Don't Let The Hamilton County Schools Bamboozle You Again - And Response (4)

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

So, as of today, the schools are planning to reopen, in full, on Aug. 12. I fully expect that to change shortly after they arrive back. I think there will be one or two weeks of classes and then back to virtual school it will be, because that is how they can draw full paychecks while doing very, very little actual work.

Schools shut down in March and then changed over to “virtual” classes. Teachers, despite being on lockdown with the rest of us, were somehow never available.

They didn’t lose a single hour of pay but spent almost no time on any kind of interactive instruction. You could not reach them by phone and e-mails went unreturned.

I have three children in two different Hamilton County schools and after 10 days of straight-from-the-Internet worksheets, exactly one Zoom meeting and them giving us instructions for logging into Khan Academy, I started making my own lesson plans and outlining goals. It was so much easier. We used the Five In A Row curriculum and each child actually looked forward to learning. Horizons for math, instead of Common Core, made my kids (and me) realize how simple and easy it should be to learn. They each jumped more than a grade level in just a couple of months.

Hamilton County Schools did not meet even a minimum standard during that time. Hundreds of worksheets were given with no cumulative effect. They didn’t build off each other and merely seemed to be busy work that was never actually graded. Teachers went off the grid and could not be reached. You could tell when they suddenly had some kind of actual accountability at each point in the month, because there would be a half-hearted phone call, with blocked caller ID in the hope that you wouldn’t answer. This is unacceptable.

Folks, they will continue to play these games until the public fights back. When registration starts in a few weeks, make the effort and formally dis-enroll your child. Notify them that you plan to home school this year. Apply for an umbrella school and make your own plans. You know your child better than anyone else. You can provide individualized instruction which they will actually enjoy. You know you are going to be home schooling them anyway - so make it official.

By un-enrolling your child, you will remove the gravy from the train. They won’t be able to collect those thousands and thousands of local, state and federal dollars per child that have kept them complacent and unwilling to make any kind of reasonable effort.

Remember the concerted local intimidation of lawmakers by Hamilton County teachers and UnifiEd to block the children in this county from receiving vouchers? Those vouchers would have allowed families to use the amount allocated for each child by the state to help pay for a private school. There is a reason they fought so hard. They know those kids would leave and never come back because the quality of education they provide is sub-par, and that was pre-virus.

If there is a significant drop in the numbers of enrolled children, I believe we will actually see some kind of undertaking (probably a study done by an out-of-town company for hundreds of thousands of dollars) made to improve their sorry performance. Your child deserves better. Make sure they get it.

Alanna Fuller

* * *

Ms. Fuller,

I cannot speak to your particular experience with Hamilton County Schools during the time of distance learning.  I also do not have any reasons to doubt you had a negative experience - I am sorry if you truly did.  Please do not discredit my own experience as an HCDE teacher during this time.This past year I was an English teacher at East Ridge High School.  Next year I will be at East Ridge Middle and I also previously spent five years at the Howard School.  I live in East RIdge and enjoy belonging to the community where I teach.

I do not presume to be perfect nor do I believe any institution or organization is above criticism.  But as an HCDE teacher during the time of distance learning I had long hours in front of my computer and on the phone contacting parents and students daily.  I attended at least two meetings per week, planned and collaborated with other teachers, constantly posted on Google Classroom, was available for Zoom meetings with my students as needed, and graded the work that trickled in.  In addition to this I walked my neighborhood and spoke with parents, grandparents, and students in the school system to help in any way I could.  I contacted other teachers on their behalf and helped those in need understand online platforms.  I received text messages, phone calls, and emails at dinner time, after midnight, and all hours in between.  I responded to them as well.  I did all this while, with my wife, worked to keep our own three kids on task daily.  

I do not say this to brag on myself but to illuminate for you, and others, what many teachers in HCDE were doing during distance learning.  I spoke with multiple teachers/friends from East Ridge and other schools as well and they were doing the same.  We care about our students and their parents and bettering our community.  

