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.

 




Sign Up To Get The Latest News, Opinions From Chattanoogan.com In Real Time; Win Set Of Chattanooga Photo Books

Sign up for our Facebook and Twitter feeds and you will get the  local news in "real time." You will also be entered for a chance to win the complete set of the Chattanooga Photo Books published by Chattanoogan.com. We will give away three sets of The Remarkable Stokes Collection, Railroads In and Around Chattanooga and Paul Hiener's Historic Chattanooga to our new Facebook ... (click for more)

Alexander, Markey Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Ban Cellphone Calls On Airplanes

Senators Lamar Alexander and Ed Markey (D-Ma.) Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation directing the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to prohibit the use of cell phones for voice calls on airplanes. "Stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies from those who wander around shouting personal details into their phones: babbling about next ... (click for more)

CPS Should Have A Manned 24/7 Presence In Every County

This week something became abundantly clear to me. The Department of Child Protective Services in the state of Tennessee, or at least in Hamilton County, are asleep at the wheel.   Early yesterday afternoon local news stations broke the news: "Animals Removed from Soddy Daisy Home."  What the news station either didn't know, or didn't report, was that the children of ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Schizophrenia Calls Again

On Tuesday morning of this week a six-foot-tall, 6,000-pound monument of the “Ten Commandments” was installed on the Capitol Grounds in Little Rock, Ark. It was privately financed and quite beautiful. Less than 24 hours later, a vehicle crashed into the monument, knocking it off its base (plinth) in the early-morning darkness yesterday. The Arkansas Capitol Police arrested a ... (click for more)

Rodriquez Homers Twice As Lookouts Trip M-Braves Wednesday, 5-1

PEARL, Miss.  -- Jonathan Rodriguez hit two home runs as the Chattanooga Lookouts defeated the Mississippi Braves 5-1 on Wednesday. After already winning the first-half of the Southern League North Division, the Lookouts have opened the second-half in first place at 5-1. The Lookouts put together a strong, complete game with good pitching and some timely hitting.  ... (click for more)

Dixie Youth Baseball: Day 2 District 6 Tourney

A big comeback win by Lookout Mountain and a shutout victory by Signal Mountain American highlighted Day 2 of the Dixie Youth Baseball District 6 tourney at Lookout Mountain's Nick F. Senter Field Game 1: Lookout Mtn 18, Signal Mountain National 17 A Davis Garrett game-winning RBI single capped a wild comeback win by the hosts in an elimination game. Signal Mtn jumped out ... (click for more)