Education Commissioner Says State Taking Over Several Low-Performing Hamilton County Schools One Way Or The Other

Thursday, May 18, 2017
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen told members of the County School Board on Thursday that the state is taking over several low-performing Hamilton County Schools one way or the other.

She said if the board does not agree to join in a "partnership" with the state to operate a special school district for five of the low-end schools that the state will begin preparations to place several schools in an Achievement School District.

Commissioner McQueen wanted an answer from the board next month. She said it could have a little more time after Chairman Steve Highlander said a new superintendent will be named at the June meeting. He said the new superintendent should have a say in the decision.

The schools that would go into a "Partnership Zone" would be Brainerd High, Dalewood Middle, Woodmore Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle and Orchard Knob Elementary.

She said the state is willing to put $1 million into the zone the first year and $500,000 the second year. She indicated the zone could operate in after years through regular BEP and federal funds, plus philanthropic help.

Commissioner McQueen said there would be a five-year contract with the board for the zone that would have its own board. The state would appoint the majority of the board members and the School Board would have several picks.

Chairman Highlander said it appeared the state "would be the senior partner and we are the junior partner." Commissioner McQueen said it was the state that had the responsibility to act on low-performing schools "under federal and state law."

She said, "There is not an option for no decision based on the track record" of the schools' performance under the county schools. She added, "There is an urgent need for some intervention. Our guiding principle is that the students can't wait."

Chairman Highlander asked if the state "will take responsibility" for the success or failure of the joint effort. The commissioner said both parties would have involvement.

The board was told that 85 percent of BEP money that would normally go to the schools would go to the zone - with 15 percent retained by the central office.

The zone schools would remain county schools and the teachers would stay county school teachers, it was stated.

The district would have its own director hired by its board.  

It would follow some county school policies, such as whether to take snow days.

Two officials from Springfield, Mass., spoke to the board, telling that the idea has worked well there.

Board member Rhonda Thurman questioned whether it is legal to set up a board that is not elected by the voters. Commissioner McQueen acknowledged that would take special legislation.

Karitsa Mosley Jones, another board member, said she had "poured my heart and soul" into three of the schools that would be going into the zone, but then would no longer be the board representative. Commissioner McQueen said it was possible that an elected board member could serve on the board, though it might be difficult to serve on both.

Ms. Jones asked if the school staffs would be "reconstituted" under the zone plan, and the commissioner said that was not the intention. However, that has happened under the Achievement School District set-up in other parts of the state.

Joe Galloway of the board said he liked the idea that the program would be "school-centric" with individual schools being able to implement what works best for them.

Officials said the idea would not be "to start over" at the zone schools, but to "build on what is working for them." 

There would be a year of planning before the district went into effect for 2018-19. 

A number of local legislators and County Commission members were at the presentation.

Senator Todd Gardenhire said he is in support, saying the county schools have had a failing record with the schools - with some having been on the low-performing list for many years.

 





Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADAMS, BRAD DEWAYNE  2821 3RD AVE CHATTANOOGA, 37407  Age at Arrest: 37 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County Booked for Previous Charges or Other Reason(s) --- ADKINS, KENDRA R  132 PARKS DRIVE FORT OGLETHORPE, 30742  Age at Arrest: 19 years old Arresting Agency: Red Bank ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain To Hold Public Meetings On Idea Of Setting Up Own School System

Discussion about follow-up public meetings regarding the Signal Mountain School System Viability Committee (SMSSVC) report dominated the council’s work session on Friday afternoon.    Mayor Chris Howley said that the town owes it to those in the middle to allow them to be engaged in the process. Vice Mayor Dick Gee said that the logical progression will be to ... (click for more)

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Myth And Fact Check

My husband and I recently had the privilege of participating in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Chattanooga. I listened as my husband told the audience about how his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was nine and how she died from the disease when he was fourteen. As a child, my husband didn’t understand what breast cancer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s All About People

The leaders of Hamilton County’s Mental Health Court held a heart-warming open house Friday afternoon and it was announced that just since February, the creation has saved the county over $3 million in incarceration costs. But to hear County Mayor Jim Coppinger or Judge Don Poole tell it, that’s not what is important. “Soon after the court started, a kind, quiet man I’ll ... (click for more)

Mocs Mueller Nets Game Winner In 1-0 Soccer Win

Jordan Mueller picked up her own pass and pushed a shot into an empty net to give Chattanooga 1-0 Southern Conference women’s soccer win over Wofford on Senior Day at Finley Stadium on a cloudy Sunday afternoon.   “Pure grit by Jordan Mueller,” Chattanooga head coach Gavin McKinney said. “She is a gritty, tough, hardworking kid and it showed for the goal. She went and pressed ... (click for more)

Top-Ranked Alabama Smashes Tennessee 45-7

(This story has been updated) Tennessee, a 34-point underdog in one of college football’s better long-running series, stayed close for one quarter before top-ranked Alabama switched to another gear and pummeled the struggling Vols, 45-7, Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The rock-ribbed Crimson Tide defense locked down Tennessee’s ground game, hounded quarterback ... (click for more)