Jeanette Omarkhail, president of the Hamilton County Education Association, said Thursday that the planned town hall meeting on Sunday on teacher pay and other issues is not "confrontational."
She said, “There was discussion at this week’s County Commission meeting that the town hall being held this weekend was confrontational in nature.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
“As educators, and constituents, in Hamilton County, we would like to engage with our locally elected officials to discuss potential solutions to the challenges facing our schools. It is a fundamental part of democracy, and something about which every teacher is passionate. We all want what’s best for our kids, but that is not possible without adequate investment.
“This year educators had to choose between salary improvements and keeping class size down because there is simply not enough money in the budget to do both. This is a decision no teacher should have to make, as the needs of our kids always come first. But stagnant pay hurts children in the long run, as it becomes difficult to attract and retain the best teachers, especially when there are neighboring districts with higher pay available.
“We stand ready to have a productive conversation with our elected officials about how best we can address the ongoing funding challenges. The county commission has the power as the funding body to make additional recurring investments in our schools, and we look forward to discussing how to make that a reality.”
County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who made the statement about confrontational, said,
"With all due respect to the HCEA union president Jeanette Omarkhail, this group of Hamilton County United teachers have done nothing but confront, threaten and “called out” the five County Commissioners for months. The damage is done.
"This claim of being non-confrontational comes much too late, or perhaps you are taking my advice given at yesterday’s commission meeting about being a little polite to those who control the funding. In either case this change of direction seems to me your way of getting the newspaper and other media outlets to start talking about how constructive and kind Hamilton County United is? By the way who is representing the teachers now, the HCEA or Hamilton County United?
"The simple truth that you and the other liberal activists fail to understand is what you are doing will not work, and you are complaining to the wrong people. How many times must you be told it was the School Board who failed to give teachers a raise, not the Commission. The School Board had plenty of money, but the board, along with you as the teacher representative, placed hiring more staff above teacher salaries. Even worse, you as the union president placed absolutely no value on seniority and years of service when deciding to give out Christmas bonuses. How often does that ever happen within a union that freshly hired employees get the same bonus as folks who have been on the payroll for years? My dad who was a United Steelworkers organizer would never have stood for such an agreement.
"And finally, the five Commissioners who voted against the bloated HCDE budget proposal represent the wishes of a majority of regular citizens and taxpayers of Hamilton County. We do not represent the HCEA, Hamilton County United, the liberal activists working in Dr. Johnson's administration, the local printed newspaper, UnifiEd, or the elitist of Benwood, Chattanooga 2.0, the Chamber, the Community Foundation, or the Public Education Foundation. All of whom lobbied hard for the proposed tax increase.
"I am proud to be among the five commissioners who stood up and listened to our constituents’ wishes."