Guest speaker Donavan Davis, right, advocated for teacher support at the State of the System event, hosted by the Hamilton County Department of Education. He is pictured with school board member Larry Grohn, center, and his wife, Carol.
Hamilton County Department of Education introduced its new strategic plan Opportunity 2030 at the State of the System event held on Goodwin Road in East Brainerd.
“I am thankful for those now standing on the promises,” said Tyner Academy Principal Dr. Tiffany Earvin, welcoming the crowd to the space that will become the new Tyner Middle High Academy by 2030.
Opportunity 2030 will focus on “holistic” student well-being and also teacher support, said Dr. Justin Robertson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools.
The plan’s commitments to Every Student Belongs and Every Employee Valued are connected by Every School Equipped.
“Some people, some communities, don’t see themselves in ‘every.’ We mean each and every,” said Dr. Robertson.
Every Student Belongs
This year’s budget will add $25 million for school-based staffing and resources. In an effort to better connect students to the adults in their schools, the plan doubles the number of social workers in the schools and also focuses on security.
The plan aims to strengthen the relationship between families and schools, seeming to try to make up for time lost during the pandemic.
“We want to welcome families back into our buildings,” Dr. Sonja Stewart, deputy superintendent.
“Parents are our kids’ first teacher, and their best teacher,” she said.
Every School Equipped
Dalewood Middle School principal Rashaad Williams has been working to build the culture and environment of his school building, though it’s not new. He told the crowd that a tailored staff, not a “random” staff, is important to build a culture of school pride and belonging.
Every Employee Valued
Attracting and retaining that tailored staff will require changes, Mr. Williams said. “Teaching is changing and we’ve got to support our teachers,” he said.
Donavan Davis, a school counselor at Middle Valley Elementary, said the teaching environment for Hamilton County staff is “toxic.” “We’re feeling overwhelmed and under supported,” he said. He said that in the coming years teachers need more opportunities to be seen and heard, they need the flexibility and autonomy to support individual students, and they need fully staffed buildings.
Mr. Donavan said teachers are driven to get results merely “on paper” and are driven to participate in actions that aren’t best for the children.
He asked for an administration and school board of “advocates” who are not distracted by “checklists” and “hoops.”
“We want teachers who are willing to tell us what they need,” Dr. Robertson said. “We know teaching is difficult. We know that we’ve got to do better and we’re committed to it,” he said.
Teacher satisfaction will be measured with a new metric in Opportunity 2030, with a goal of 85 percent. Dr. Robertson said 91 percent of new teachers were retained last year, and he promised a renewed commitment to mentoring and coaching for new teachers in their first three years.
County schools were 95 percent staffed in fall 2022.
The plan also adds a new metric for professional development, with a goal of 75 percent, and a new metric to measure seniors’ plans after graduation, including college, military, trade school, apprenticeship, internship, or work.
County Mayor Weston Wamp reiterated that the workforce is the future of the local economy, and that starts in the public schools.
BUDGET INPUT MEETINGS for the Community:
Feb. 22, 27 and 28 at 6 p.m.
Mar. 1 at 12 noon (virtual)
Mar. 2 at 6 p.m.