diminishing the worth of students within the school. Further, the new system should reduce high stakes, standardized testing to more accurately reflect what students know.
  • Legal Services: A total of $9,085.83.00 was paid in the month of January for legal fees to Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and the Markel Firm.




  • February 20, 2018 – Tuesday at 6.00pm: Community Listening Tour at Hixson High School
  • February 22, 2018 –  Thursday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Signal Mountain Middle/High


  • February 26, 2018 – Monday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Ooltewah High School
  • February 27, 2018 – Tuesday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Red Bank High
  • March 4, 2018 – Tuesday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Tyner Academy
  • March 7, 2018 – Wednesday at 4:15pm: Superintendent Parent Advisory Meeting in the School Board Room
  • March 8, 2018 – Thursday at 4:00pm: Budget Work Session in the School Board Room
  • March 8, 2018 – Thursday at 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Lookout Valley Middle/High
  • March 12, 2018 – Monday at 4:15pm: Superintendent Student Advisory Meeting in the School Board Room
  • March 13, 2018 – Tuesday 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at CSAS Upper
  • March 14, 2018 – Wednesday 4:15pm: Superintendent Teacher Advisory Meeting in the School Board Room
  • March 15, 2018 – Thursday 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Howard High School
  • March 19, 2018 – Monday 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts
  • March 20, 2018 – Tuesday 6:00pm: Community Listening Tour at Central High School
  • March 22, 2018 – Thursday 4:00pm: Budget Work Session in the School Board Room
  • March 22, 2018 – Thursday 5:30pm: Quarter Board Meeting in the School Board Room

Stand Against the Schoolhouse Heist Bill

Tennessee Senate Bill 1755 was proposed on January 23, 2018 by State Senator Todd Gardenhire. The bill proposes that all property and assets in a municipality that belong to a county school system would be forcibly transferred to the municipality if it forms an independent school district.

There are a variety of consequences of this bill, if it passes, that run counter to the desires expressed by the Hamilton County community through the recent process of the forming the Action Plan for Educational eXcellence (APEX Project).

That’s why UnifiEd is organizing the community to contact your state legislators and urge them to defeat the Schoolhouse Heist Bill.

Senate Bill 1755 – An Overview

“If a municipality creates or reactivates a city school system . . .  all real and personal property that is located within the boundaries of the municipality and is owned by the county school system shall be declared surplus property by the county school system, and transferred to the municipal school system.” (Read the full bill here.)


Reverse Robin Hood Effect

Under this bill, the state would force the transfer of assets from one entity to another without compensation. Taxpayers own their schools, yet this bill would allow for their property to be seized. Historically across the state, and within our own community today, the municipalities that have formed independent districts have been affluent suburbs.

This situation creates a transfer of wealth from lower income neighborhoods to more prosperous communities. It is, in effect, a “reverse Robin Hood” effect — stealing from the poor to give to the wealthy.

Equity, Fairness, and Community Voice

For six months in 2017-2018, we collected community input from across Hamilton County to identify issues of inequity across the school system along with potential solutions to those issues through the APEX Project. The 25 most commonly cited issues and solutions were then voted on by the community through the APEX Bus Tour to prioritize the most urgent solutions for achieving equity for every child in our schools. Three of those solutions would be severely obstructed if SB 1755 is adopted.

Capital Planning and Investment

One of the APEX Project’s solutions states “Funds must be provided to make all school facilities safe and healthy learning spaces, and there must be a long-term plan to keep them that way.” This statement gets at the need for an adequately funded long-term capital plan for our school system. There would be little incentive for the county to fund capital projects, though, if it they could be forced to cede those assets at any time in the future while still being responsible for any debt on the assets. This bill would incentivize municipalities to exit county systems and leave taxpayers continuing to foot the bill of schools to which their students no longer have access to attend.

The passage of SB 1755 would also stifle long-term capital planning efforts because there would be little confidence to assume debt for assets with an uncertain future. Lack of long-term planning leads to inefficient capital spending and creates an environment in which maintenance, expansion, and construction of schools would be gravely deferred.


Racial and Socioeconomic Segregation

Two additional APEX Project solutions state that “Community members must demand the end of socioeconomic and racial segregation in our schools” and “A plan must be developed [by the Department of Education’s Central Office administration] to end socioeconomic and racial segregation in schools.” SB 1755 directly threatens efforts to end segregation in our schools, and here’s how.

