All County School Board members except Rhonda Thurman said Thursday afternoon they are in favor of pushing ahead with an equity study sought by new Supt. Bryan Johnson.
Ms. Thurman said she was "tired of bullying tactics by outside groups" such as UnifiEd and Chattanooga 2.0. She said the 132 people who signed a letter in support of the study include people "with deep pockets" and enough money "to solve this in the morning." She added, "But what they want is control."
Karitsa Mosley Jones said she could "lead a tour over the county to show you inequity." She said, "It's all about doing what's right for kids."
Another board member, Tiffanie Robinson, said she was "sick of talking about UnifiEd and 2.0." She said, "We are allowing that to be a distraction to what we were elected to do." She said she "100 percent supports" the equity move, noting that her district has many impoverished areas.
Dr. Johnson said the move is not just for minority children, but to help "every student" reach their potential. He listed several areas where the schools are low, including sending students on to higher education, and said those need to have marked improvements.
He said at the July meeting the board will be asked to approve outside facilitators to help with "closing the opportunity gap." He said the price tag would be much less than the $290,000 previously mentioned, and he said it would be funded by private sources.
Dr. Johnson said meetings of an Equity Task Force will continue and future sessions will be open to all. The first three meetings were closed. He said some members had requested they be private at a time when they were weighing ideas, and had always intended to have them open as the group neared the time for making recommendations to the board.
Joe Galloway and David Testerman said they support the vision of Dr. Johnson and will back whatever he seeks to do to boost student performance and outcomes. Mr. Testerman said, "We have not been giving them everything they need to succeed."
Board member Joe Smith said, "I want what's best for every kid." Mr. Smith, who has with his wife fostered multiple children, said each individual "can find someone to love on." He questioned "how man of the 132 signers of the letter have someone in their life."
Kathy Lennon and Joe Wingate also lended their support. Ms. Lennon said, "We need to bring the same opportunities to all students."
Ms. Thurman questioned the efficiency of the central office, saying she had been "getting multiple calls about how they have messed up peoples' retirements."
She said getting 132 names on the letter was not impressive, saying she got over 14,000 to force a referendum on a wheel tax.