You have brought a strong criticism and charge to the entire working force of teachers and administrators in Hamilton County Schools with little evidence other than your own subjective experience.  I am glad you refrained from informing us what schools your children attended and the names of their teachers. They do not need additional, and, perhaps, unwarranted  criticism.  I am curious as to whether or not you contacted the administration of your children’s schools or county office.  Where did you stop advocating for their education with HCDE? 

I could write an equally scathing letter to the parents of Hamilton County students entitled “Don’t Let The Hamilton County Parents and Taxpayers Bamboozle You Out of Funding Our School System Again.” And  to be fair I had less than 20% of my students completing work on a regular basis.  I had a high number who didn’t complete one assignment.  I attempted to reach out to each student and parent at least once.  Do I conclude that all Hamilton County parents, including you,  are indifferent to their children’s education?  Using your logic I could. 

But I know that many parents were working third shift, pulling overtime, and some of my students were babysitting siblings and cousins all day.  Even my students were pulled into extra hours at work.  The phrase “unprecedented times” is a dead horse I’d like to see kicked for the final time.  The age of the coronavirus should not strip us of human decency and cause us to be hyper-critical of each other.  I do not always know what life is like in someone else’s home.  

I recognize that I am blessed to teach and receive and paycheck during a time that has, in many ways, been hard on my neighbors.  This, in part, drives me to be a teacher who is available and who cares.  My hope is that my efforts live up to the needs of you, and all the other parents of Hamilton County students.  


Neal Howard
English teacher
East Ridge Middle School
“Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!”
- Uncle Walt Whitman


* * *

I recently read the opinion piece you published about Hamilton County Schools. I will say that Ms. Fuller’s experience with her child is disappointing to say the least, but it’s a narrow single-minded view involving one teacher at one school in Hamilton County.

I can attest, having a child in Hamilton County Schools and a significant other that is a teacher for Hamilton County Schools, that there are a lot of teachers who were working hard to keep kids engaged and learning though this pandemic. Every morning at 9 a.m. the teacher in my household was in a meeting with her principal and every other teacher at that school, from 10 to 11 she was prepping for a Zoom meeting with her entire class and 11 to noon she was in that Zoom meeting. She would take lunch from 12 to 12:30 then spend two hours calling and working with students who were having issues. She would assign them task though the county lent iPad the students had to help them along as well.  From 2 to 3 she would go over the work that had been done the day before and finally she would spend time prepping for the next day and how to help the students who struggled on the assignments given.

I can also say that the fifth grader in my house spent four hours a day working on school work either on his school lent Chromebook or the packets of work I took him to pick up each week. I’d like to note four hours a day is the requirement for home schooling in Hamilton County.

I know you will say, but this is one house and this is one teacher, but being lucky enough to work from home though this mess I have sat and listened to some of the meetings with the principal and I can tell every teacher at that school was working as hard as my SO to keep these kids learning through a historic mess.

I have also read the plan for Hamilton County’s school reopening and it is not the open all doors policy that Ms. Fuller would have you believe either, though that is what our president wants. It’s a plan designed to reopen schools separately determined by the spread of a disease, that is killing people, based on the safety of the surrounding community, and it’s honestly the best we can ask for given the current situation.

In conclusion, Hamilton County Schools and their teachers are not out to bamboozle anyone. They are doing the best they can with low funding from our conservative leaders. They are working as well as they can with second rate equipment, lack of planning and running themselves to death working 12 to 16 hours a day. Don’t let one person who has only one point of reference advise you on what needs to be done to our education system.

Zack Curvin

* * *

After reading the above opinion regarding the virtual learning conducted during the last part of the 19-20 school year, I felt the need to share my family’s experience.

My wife and I have three children in Hamilton County Schools; two in elementary and one middle schooler. We both work full time and, while my wife was able to work from home during the shutdown, I was not, and having to coordinate virtual learning for three different grade levels was difficult and stressful to say the least. Neither of us nor anyone in our family is a Hamilton County employee.