Receiving school buildings and property for free from the county lowers a primary barrier to municipalities seceding from county school systems. An incentive would be created for municipalities to exit county systems and leave county taxpayers footing the bill of schools to which their students no longer have access to attend.

Municipalities with the resources and political clout to effectively establish independent school systems would be left with an unfair advantage with new budgets free from capital debt that would remain shouldered by the county system. Such communities would be incentivized to segregate themselves while lower-income communities are left at an even greater disadvantage due to ongoing debt service and loss of assets.

As affluent independent districts segregate themselves from their surrounding community, the already grave issue of concentration of poverty in our schools becomes worse.


About Signal Mountain

To illustrate the above position, let’s examine the impact SB 1755 could have on Hamilton County schools. One municipality in our county, Signal Mountain, has recently explored a plan for creating a separate school district. If that plan were to be revived, the residents of Signal Mountain could vote to create an independent school district. Under SB 1755, Hamilton County Department of Education would then be forced to transfer Signal Mountain schools’ property, buildings, and assets to the new district while continuing to pay the debt on those buildings.

Mayor Jim Coppinger has stated that Hamilton County currently owes $17.5 million on the bonds for those school buildings on Signal Mountain. The new school system would not assume that debt and Hamilton County taxpayers would continue paying for the buildings.

In addition, the schools on Signal Mountain were built to serve not just Town of Signal Mountain residents, but also children residing in Walden and unincorporated areas of the mountain. The children and taxpayers residing in these areas would be unfairly penalized by this bill because they would no longer be able to attend schools they paid for and that were designed to serve them.

One of the gravest issues facing Hamilton County schools and negatively impacting student success is the high number of schools of concentrated poverty. One-third of schools in Hamilton County are considered such, meaning that more than 80% of the school’s student population lives in poverty. The community has demanded through the APEX Project that racial and socioeconomic segregation come to an end in our schools, yet the secession of Signal Mountain from the school system would provide a major roadblock to efforts to increase every school’s diversity.

The Schoolhouse Heist Bill would make it all the more easy for that secession to happen, leaving the rest of the county not just with big debt but also even bigger challenges to increasing diversity and student outcomes.

Take Action!

Contact your state legislators and tell them to vote no on the Schoolhouse Heist Bill!

Get legislators’ contact info >


Teacher Diversity

New Grant Champions Teacher Diversity

Big win for equity in our schools as HCDE receives grant supporting teacher diversity

The Tennessee Department of Education announced last week that Hamilton County Department of Education is one of three school districts to be awarded a grant to help increase the number of minority teachers in its schools. This is thrilling news for our community, especially because more diversity among our educators was one of the top solutions identified by YOU – the community – as a solution to inequities facing our children in Hamilton County’s public schools today.

After collecting more than 2,650 surveys on issues and solutions around equity in our schools in the fall of 2017, our research team analyzed responses to identify the most commonly cited statements. Among the top 25 (currently being prioritized by the community through voting on the APEX Bus Tour) was this statement:

Our teacher population must reflect the diversity of our students.

This grant is an exciting step toward all students having access to educators with similar identities to them.

As reported in The Chattanooga Times Free Press, the grant money will be used to create a teaching academy program at Tyner Academy, partnering with University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. They will begin with a group of freshmen and add a new class each year. The goal is to increase the number of minority high school students interested in pursuing teaching as a profession.


Why teacher diversity matters


Simply put, students do better when taught by someone with a shared identity or life experience to them. Research shows that students have better academic performance, higher graduation rates, and lower drop-out rates when their teachers come from a similar background.

When teachers understand their students and where they come from, they can create deeper, more meaningful personal connections. It also helps them develop lessons and approach instruction in a culturally relevant way.

But, in Hamilton County, many minority students don’t have access to teachers similar to them.

Student and Teacher Populations, Hamilton County Public Schools
  Students Teachers
White 55%  87%
Black 31% 11% 
Hispanic 12% <1% 
Asian 2%  <1% 
Native American <1%  <1% 
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander <1%  0%


November 2017 School Board Watch Blog

In this edition of UnifiEd’s School Board Watch Blog, we will take a look at the agenda for the November 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 stream the board meeting on our Facebook page here.


