Roy Exum: Schools Get Reprieve

Thursday, June 15, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Moments after Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said until somebody has “the courage to stand up” against a disappointing 1.7 increase for education over last year’s budget, Commissioner Joe Graham told his fellow commissioners he was the guy. Next week Graham is expected to delay the acceptance of the just proposed FY 2018 budget. With that, the most beleaguered school district in Tennessee’s thirstiest city for public education got one more reprieve to shed a 12-year coat of “status quo.”

Granted, it will still take a magician to pull it off but by delaying the budget for perhaps a month, it appears that at least four of the nine county commissioners are willing to discuss an alternative plan that could accelerate what it will take for a renaissance in Hamilton County. “I don’t know whether I am for this or not … but I sure do think our constituents want us to have a conversation,” one commissioner said.

In the past 18 months it has been learned the Hamilton County schools comprise the worst metro district in Tennessee and the new budget proposed in no more than a Band-Aid on “the same old thing.” Parents and teachers are clamoring for a change. With a new schools superintendent who will find ample proof our school system has been allowed to rot, it has been learned there may be a way to strategically move the floundering system forward. 

Following new property assessments in the county, a new millage rate will be certified by the in late July or August and should the commissioners opt to retain the current rate of 2.76, approximately $25 million would be realized that could, in turn, create a bond ten times that size. Combined with the county’s AAA bond rating, the new funding could give Mayor Coppinger the ability to address a long list of aching needs in a county where the average school is over 40 years old and not one new school is on any architect’s table.

The new superintendent is expected to be chosen by the Hamilton County School Board at a meeting of the Board of Education late Thursday afternoon. The board will discuss the five applicants that were just interviewed last week in a work session at 5 o’clock and then actually vote during the quarterly meeting that will begin at 5:30 p.m.

In the early-week jockeying, it has been learned Bryan Johnson, the chief academic officer for the Clarksville (Tenn.) school system, may have emerged as the favorite. When the five final-finalists were chosen from the nine finalists, Johnson was the lone candidate to appear on every member’s ballot. Kurt Kelly, who has done well as Interim Superintendent since last March, will be a factor and so will Wayne Johnson, a successful business executive who would bring a different dimension many citizens want.

Believe it or not, there is suddenly a greater urgency developing for the school board. When the new superintendent is introduced to the County Council next Wednesday, he and the school board will be asked to present a three-to-five year progress plan before the county commissioners will take a huge, unprecedented step in a multi-million dollar funding of education.

A commissioner said, “Right now there is no plan … the school board has been flying by the seat of their pants. We need the school board to sit down with county officials to talk about $240 million in deferred maintenance to our existing schools, what are the needs for new schools, and how we can best use our facilities.

“Lookout Valley High just had a graduating class of 40 students. We must do far better in utilizing our resources,” added one commissioner who is eager to shake the horrid status quo tag – it has been 12 years since there was a tax increase for education.”

Another commissioner, speaking off the record in this, an election year, was equally concerned. “Don’t you think all of us know, down deep, that while we are standing still the world is passing us by?

“If we employ the millage tactic, which a lot of municipalities do, we could take immediate steps to embrace the new leadership with funding the school board can offer. If we do not, we won’t have this chance again since the rate is set for the next four years.”

Last week Mayor Coppinger contacted the school board about working jointly to address many key issues but, clearly, they groups can talk for the next 18 months but all they can do is smile at each other; there is no money in the budget.

“Our office is poised and ready to address any task the County Commission asks but until we get additional funding,” Coppinger told the group, “I’m afraid we can do very little.”

Or, more kindly put, embrace status quo for the 13th year with a tax increase.

royexum@aol.com


Improvements On The Glass Bridge

The glass bridge has been an embarrassing situation almost since the day of installation. At least two or three and usually more sections of glass have continuously been cracked. This creates fear in pedestrians and causes most to want to use the middle metal section. In addition, it has not been maintained for cleanliness.  I observed that both the front section and ... (click for more)

California Is Hypocritical - And Response

Re:  Roy Exum: California's Foolishness This is the ridiculousness that has always been California, land of fools and the extremist liberal hypocrite state. ("We" can punish "you" because "we" don't like what "you" stand for but don't punish "me" because "you" don't like what "we" stand for.)  Dear California, please drop anchor somewhere else because you're a large ... (click for more)

Young Woman Suffers Serious Injuries In 30-Foot Fall At Quarry At Greenway Farms

A young woman was seriously injured on Wednesday night  when she fell approximately 30 feet from a bluff at the the Greenway Farms quarry in Hixson.   Some kayakers were paddling in the quarry shortly after  8 p.m. when they saw the woman fall to the ground below. They immediately went over to the victim and called 911. The Chattanooga Fire Department ... (click for more)

Walker County Taking Out Another Loan To Deal With Debts Left By Bebe Heiskell Administration

Walker County officials said they are having to take out another loan to deal with debts left by the Bebe Heiskell administration. Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has called a special meeting for Thursday at 2 p.m. at the commissioner's office in Lafayette. The agenda includes a $4 million tax anticipation note from Lafayette Bank, which stepped in to help the new administration ... (click for more)

Chattanooga FC Hosts Memphis City FC Wednesday

 What a week it's been for CFC. After starting the season scoring only six goals in eight games, the boys in blue have racked up 12 goals in the last three matches, most recently shutting down FC Carolina United 5-0 this past Saturday.  Chattanooga FC returns to the pitch this Wednesday to take on interstate rival Memphis City FC in a must win game for both teams  ... (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)