Hamilton County School Superintendent Rick Smith, in a speech Friday afternoon to the Brainerd Kiwanis Club, stressed his continued focus on improving district schools through literacy, leadership, and technology.
He said, "I'm pretty open and honest about things. We do somethings reasonably well and we have some challenges."
He continued, "Literacy is the focus right now academically. If you look at this state and across the country right now, literacy is the challenge."
He called it "the foundation of teaching and learning." He said learning any other subject depends on a child's ability to read and comprehend what they are reading.
He also admitted that poverty can affect this "very dramatically." He said, "We get a lot of kids who go to school but are not ready for school." In the state and throughout the country, children from low-income families are less likely to receive Pre-K education.
In an attempt to work on this problem here in Chattanooga, Mr. Smith announced the district's plans for a new early childhood center. He said it will not be a daycare, it will be academically focused.
He said, "The goal is to make children in poverty competitive with their peers."
As for leadership, Mr. Smith himself has been one of the biggest proponents of a mentor program for teachers. He said that currently in several district schools, each teacher has a mentor in the form of a retired teacher.
This program gives new teachers a support system as well as someone to learn from.
He also said the school board is continuing to update the technology in the Hamilton County Schools. He said that the young people have grown up using technology, and that schools are trying to catch up with that.
Updates for the future would include campus wifi, homework and lesson plans that are accessible online, and tablets or iPads for students.
Currently, 14 of the 75 Hamilton County schools are among the top five percent in the state. The Chattanooga School for the Creative Arts is also one of the top 10 high schools in the state.