Improving reading among K-3 students and bolstering classroom discipline were topics when the County Commission and School Board got together on Monday night.
However, County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the joint session at Red Bank Middle School did not produce the consensus he had hoped for on a number of school improvement goals.
A school employee was stationed at a blackboard listing for consensus items to write down.
At the start of the session, an East Hamilton teacher who earlier set up a similar joint session handed out cards for members of the audience to wave. Turning it red mean disagreement with the speaker, and a green wave meant approval.
County Mayor Coppinger, at the beginning, said the goal was "to agree on things going forward that need to get done."
He asked that the conversation be "in a respectful manner" and there be "no finger pointing."
The county mayor said, "Now is not a night for great sound bites."
He stated, "Let's talk about the good things (in public education). We've heard enough about the bad. We need to make the people of Hamilton County proud of our public education so they can support it. We're all on the same team."
He also said, "I don't want anyone to go away thinking this is a pitch for money."
He said the county had a number of things going for it, "but we are really lagging behind in public education."
County Mayor Coppinger, who earlier this year led a drive for a 34-cent property tax for the schools that ultimately was defeated 5-4, said the meeting was "not about money."
But he noted that "We're coming up on budgets" and needed an idea of what to include for the schools.
School Board member Tiffanie Robinson suggested that the meeting focus on six shared goals of the board.
Board member Rhonda Thurman said achieving "orderly classrooms" was at the top of her list. She said, "If we can do that, a lot of other things will take care of themselves."
Ms. Thurman, who heads the board's discipline committee, said conversations are underway with state legislators on getting options for dealing with unruly students.
On the literacy issue, Commissioner Tim Boyd asked for more clarity on a statement that 33 percent of county school students are not proficient readers at the third grade level. Officials said the state rate is 37 percent, and the county school goal for improvement was at 50 percent.
Supt. Bryan Johnson said the assertion did not necessarily mean that only 30 percent of county school third graders are readers. He said there were several factors involved, including state assessments.
Commissioner Boyd asked, "Can't we get a book written at the third grade level and find out how many of our students can read it."