To see the entire agenda with supporting documents click here.


Hot Topics:

  • First reading of Board Policy 4.205: Magnet Programs– The current policy for magnet school programs is being revised. The revision allows for all students who attend a Hamilton County school or reside in the Hamilton County school zone to have the opportunity to apply for or attend a magnet school.
  • First reading of Board Policy 5.304: Extended Leaves of Absence for Certificated/Classified Personnel– The current policy is being revised to include maternity leave and a new approach to absences longer than eight weeks. Now it reads: “if an employee needs to extend leave beyond the eight-week leave period, the employee must formally request an extension from Human Resources no less than 30 days before the expiration of that eight-week leave period, unless the notice period is waived by the director of schools upon receipt of a certified statement by a physician.”


Recognitions and Presentations:

  • Dr. Justin Robertson, Assistant Superintendent, will give recognition to the following five Hamilton County schools for being in the top 5 percent for achievement (Performance) and/or growth (Progress): Lookout Mountain Elementary, Nolan Elementary, Thrasher Elementary, STEM School, and East Ridge Middle.
  • Robertson also will acknowledge the grant from the Leonore Annenberg Scholarship, Fellowship, and School Funds, that made possible the improvements for the following schools: DuPont Elementary School’s Epicenter of Learning and Collaboration Library and East Ridge Elementary School’s Synergy Station: The Story of Us.
  • There will be a presentation to give the board an update on the McRel Balanced Leadership Training, a program establishing a district-wide leadership framework to support leaders at all levels.
  • Jill Levine will present an update to the board on the status of the Opportunity Zone.
  • The Superintendent will present updates regarding recruitment efforts within the HR department and the Transition Team’s work.


Field Trips:

  • Students from East Hamilton School, Red Bank High School, Signal Mountain Middle, Signal Mountain High School, and Soddy Daisy High School will participate in sports related field trips.
  • Students from Central High School, Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, Hinson Middle School, and Red Bank Middle will participate in music related field trips.
  • East Ridge High School will send students to attend a Model United Nations Conference.
  • Students from Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, Loftis Middle School, and Signal Mountain Middle/High School will participate in history related field trips.
  • Ooltewah Middle School will send students to participate in the Beta State Convention in Nashville, TN.
  • Soddy Daisy High School will send students to participate in a forensics tournament and also a group of JROTC students to compete in the 2018 Ragnar Trail.



Board approval is sought for:

  • The partial reroof of Wallace Smith Elementary School totalling $583,900.00 with funds to be provided by the 2016/2017 Capital Fund.   
  • A contract with Public Education Foundation and Principal Leadership Academy for $100,000.00 from the General Purpose Budget. The contract will provide training, mentoring, and support to Assistant Principals interested in moving into a Principal role.
  • The purchase of motor fuel totalling $28,608.00 from the Warehouse Inventory Fund.



Board approval is sought for:

  • The consultant agreement between Haley Brown, Principal at Red Bank Elementary and Jessica Kaminski for a total of $35,200.00 from their school based Federal Title I budget. The purpose for hiring Jessica Kaminski for Red Bank Elementary is to significantly elevate the quality of instruction by providing staff with a substantial opportunity for professional development.


Budget Amendments:

  • School Board approval is needed to amend the FY18 Property Tax revenue in the amount of $1,000,000.00 and increase the appropriation to the School Instructional Supplies account in the amount of $1,000,000.00.


Administrative and Business Matters:

