Roy Exum: Oscar Brock’s True Passion

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
I don’t pay much attention to the Hamilton County School Board. Once the moon and the stars aligned behind Superintendent Rick Smith, you hear very little, if anything, from the nine-member council that oversees an annual budget of almost $400 million and employs 4,480 people. So chew this for a minute: approximately 2,000 of those people are not teachers. Yes, there are 78 principals but then what?

“Let’s just say this,” Oscar Brock told me the other day. “If any comparable company or corporation in the world was as top-heavy, they would soon go out of business. That’s a big reason I think it’s time to change the way the “Board of Directors” (School Board) does business and I want to help.”

Oscar, a longtime family friend and a very successful businessman, has been an ardent follower of education in Chattanooga for the last 30 years. “When my mom died (the beloved Muffet Brock), my brother Bill and I created a ‘Teacher of the Year’ Award at every school in mother’s memory. Our family charity, the Hand Foundation, was deeply involved in education.”

Now Oscar wants to get more deeply involved, using his business skills and organizational expertise as the District 6 representative in the August election. He is opposed by incumbent Joe Galloway, a former teacher and coach, and a relatively unknown newcomer, lawyer Ballard Scearce. Of the three, Oscar is the one who believes there is “no escape from the cycle of poverty except for education.”

He also believes – read this slowly – that we have created an educational system in Hamilton County “where the quality of a child’s education is completely dependent on the school zone in which they live.” As horrible and as scary as that sounds, Oscar Brock is a realist and I fear he’s right.

“Here’s a fact for you. A kindergarten student from a middle income family has a vocabulary of 4,000 words on the first day of school. A kindergarten student from a poverty area has a vocabulary of 400 words,” said Brock, “It is not a child’s fault – he has nothing to do with where he is born – but it should become our fault if a child later fails. There are ways good teachers can make the biggest difference in a child’s life and we must find them.”

His dream is to separate the wheat from the chaff in the burdensome administration offices and pay enough to get the best principals in the country. “In Chattanooga a teacher with a master’s degree and 15 years’ experience is paid somewhere around $55,000. A principal makes about $1,000 more a month. Would you do that? To many top candidates, the headache and the ridiculous hours of paperwork aren’t worth it,” he spoke candidly.

“I believe I could be a great asset on the school board. I am criticized that my child attended private schools but you must remember I am a daddy. I wanted the best for my kids, just like 22 percent of other people in Hamilton County do. But I can show you I’ve been deeply involved in the community all of my life and now I want to do something that other Dads will take pride in.

“I want to change the way the school board does some things. I appreciate teachers on the school board but maybe I can teach them to read a spreadsheet so we’ll spend money much more wisely. If we can get a nucleus to buy into some simple, basic changes, I believe a child’s success rate won’t be determined by the street that child lives on.”

Oscar mourns that “95 percent of the parents who have children in our schools have no idea who their school board representative is. Oh, they complain our public schools are bad but they don’t know who to call about it.

“Equally unbelievable is that fact we haven’t created two or three replicas of CSAS yet. CSAS is a living example of what parental involvement and a strong faculty can do to change the entire complexion of a school. Nationally 15 percent of our teachers quit every year and it's over 20 percent in troubled schools. We need to address that in the strongest way and, believe me, other cities have done this,” he promised.

“I’m excited about Chattanooga’s new jobs but I’ve learned 90 percent of those who are eventually hired have at least ‘some college.’ If we have a drop-out rate of 25 percent in Chattanooga, and if kids graduate who – in all honesty – can’t do the math or read like they should, how are we going to meet that demand?” he asked.

“The school board should accept the accountability. It should be totally transparent and somebody ought to demand to know why over 2,000 people are on the payroll if they don’t teach. Our teachers should be paid more and, yes, they ought to teach every day rather than serve as a robot trying to get ready for one big test every year.”

Asked about the volatile Common Core testing, Oscar said it was a good concept but “became a train wreck when outside companies got involved. It is too dysfunctional right now to continue but the idea isn’t all bad. I believe we’ve got many good teachers who are a little frustrated right now. The school board should address that and make it right for our employees.”

We talked on and Oscar Brock made a lot of Common Sense. He’s a smart guy from a notable family that has served Chattanooga for many generations. I believe he would be a huge asset where everybody already knows we need a wise man in an area that – let’s face it – appears to be lacking.

royexum@aol.com

 

 




Happy Birthday ToThe Williams/Hardy House

The Williams/Hardy House celebrates its 90th anniversary on Lookout Mountain this year.  Designed by local architect Clarence T. Jones the main house was built for Mrs. Ethel Soper Hardy.  Work began in spring and completed by late summer to early fall in 1928.  The Williams family would later occupy the house for nearly 60 years before it was purchased by the National ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Driving In Reverse

When I was putting together The Saturday Funnies column the other day, there was a particular quote that resonated with me. The great writer Jodi Picoult once said, "My dad used to say that living with regrets was like driving a car that only moved in reverse." I love that and it’s true. Some hours later, as my dog and I sat in the dark, I thought a little more about that. If ... (click for more)

Attorney Davis Says Other Driver In Styles Case Pulled Gun While Driving Wildly; Denies Radio Host "Blacked Out"

Attorney Lee Davis said the other driver in a Friday road rage incident in Hixson pulled a gun on radio personality Jeff Styles while driving wildly.  He denied that the talk show host blacked out.  Jeff Styles, who was shot in the forearm, was charged with aggravated assault and vandalism. The other driver, Nickolas Bullington, was not charged. Police said ... (click for more)

Gerald McCormick Pulling Out Of House Race

Former House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has decided to pull out of the House District 26 race and take a position with an engineering firm in Nashville. He told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the move would still give Republicans a seven-day window to find a replacement as the election nears. His wife, Kim, earlier took a position with the State Board of Regents in ... (click for more)

Lookouts Break Out Their Bats In Saturday's Rain Shortened Game Beating Barons, 12-2

Birmingham AL --  On a wet night at Regions Field, the Birmingham Barons (32-36) fell to the Chattanooga Lookouts (36-33) by a 12-2 score on Saturday night in a rain-shortened contest. The Birmingham loss evens up the five-game series at two games each with one game to play in the first half. Rain and the Lookouts were the winners on Saturday night in Birmingham as the ... (click for more)

CFC Wins 2-0 At Inter Nashville FC

Chattanooga FC remained undefeated in NPSL play Wednesday night, beating Inter Nashville FC 2-0 in Nashville.   David Valenciano had CFC's first goal late in the first half.  Jose "Zeca" Ferraz scored the second goal minutes before the final whistle.  This is the fourth road game in the last two weeks and they play their final rode game at New ... (click for more)