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."







CSCC Is The Perfect Size For Wyrick

Cleveland High School graduate Ben Wyrick wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to major in, so he decided to enroll at Cleveland State Community College to take his general education courses before deciding on a career.   “If you go straight from high school to a four-year school, you are still taking general education courses, so you might as well take them here at ... (click for more)

Echols Receives School Of Business Alumna Award

Dr. Evaline Echols was named the 2017 School of Business Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at the annual department breakfast at Lee University’s Homecoming.  “It is upon these shoulders [Echols] that we, the current School of Business, stand,” said Dr. DeWayne Thompson, dean of Lee’s School of Business. “This is her legacy and the reason she is the 2017 School of Business ... (click for more)

3 People Shot Early Saturday Morning; 1 Is Killed; 2 Victims Are Known Gang Members

Ladarius Cross, 28, Terrance Careathers, 26, and a juvenile were shot early Saturday morning. Cross was killed.   Chattanooga Police responded to a motor vehicle crash at 5:16 a.m. in the 1400 block of Roanoke Avenue.   Upon arrival, Chattanooga Police Officers located the single vehicle crash with two people suffering for apparent gunshot wounds. The driver, ... (click for more)

Longest-Serving County Official Knowles Is First In Line To Sign Up For New Term

Bill Knowles is one of the longest-serving officials in Hamilton County history, and he's not through yet. County clerk since 1974, he was the first in line on Friday morning to pick up his petition for re-election. Then he beat everyone back with the completed form. Mr. Knowles said, "I ran in 1974 on a campaign of ending the long tag lines. We put in a tag by mail system ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Should Be Problem Solvers Around The City

Re: Roy Exum’s “Stay, Signal Mountain, Stay”  Well this article is something to think about. I think the split could go either way, and Signal Mountain schools would still flourish, as they have done for the past several years. What I'm worried about is why Signal Mountain has not yet had the guts to go be problem solvers at Howard, or Tyner, or Central. Why do ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The School Board Bullies

When the good people of Signal Mountain join with their loved ones to give thanks for many, many blessings on this hallowed Thursday, you can bet the Hamilton County Department of Education will be on nary a list. For the past year a diligent advisory committee has studied the feasibility of forming its own school district and exactly one week prior to Thanksgiving, the misguided ... (click for more)