That being said, I want to brag on the teachers that taught our children this past year. Our experience was completely opposite of what was described above. Our kindergarten son received daily check-ins from his teacher as well as near immediate feedback on assignments that were turned in via Class Dojo. He would go to bed excited like it was Christmas Eve on the nights before his weekly Zoom call with his classmates. Our second grade daughter looked forward every day to her teacher’s daily video class updates. When we turned in her packets of work we received a text or email the same day giving us feedback on her successes or things she needed to focus on. And you would not believe how much second graders can talk on their weekly Zoom when they have been apart for so long. Our middle schooler received daily personal emails on his county issued Chromebook from multiple teachers giving him assignments and discussing his work as well as video chats/lectures from teachers.

These teachers were doing all of this for all of their students all while their own kids were completing schoolwork virtually and their own families were dealing with shutdown stress. We could not have been happier with our experience. Well, other than not having to go through this shutdown to begin with.

I understand there are issues in our education system, but from our experience, the teachers and school employees that have worked with our children have gone above and beyond what was required of them.

Gray Ramsey
Nolan Elementary and Signal Mountain Middle Parent

* * *

Ms. Fuller, you go girl.


As you will see, the excuse mongering is a way of life for HCDE to deflect from dismal results. I love your letter, love.  Perhaps the public should add pillows and blanket to that HCDE pay check.


HCDE did, in fact, use taxpayer resources in staff time, HCDE computers, county property and offices, paid consulting lobbyist, travel, meals to work against parental choice voucher legislation. The emails of Jenny Hill to HCDE staff to review and edit for the TFP publication against vouchers are all an absence of public employment ethics.


I especially enjoyed the internal emails, acquired through open records, where the HCDE lobbyist celebrated reeling in the vote of Senator Todd Gardenhire against voucher legislation. HCDE got the big fish, after having dinner with him.  I meant to share that email with Senator Gardenhire.


The HCDE political work with public money resulted in every county having vouchers, but Hamilton and Knox counties.  I believe that exempting specific counties caused the state courts to overturn the parental choice legislation, not on voucher merit, rather exclusion of specific counties. 


The HCDE, radicals at UnifiEd, and the TFP went on a public relations campaign to work against parental choice vouchers.


Hats off to you, Ms. Fuller, for being a well-informed person. Every word of what you have written is true.


It is highly offensive that HCDE used our property tax dollars to carry out their political will on the public’s dime.


If HCDE’s staff or public employees were so politically concerned about parental choice vouchers, they were free to use their own time, computer, resources, and money to stop vouchers, but HCDE staffers did not. HCDE used our money for their personal political will.  Frankly, the actions of HCDE staff are so offensive with proof from open records internal emails, the attorney general should investigate for Little Hatch Act violations. I should have devoted more time to resolution to end use of public funds for the personal political will of HCDE staff.


Yes, Ms. Fuller, the public funded the HCDE fight against parental choice vouchers with our own money.  I researched and this is not the public school system’s first rodeo using public tax dollars for political purposes, and there is specific and enacted state of Tennessee legislation that prohibits the school system from inappropriately using public money against the will of people, called the Little Hatch Act.


The public spends over $11,000 per child to about 45,000 students with dismal results. The state of Tennessee reports that only an estimated 37 percent of third through eighth graders can read grade levels, and less than 50 percent of the same age demographic can perform grade level basic match.  Yet, HCDE cheers themselves as a 5 of 5.  They fail to report the 5 is only for a small increase of a few percent, that can easily be attributed to child turnover - five indeed.


Home school, private school, and do whatever is required to teach your children basic reading and math, because statically, they will not succeed at HCDE.  Children will have better outcomes in a home-structured environment, or in a home school group.


The same folks that funded UnifiEd and killed parental choice voucher legislation have thrown their financial support behind two candidates. The UnifiEd Lite candidates are Stephen Vickers and Marco Perez.


We can do better than these candidates.


April Eidson

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