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School Board Recap June 2016

The June 16th School Board Meeting began with a unanimous vote to accept a $4.5 million offer for the sale of East Brainerd Elementary. HCDE will see a $4,140,000 net gain from the property sale.

The meeting continued with a recognition of UnifiEd’s own D’Andre Anderson as the newest student School Board Member. In the spirit of recognizing student excellence, the School Board honored Ella, a second grade student at Allen Elementary for winning the State Department of Education Essay Contest. Ella wrote her essay in honor of her teacher Mrs. Russel who instilled her love for reading. Ella won a $400 scholarship for her future college endeavors and $400 for Mrs. Russell’s school materials.

The board unanimously voted to approve all field trips, business and finance, and human resources proposals. A more detailed description of the approved proposals can be found here. The Revised Board policies on nepotism, nonrenewal, sick leave, and solicitations were also unanimously approved.

The Community Eligibility Provision for the School Nutrition Program, that serves free breakfast and lunch to schools in need, cut back seven schools for the 2016-2017 school year. The board voted in favor (7-2) of accepting the grant with the school cuts.  

The school board closed with a unanimous approval of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Mechatronics Academy. The Mechatronics Academy is a partnership between HCDE, State Community College, and Volkswagen that provides students with vocational opportunities.

School Board Recap: Sept. 15, 2016

This week’s meeting began with an incredible pledge and meditation from CSAS students Salsabila Nurhidajet, a spoken word poet, Alaysha Harden, a visual artist, and Parth Doshi, a violinist. We congratulate those students and CSAS for a spectacular start to the school board meeting!

Jonas Barriere, UnifiEd’s Executive Director, then approached the board to introduce himself and discuss some of our recent initiatives. He began with a description of the newly released Public School Guide, that provides a one-stop-shop for information about all of Hamilton County’s public schools for parents, teachers, students, and community members.

He then addressed the board about the importance of community voice in the superintendent selection process. He presented our 4 recommendations for community involvement, crafted through input from our superintendent discussions in each district. The community said they expected:  1) public, livestreamed interviews, 2) resumes online on HCDE’s website, 3) an open forum for finalists and, 4) the creation of a community advisory council.

Three community members spoke on behalf of our recommendations and in support of increasing community input in the superintendent selection. Kirsten Johnson, a teacher at Ooltewah Middle School, spoke in support of making all interviews for superintendent candidates public and livestreamed, in addition to making candidate resumes available online. Tyner High School parent, Vanessa Jones, spoke about how she wanted to see an open forum for the community. One of UnifiEd’s Student Organizers, Kalena Rodriguez, discussed the importance of creating a community advisory council. D’Andre Anderson, the student representative on the school board, spoke in agreement with these recommendations and voiced his support of the creation of a community advisory council.

After this presentation, the board voted unanimously to approve the consent agenda. They unanimously approved the Retirement/Sick Leave, Compulsory Attendance Ages, Zero Tolerance Offences, and Wellness policies. Finally, they unanimously approved the North Hamilton County-Bakewell Utility Easement allowing test drills to find a permanent water source for the community.

The meeting ended with a long discussion on the superintendent search process. Initially, the board was going to deliberate on the search firms they interviewed Tuesday and vote on their top choice. However,  Kathy Lennon, Karitsa Mosley Jones, Tiffanie Robinson, and Joe Wingate were all in agreement about waiting to choose a firm until they had a school board retreat that included a strategic planning session. Rhonda Thurman, Dr. Greg Martin, Joe Galloway, David Testerman, and Dr. Steve Highlander felt this was unnecessary and wanted to vote for a firm that evening.

After much discussion, there was a 5-4 split vote that ended in favor of waiting to vote on a search firm until a school board retreat and strategic planning session is held. Jones, Lennon, Wingate, Robinson, and Highlander all voted in favor of this, while Thurman, Martin, Galloway, and Testerman were opposed. Highlander agreed to meet with Scott Bennett, the District Attorney, to schedule a retreat for the school board members. Bennett agreed and the meeting ended with him saying he would make suggestions for an outside facilitator for the retreat.

 

School Board Recap: November

During the November 19th School Board Meeting, board members voted to approve all agenda items. The meeting began with presentations recognizing Principal of the Year, National Merit Semifinalists, Tennessee Association of School Librarians, and Exceptional Education Staff. The School Board also heard from three different community members during delegations from the public.

Kevin Lusk from Chattanooga Hamilton County Medical Society spoke about the importance of making Hamilton County school campuses tobacco-free. The current School Board Policy permits smoking outside on school campuses after school hours but always prohibits smoking in public seating areas including stadiums and bleachers.

Dan Liner from Hamilton County Education Association spoke about teacher working conditions in the schools. Sherry Baierl from the Nurse Education Committee spoke about the importance of having AEDs in all public schools in cases of cardiac arrest.

School Board member Rhonda Thurman pulled two items for discussion from the agenda; the donation acceptance request from County Commission and the 2016-17 school calendar. School Board members discussed the new policy requiring County Commissioners to gain approval from the School Board for any discretionary spending coming from last year’s bond funds. Thurman also discussed the possibility of altering the agreed upon school calendar for next year. Ultimately, the School Board voted 8:1 to approve the calendar. Additionally, the Board voted unanimously to approve the renaming of the new Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School to “Middle Valley Elementary School”.

During closing discussion, School Board members recognized the increasing number of parents contacting the district to opt-out their children from standardized testing. The Department of Education’s attorney explained that the School Board did not have the authority to waive testing for students. State law requires school districts to have at least 95% of students taking standardized tests to assess the quality of education for its public schools. In response, School Board member Karitsa Mosley asserted the Board did have the ability to waive TNReady scores from impacting student overall grades on their report cards.

For more information about the November agenda read our School Board Watch Blog. The School Board has a Work Session scheduled for Thursday, December 10 at 5:00pm and a regularly scheduled quarterly session on Thursday, December 17 at 5:00pm. Both meetings will be held at the Department of Education.

 

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