The headline on Jan. 10 in the Times Free Press read, “Report shows Hamilton County students still lagging behind Tennessee peers.” In smaller type underneath, the sub-head added, “Less than 33 percent of county elementary, middle school students read at grade level.” Then, just seven days later, this on Friday, the same newspaper bannered, “Hamilton County Schools superintendent praised after mid-year report.”
For Pete’s sake! If three or four members of the school board want to hand out “participation trophies” that’s fine by me but from where I sit and watch, common sense dictates Supt. Bryan Johnson hasn’t done a thing other than what most men making $200,000 a year would have done. I was at Thursday’s school board meeting and, other than to sprinkle one another with left-over glitter from New Year’s Eve, it was a yawner.
What’s true is that Johnson has put together an impressive team but several of them were introduced for the very first time to school board members. Fact: As of this minute the new ‘C suite’ hasn’t accomplished one thing. (I found out ‘C-suite’ means where the ‘chiefs’ sit.) What is also true is not one school board member has yet to speak out against “the fees” that continue to mount for children in the district, the grossly-unfair school hours, and tiresome bus rides foisted on these children.
Johnson loves to talk about changing the culture and began Thursday’s monthly meeting by saying “We are in a season of change.” Egad, the public knows the biggest change must come from the school board itself. The very ones who accept roughly a $1,000 a month as elected officials have accomplished nothing that I can see in the first semester of Johnson’s reign. One member even proclaimed she was “ecstatic,” saying Johnson is “sticking to his word and the board is holding him to task.” Excuse me?!?
“Sticking to his word?” After Johnson abruptly scuttled positive talks with Signal Mountain earlier this month, I told him we could go up the mountain and start a fire without even striking a match! He laughed, agreeing “the honeymoon is over,” but the best truth was when a Signal Mountain parent who has attended two much-ballyhooed community meetings where no one other than the chosen were allowed to speak, politely approached the school board and openly wondered if there might be some time the actual residents of the mountain may be allowed to ask questions.
Following an ages-old dodge of mundane talks rather than heavy lifting, the HCDE officials are launching a second round of a “listening tour” where they hope to take away the glare the HCDE is among the worst systems in the state. It’s an old trick … talk, talk, talk … but sit on your hands, mind you, and after two hours agree to talk some more at a later time. So help me, Johnson promised the Signal Mountain woman with a nod, “We’ll talk …”
Candidly, I believe Bryan Johnson and his promising team will achieve good things, but with almost 70 percent of the students not able to read at grade level, how long will it honestly take for them to catch up? Johnson’s catch line is “the fastest improving school district is the state” but when the public school system has been knocked flat on its back in recent years, there is nowhere else to look but to look up.
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THE GOOD OLE BOY syndrome kicked in Thursday when the teacher’s union guy asked the board to help do away with the new state policy by the legislature where each school is required by law to receive an A-to-F grade based on a certain criteria. Have you ever noticed unions hate being graded, because pressure is brought to identify the weak union dues payers and those who are admittedly dead wood?
No one on the school board knew much about the new system but Rev. Steve Highlander, very much a union sympathist, blurted he knew a lot about it, that the grading system was really unfair and that, yessir, we’ll vote right now to ask the rule be amended. It was hysterical, several of the board members naïve, but Joe Wingate said he didn’t want to vote either way.
“It’s not a good rule,” urged the board chairman, but finally common sense foiled the ploy.
It is unconfirmed but some believe if the union could do away with the A-to-F scale for individual schools, the same might be done for the individual students as well. There is a stigma that goes with D’s and F’s and, in order for social advancement each year, exception must be made.
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FIVE SCHOOL-BOARD SEATS UP FOR GRABS -- Joe Galloway, the District 6 representative on the School Board, has announced he will not seek re-election when five seats on the nine-person school board will be decided in the August 18 general election. It was also learned Jenny Hill has picked up qualifying papers for the district that includes Lookout Valley and Lookout Mountain.
The other four districts that will be on the ballot are now represented by Joe Smith in District 3 (Hixson area,) Karitsa Moseley in District 5 (Brainerd area), David Testerman, District 8 (East Ridge area) and Rev. Steve Highlander, District 9 (Ooltewah area)
Four members of the board have an additional two years in the rotation. They are Rhonda Thurman, District 1 (Middle Valley, Soddy Daisy), Kathy Lennon, District 2 (Red Bank, Signal Mtn.,) Tiffany Robinson (Downtown,) and Joe Wingate, District 7 (East Brainerd, Collegedale.)
It has been learned Tucker McClendon has picked up papers and has also qualified to run for Prof. Testerman’s District 8 chair. A number of other challengers are believed to be studying the 2018 school board race in Hamilton County.