  • Second and final reading of Board Policy 3.502: Offer Versus Serve– In compliance with USDA regulation changes, the current “Offer Versus Serve” policy is being updated to now exempt all Pre-K students from the policy. This policy outlines breakfast and lunch services that are eligible for federal reimbursements.
  • Second and final reading of Board Policy 6.304:Student Discrimination, Harassment, Bullying, Cyber-Bullying, and Hazing– The General Assembly has mandated timelines for responding to reports of bullying, so current policy is being revised to incorporate the required deadlines. The policy has now added a section on reported incidents which reads “All allegations shall be fully investigated by a building administrator and/or school official. Investigations must commence as soon as possible but in no event more than 48 hours after the report. Investigations must be resolved within 20 days of the report.”
    • Approval is sought for an agreement with the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Unit. The purpose of this agreement is to establish working procedures between the LEA and AGENCY in provision of services to all eligible children with disabilities who are detained or incarcerated in county/city-operated detention centers to provide free appropriate public education.
    • Approval of an agreement is sought with the Silverdale Correctional Facility and Hamilton County Jail. The purpose of this agreement is to establish working procedures between Hamilton County Department of Education and any County-Operated Detention Center in the provision of services to eligible children with disabilities, who are detained or incarcerated in county/city- operated detention centers to provide free appropriate public education in compliance with Federal and Tennessee State laws and regulations.
    • Dr. Bryan Johnson, Superintendent, seeks approval to change the title of the formerly proposed Teacher Talent and Induction Specialist position to Teacher Talent and Induction Coordinator. He asks that this new title is compensated accordingly. Johnson also requests that the current Compliance Coordinator role’s title be elevated to Compliance Director.
    • Karen Glenn will present the 1st Quarter Bullying Compliance Report to the board. The 2016-2017 end year total for reported confirmed cases of bullying and harassment is 2017, and the 2017-2018 1st Quarter total is 44 cases.  
    • The administration has agreed to accept Commissioner Discretionary bond funds totalling $5,000.00 to purchase a tarp for Sale Creek High School’s girls’ softball field.


  • Legal Services: A total of $39,938.30 was paid in the month of October for legal fees to Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC and Markel, Von Kessler & Cox.




    • November 21, 2017 – Woodmore Memorial Woodmore Elementary – 4:00
    • November 22-24, 2017 – Thanksgiving Holidays


  • December 6, 2017 – Superintendent Parent Advisory Committee Central Office Board Room – 4:15 p.m.
  • December 12, 2017 – Hamilton County High Graduation Bayside Baptist Church – 6:00 p.m.
  • December 19, 2017 – Last Day of Classes Before Winter Break
  • December 20, 2017 – Teacher Professional Development No Students
  • December 21, 2017 – School Board Meeting 5:30 p.m.


December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 – Winter Break

School Board Recording: August 17, 2017

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

Superintendent Finalist Candidates Interview Videos

Five superintendent candidates visited Hamilton County last week for final interviews and site visits. The school board will vote on the candidates to select a new superintendent at this week’s school board meeting. The community is encouraged to share your input on which candidate you want to see become the next leader of Hamilton County public education. You can watch recordings of the interviews below and contact your school board member before they vote on Thursday, June 15.

The board will meet to discuss the candidates at 5:00 on June 15 at the Department of Education (3074 Hickory Valley Road). The regular board meeting and vote on the candidates will start at 5:30. Both meetings are open to the public.

Find your board member and their contact info >

Dr. Wayne Johnson final interview

Stuart Greenberg final interview

Dr. Timothy Gadson final interview

Dr. Bryan Johnson final interview

Dr. Kirk Kelly final interview

Find your school board member & contact info

School Board Recap – May 2017


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

Awards and Recognitions

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


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

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

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

Campus report

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

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

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

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

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



Superintendent Selection Plan Announced

The school board voted at its May 18, 2017 meeting to adopt a “working roadmap” for the process and timeline for the selection of a new school superintendent by mid-June 2017. 

UnifiEd has called for a plan for more than a year that involves the community and is pleased that the adopted plan includes:

  • Community forums with each finalist candidate, and
  • Suggested meetings in each district for constituents to share feedback on the candidates with their Board Member.

The board agreed that the plan is subject to change as necessary and appropriate. Chairman Highlander will appoint at least three board members to lead the implementation of this roadmap.

Superintendent Selection Process

May 22 – First-round interviews via Skype are completed.

May 23 – Reference packets available for review by Board.

May 25 – Board will deliberate and vote on top 5 candidates. 5 candidates will be chosen with weighted scores. Top 5
lists will be provided in alphabetical order with each mention receiving one point. If there is a tie for
the fifth position, a ballot will be taken with just the two final candidates.

May 25 – June 5 – Community meetings are suggested for Board Members to hear from constituents. Handout on each of the
Top 5 will be provided. (The decision whether to hold a meeting, and its planning and logistics, are up to individual Board member.)

June 5 – 9 – Finalist candidates travel to Chattanooga for face-to-face interviews and community forums.

