2018 School Board Candidate Questionnaire Responses

Dr. Steve Highlander


Candidate, School Board District 9

Responses submitted May 1, 2018 to UnifiEd via email. Responses are published here exactly as submitted without editing.

 

Question 1 – Racial & Socioeconomic Desegregation
As a school board member, I commit to working together with the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) to develop a plan to end socioeconomic and racial segregation. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

With my position on the Equity Task Force, I am hoping we can work with data to provide reasonable plans of and action and in return, fiscally sound implementation.

Question 2 – Racial & Socioeconomic Desegregation
As a school board member, I commit to actively partnering with community members to demand the end of socioeconomic and racial segregation in our schools. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

I am already partnering with community members in the Equity task force.

Question 3 – Supporting the People in Our Schools
As a school board member, I commit to supporting better relationships and engagement by working together with the schools in my district to ensure students and teachers have a voice in issues that matter to them. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

I will continue my practice of listening to teachers and students because I value their input. I attend the Superintendent’s Student Leadership meetings whenever possible to gain insight. I spent the evening of April 24 listening and discussing policy with a large group of concerned teachers at PEF headquarters. As a teacher for many years, many of my fellow educators discuss concerns with me regularly. I speak individually and in small groups with parents, teachers, and students several times a week.

Question 4 – Supporting the People in Our Schools
As a school board member, I commit to working with central office to ensure teaching and student programs provide personalized support, especially to those with special needs and minority identities (like English-language learners and LGBTQ+ students). Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

It is important that in our capacity, everything is done possible to meet the individual needs of every student. To that end, I have urged Dr. Johnson to keep the number of students in each class with a teacher as low as possible. The student to teacher ratio in our schools is very important.

Question 5 – Community Engagement & Empowerment
As a school board member, I commit to working with school leadership to provide creative, accessible avenues for parents and community members to support schools and children. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

 

The Superintendent is the School Board’s only employee. I communicate with Dr. Johnson almost daily; often multiple times a day urging access for parents and community members in support of our students.

Question 6 – Community Engagement & Empowerment
As a school board member, I commit to partnering with local organizations and businesses to support and provide resources in our schools. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

I have been and continue to partner with local organizations in support of our schools. I have been privileged to serve on the Chattanooga 2.0 Steering Committee for the last two years. I participate regularly with the Great Leaders/Teachers Work Group and with a variety of PEF and Benwood sponsored activities. I have also had the opportunity to work with the D9 organization among others. I regularly speak with small business owners across my district.

Question 7 – Supporting the Whole Child
As a school board member, I commit to working with schools to ensure students’ mental and emotional health needs are supported. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Students’ mental and emotional health needs are worth our support. I have urged that guidance counselors be utilized more in these areas and less in testing. Tennessee has recently enacted legislation to this end. I have supported the addition of seven
guidance counselors for this purpose and hope to add more in the future.

Question 8 – Supporting the Whole Child
As a school board member, I commit to partnering with and supporting community organizations to ensure children can access mentoring, field trips, and early childhood education. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

I continue to urge support from community organizations to ensure children mentoring, field trips, and early childhood programs. (Chattanooga 2.0 is making strides in these areas)

Question 9 – Funding & Budgeting
As a school board member, I commit to prioritizing funds for capital expenses to make sure all school facilities are safe and healthy learning spaces, and ensuring there is a long-term plan to keep them that way. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Capital expenses are a necessity. We were forced to take approximately $9 1⁄2 million from the fund balance to repair leaking, worn-out roofs. The community and parental priority currently has Safety as a top priority. We have 79 schools & 50 do not have SROs. The Sheriff says each additional officer will cost us about $120,000 the first year and $80,000 each year thereafter. We have a tremendous financial task in front of us. I have spent time with our Sheriff and spent a day in Nashville on a state-wide Summit on School Safety. We truly have many needs in our schools. The School Board has no independent ability to raise revenue.

Question 10 – Funding & Budgeting
As a school board member, I commit to prioritizing funding to recruit, support, and keep the best teachers. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Hiring AND retaining the best educators possible is a priority in my vision. Planning for positive results, we have allowed Dr. Johnson to hire a Chief Talent Officer (Human Resources Director) and recruiters with the ability to leave this area for searches, as well as conduct local recruitment fairs.

Question 11- Supporting the Whole Child
As a school board member, I commit to ensuring all students have access to early childhood education programs so every child enters kindergarten ready to learn. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

It is my professional belief that early childhood education is beneficial to pre- kindergarten children, especially when they enter the doors of a school for the first time. Chattanooga 2.0 has made great strides in this area. While we have some limited
government programs and monies for this purpose, I would like to have community and business partners work even more with us in this area.

Question 12 – UnifiEd PACT for Public Education
As a school board member, I commit to working with community partners and HCDE to expand community schools throughout the county to provide holistic support to neighborhoods and communities. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

All schools should be community schools when possible We need to partner with medical friends, retired folks willing to tutor after school, food service providers, etc. whenever possible to provide holistic support to students and families in need.

Question 13 – UnifiEd PACT for Public Education
As a school board member, I commit to setting standards for our board and actively participating in a transparent self-assessment process. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Transparency with the public whom we serve is extremely important. However, there are some items that cannot be legally and/or ethically disclosed.

Question 14 – UnifiEd PACT for Public Education
As a school board member, I commit to ensuring current school system funds are efficiently spent. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

Financial efficiency has been and always will be a top priority. I strive to study the line items on the budget to find the best use of tax payer dollars always. It is imperative that School Boards reach out to express needs to local, state, and Federal agencies as well as the business community.

Question 15 – UnifiEd PACT for Public Education
As a school board member, I commit to working with HCDE to create a 5-year budget and strategic plan connecting money to improved student outcomes. Yes or No. If yes, how do you plan to accomplish this goal? If no, why not?

I am committed to work with HCDE to implement the Board’s state mandated strategic plan for the money we are given to improve student outcomes. A 5 year budget plan is a positive and ambitious plan which I would love to have and am willing to work toward, but funding is so variant that it is extremely difficult to be that specific over a long period of time.