UnifiEd Calls For Accountability And Multi-Year Plan For New School Funding

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

In an open letter to schools superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson and Board of Education Chairman Steve Highlander, UnifiEd on Tuesday called for the Hamilton County Board of Education to initiate an audit of the school system’s capital needs and the creation of a multi-year capital plan. The call comes after the County Commission’s move last week to allocate $100 million of new money for school capital projects. 

The letter states that this new money is not sufficient to fully fund all the immediate capital needs in schools, which have been estimated in recent years from approximately $180 million up to double that amount. No definitive dollar value is known because a comprehensive facility assessment has not been conducted, said officials. 

“Without an audit of needs and a multi-year plan, decisions on capital projects will be subject to political maneuvering rather than an equitable distribution based on actual need,” said Jonas Barriere, UnifiEd executive director. “Accountability measures need to be in place to restore public confidence that their tax dollars are well spent with this new money allocated by the County Commission.” 

UnifiEd suggests such an audit should provide an unbiased assessment of facility safety issues due to deferred maintenance, student capacity and population growth trends, building quality, and estimated cost to repair or replace schools. Audit findings should then be the basis of a multi-year capital plan. The organization suggests that plan should prioritize projects that address serious safety issues due to deferred maintenance, result in operational savings that can be reinvested into the classroom, reduce the concentration of students living in poverty in certain schools, and/or eliminate overcrowding. 

A multi-year capital plan and budget was also backed by a group of business and community leaders whose independent review of school system spending and report on recommendations for efficiencies was released this spring. 

Regarding the need for a multi-year capital plan, Mr. Barriere adds, “It’s hard to justify investments in year one that will produce savings or results in year two or three or 10 without a long-term plan.” 

The letter specifically calls on the Board of Education to pass a resolution as soon as possible to hire an external audit firm or allocate dedicated staff to perform a thorough review of the state of the schools’ facilities and needs. It further calls for the Board to commit to making the resulting audit report publicly available and using it as the basis of its decisions on allocation of funds for capital projects. 

The full letter to Dr. Johnson and Chairman Highlander is available for the public to read on UnifiEd’s website.

Here is HCDE’s statement response to Unifi-Ed’s Open Letter to Dr. Bryan Johnson and Dr. Steve Highlander: 

"The Hamilton County Department of Education looks forward to tackling some of the $200+ million in deferred maintenance and construction needs with the funds created after the Hamilton County Commission voted eight to one to approve a resolution keeping the millage rate at its current assessment. 

"A complete Facility Plan— including assessments on new construction and additions, current building needs, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing needs and athletic repairs—  was completed on Jan. 20, 2017 and highlights many of the needs facing Hamilton County Schools. 

"HCDE Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson will work closely with the HCDE School Board to decide which projects on the comprehensive facilities plan will benefit from the additional revenues generated. 

"HCDE appreciates the community’s engagement and looks forward to leveraging the engagement to ensure all students are post-secondary ready."







Brian Peterson Receives Excellence In Scholarship Award At Lee

Dr. Brian Peterson, associate professor of Old Testament, has been named the recipient of Lee University’s 2018 Excellence in Scholarship Award. The winner of this award is chosen each year by the Faculty Scholarship and Research Committee. Lee President Dr. Paul Conn officially recognized Peterson for this award during spring commencement. Dr. Peterson joined the Lee ... (click for more)

Sewell Finds Her Home At Alma Mater CSCC

Growing up, Cleveland State Service-Learning Program Assistant Brooklyn Sewell never thought college was for her. Fast forward a few years and not only has she completed her associate degree, but she will graduate with her bachelor’s in December and is already making plans to complete her master’s degree, and even considering a doctorate. Ms. Sewell originally decided to pursue ... (click for more)

Jury Finds Donaldson Guilty Of Second-Degree Murder In Killing Of Son-In-Law

A Criminal Court jury late Friday afternoon returned a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder against Glen Donaldson in the killing of his son-in-law, Adam Levi. He is facing 15-60 years in state prison. Judge Don Poole will set the sentence at a sentencing hearing on July 12.  He has been free on bond, but was taken into custody after the verdict. The jury deliberated ... (click for more)

1st Vote On Controversial Signal Mountain Grocery Proposal Set June 13; Town To Choose Either Tennessee American Or Waldens Ridge For Water Service

The next steps in rezoning 617 Cauthen Way were discussed at the Signal Mountain work session Friday afternoon. Since the last council meeting, Town Manager Boyd Veal created a list of conditions to include in the zoning ordinance relating to the proposed commercial development designed to assure that there is no negative impact to the surrounding properties or to the interest of ... (click for more)

Conserving White Flight To Private, Public Secluded Schools Is Shameful

If you really care about the kids of Hamilton County’s most distressed schools, then you’ll take help where you can get it. The question on your mind isn’t which political label someone wears. Anyone who shifts attention away from the critical issues facing public education and toward political labels is not really committed to public education. Their support for equitable, quality ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

Today’s edition of The  Saturday  Funnies is the most technical savvy, advanced, software-enhanced, and modern-day genius that I have ever delivered. I can sum it up in just one sentence: I am using a new H-P Pavilion that is the newest seventh-generation Intel Core computer and, if you want to see “real funny,” go get a new computer and try switching over your tech ... (click for more)