Proposed Components of the Daily Schedule
• 90-minute session with the full Board. If the Board desires to work from a unified set of questions, then
a process needs to be determined to identify the questions.
• Following that session, the candidate will be available to meet with individual Board members. Suggest
20 minutes.
• Candidates will visit two schools for a prearranged meeting with principals, teachers, parents, students
and community stakeholders from the site of the school and schools in the surrounding area.
• Candidates will take part in a meet-and-greet session with elected officials and advocacy group
leadership. A group should be identified to host these sessions.
• Candidates participate in a Community Forum for 90 minutes. All community members are invited to
attend. It is recommended that the events be hosted by a central organization (i.e. Hamilton County
PTA), and not the School Board. Locations for the forums will be decided by the Board while the hosting
organization will be responsible for planning the event, soliciting questions, asking questions and
moderating onsite Q&A. A media availability will take place for 20 minutes before the Forum.
• The 90-minute session with the Board and the Community Forums will be live streamed and available
for the public to watch via the system’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

June 15 – School Board deliberates and selects the new superintendent. Ballots will be taken until one
candidate receives a minimum of five votes.

School board recap – April 2017

The full April 20, 2017 school board meeting was recorded via Facebook Live – watch the recording here. (The budget discussion begins at around 2:41 into the video.)

The April 20, 2017 regularly scheduled school board meeting began with a number of recognitions and presentations detailed here. Principal Uras Agee of Brainerd High School then gave an iZone update. He reviewed the Explorers program for early college and career skills building. Another career exploration program at Brainerd High is Go Build TN, which educates students on career opportunities and income potential for construction related jobs. Agee reviewed their continuous school improvement plan.

Public comment followed from several delegations:

1. Future Ready Librarians – Debbie Condry, Cristol Kapp, and Ann Rox presented on the work local librarians are doing around digital literacy.
2. Dan Liner from HCEA – He recognized teachers present at the meeting who support increased funding. “The status quo funding is simply not sufficient,” he stated. His call for increased funding focused on key areas of the requested additions: literacy coaches and materials and technology.
3. Representative of HC Principals Assoc. – The Association met recently seeking to identify three areas from which HCDE’s increased funds could be cut. He reports that the principals were not able to find one area they agreed could afford to be cut from the request. Top priorities for increase from principals’ perspective are technology, teacher pay, facility upgrades, professional development, ELL population support, and educating parents to best support kids.
4. Tyrese Jones, CCA student, spoke about the scholarship he has received and great education he’s benefitted from, but wanted to remind the board that not every student in the county has equitable access to the same quality of education that he has received. He called for an increase in funds to support all students in our community equitably.
5. Sara Boyd, another CCA student, spoke passionately about specific stories illustrating underfunding, including her English teacher having spent $1,000 of her personal money on classroom materials since August, as the school system only provides $100 per teacher, per year for supplies. “The stakes are too high for the budget to be this low,” she said. She also called for the board to approve increased funding.
6. Catherine Melissa – Local parent called for the board and county to prioritize education funding and asked for multi-year budget.

The March 16 meeting minutes were approved, as was the consent agenda.

As the board prepared to vote for the 2018 budget proposed by Dr. Kelly at the previous week’s finance committee meeting, board member Joe Smith offered comment on the requested budget increase of $33.5 million. He said he is “convinced increased funding is necessary,” and he called the list of programs those funds would support a needs list, not a wish list.

He motioned to table the vote to allow Dr. Kelly and his staff to return with a balanced budget and an addendum with the list of needed additions in prioritized tiers. Joe Wingate seconded the motion.

Board member Karitsa Jones said, “We’re not talking about boxes of product. We’re talking about lives. If we don’t start investing in them now, we’re going to lose a generation. I’m not voting to table this because I live in a district with kids who need everything on this list and more.”

Board Chairman Steve Highlander summarized, “We don’t have drastic wants, we have drastic needs.” He touched on lack of supplies funds, talented teachers leaving, priority schools “to deal with”, lack of workforce readiness.

Yes votes to table were cast by board members Robinson, Smith, Thurmond, Wingate, Highlander. The vote will resume at a special session next Thursday, April 27 at 5:00 p.m.

The meeting concluded with the board approving the board meeting schedule for 2017-18 (proposed by Dr. Kelly), approving a series of contracts amendments, and approving a community schools pilot program.