School Supt. Rick Smith, in his annual "State of the Schools" speech to the Hamilton County PTA, on Wednesday said he backs the Common Core school standards program.
And he said it has been eight years since the county schools have benefited from new revenue from a county property tax increase. Noting that next year "is an election year," he said, "We have not had the kind of financial support that I think our kids deserve."
He said, "Teachers are having to take money out of their own pockets to buy school materials."
Supt. Smith said there was a 26-cent property tax increase passed by the County Commission in 2008, but "zero" went for county school operations. He said the county schools got 16 cents of a 26-cent property tax hike in 2006.
On Common Core, he said, "I support the idea of Common Core. It is a set of standards, not a curriculum. Hamilton County will design its own curriculum. Common Core doesn't tell us how to teach. It tells us where the bar is."
He said the load on teachers should ease because this is the final year of TCAP testing. He said the school system "is in a transition mode. We are fully involved in Common Core."
Mr. Smith said the new Ooltewah Elementary School, serving 1,100 students, is the largest elementary school in the county.
He said with the opening of the new Red Bank Middle School behind the high school, "we have a great campus environment in Red Bank."
The superintendent said the county schools had 10 National Merit Semi-Finalists, including five from Signal Mountain.
He said the county schools had 14 schools among the top five percent in the state. He said that is ahead of Nashville's 12 and Knoxville's five.
Mr. Smith said the county schools have been providing a coaching program for teachers and are expanding that to principals. He said 16 former principals have been enlisted to help. All first- and second-year principals will have a coach, and third-year principals will have a mentor.
On technology, he said the county schools are not going to rush into a program of providing mobile devices for every student. He said, "We are not going to dump 42,000 devices into the system." He said that approach has not worked well in some systems.
He said the local approach is to have several test programs utilizing new technologies. One effort is to add enough bandwidth at all the county schools to support full IT programs.
Mr. Smith said the system is working on a policy on allowing students to bring their own personal computer devices to school for use in school work.
He said groups like the Benwood Foundation and the Rotary Club have volunteered to help implement the new technology in the county schools.
The speaker said the technology-based STEM School was a success in its first year and is attracting many students. He noted that the top five students at Loftis Middle School, where his wife teaches seventh grade, are planning to move on to the Stem School.