Unworkable Soddy Daisy School Plan - And Response

  • Thursday, September 28, 2023

Ronald Reagan once said of Democrats, “It is not that Democrats lie, they just know so much that’s not true.” I feel the same way about Clint Cooper. He knows so much that’s not true. In his 8/19 editorial he states, “If the carpers (me) were that upset about what was released on August 17, we wonder why they did not immediately stage a community meeting - as one member did - to hear their constituents’ views and - importantly - release their own better ideas for a solution.” Mr. Cooper, I did not need to “stage” a community meeting. I heard from enough parents, teachers and constituents to know how they felt. Mr. Cooper also must have missed the last part of the 9/14 facilities meeting or he would have known I made suggestions about a solution for Soddy Daisy Middle School and Daisy Elementary.

During the School Board Facilities Committee Meeting (9/14), I conveyed that I had voiced my opposition to putting a K-8 school on the current Daisy Elementary property when I met with the Superintendent on August 1. When I first saw the School Facilities Working Group Recommendations during that meeting, I was shocked to see the K-8 school proposal. Back in the Spring, I met with Geno Shipley, Justin Witt, Robert Sharp, Danny Floyd and others from the Central Office. We discussed building a new middle school on its current campus. There were discussions about moving ball fields and widening and improving the entrance off Dayton Pike into SDMS, but never was there a mention of a K-8 school at that meeting.

I have always heard a consultant is someone who looks at your watch and tells you what time it is. That is exactly what the 2019 MGT Facilities Report did. They looked at enrollment numbers, building capacities and growth patterns - the same information the school board has readily available. They then compiled it in a report and gave it to us at the cost of $500,000. The MGT Report looked strictly at numbers. They did not look at the impact of of school closures on communities. That is why they recommended something as crazy as closing Lookout Mountain Elementary. I literally laughed out loud when the MGT representative told me one of their first recommendations was to close Lookout Mountain Elementary. I told him, “You ain’t from around here are you?" Why would they recommend closing one of Hamilton County’s highest performing schools located in a community that takes care of its school and students? They were not looking at communities. They were just looking at numbers because “they ain’t from around here.”

The 2019 MGT Report recommended closing Daisy Elementary and moving its students to Soddy Elementary and renaming the school Soddy Daisy Elementary. It was realized after the report was made that sending the students from Daisy Elementary to Soddy Elementary would not work due to lack of space for growth (Soddy is land-locked with roads on all sides. So, it was mentioned to tear down the old auditorium!) and lack of parking for parents. It was also suggested then that Daisy students be sent to Allen. I also did not need to “stage” a meeting of my constituents to know they did not want an 800-900 student elementary school. We have 35 acres at the current middle school campus, as well as adequate space at the old SDHS property. Why should we cram all three schools with all of the extra traffic on the current Daisy Elementary/SDHS campus?

I was told with all the growth in the Soddy Daisy area, there would be a need for another elementary school in 8-10 years. So, we have gone from proposing the closing of an elementary school to needing another one in 8-10 years. Since it takes three years (at a minimum) to prepare for, and build a school, the plans for a new elementary school would need to start in 5-6 years. Does anyone seriously think District 1 will be able to get funding for a new elementary school in 5-6 years?

I gave my suggestions concerning a new SDMS and Daisy Elementary at the Facilities meeting. However, I will state them one more time more time so Mr. Cooper can understand them this time. Option 1, build SDMS on its current campus where the football field is. Then tear the school down and put the football field where the old school is. Then renovate Daisy Elementary with a new gym addition.

Option 2, build a new Daisy Elementary school (with plans for future expansion) at the middle school property on the football field (or at the Old Soddy Daisy High School property). When the school is finished, move Daisy Elementary students into the school and renovate the current Daisy Elementary to become a SDMS. With this option, no students will have to be displaced for construction.

Mr. Cooper, I am not just “talking to hear myself speak” at facilities meetings. I am talking to let the citizens in District 1 know the information I have gathered during the many hours of meetings concerning new schools in their district. I want them to know I am fighting to make sure the right decisions are made for a new SDMS and Daisy Elementary.

There was no one on the Mayor’s Facility Work Group from District 1. They did not have anyone there to address the traffic or parking problems that already exist on the Daisy Elementary/SDHS campus. Now, they want to add hundreds more middle school students to the mix. Many times, things look good on paper but, in practicality, will not work as well as envisioned. We cannot afford to get this wrong.

Mr. Cooper obviously does not have a clue all that is involved to get a school built. You have to fight many years and make your case why your school should be next on the list. You attend many meetings and walk school grounds. Then you pick architects and construction companies, look at bids and many more meetings. It is a little more involved than pounding the keyboard.

There will be a Community Meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 6:00 at SDHS to discuss plans for Soddy Daisy Middle School and Daisy Elementary School. Please plan to be there to hear me “carp”.

Rhonda Thurman

District 1

* * *

Normally, I agree with Clint Cooper on most things. But, he certainly has no idea about things in District 1. First, Rhonda Thurman is talking to constituents all the time. She has heard from many about the proposed K-8 school next to the high school. It is not the ideal situation to combine a giant area of K-12. Traffic on Sequoyah Road is already horrible during school hours. Adding the extra grades in one area is just not smart. By the way, Rhonda has never spoken to hear herself speak. She is always prepared to represent us with common sense. 

I am 100 percent in favor of option one that Rhonda has proposed. Build the new middle school behind the current run down buildings, tear it down and put the football field in front. (And make it first class.) As she said, to plan all this without any input from a District 1 representative was unwise to say the least. 

Rhonda is not intending to run in 2024. However, Distinct 1 will have another conservative, common sense candidate to take her place. It is my intention to take her place on the school board. I’ll fight for what’s right in our district just as she has done.

Steve Slater
Soddy Daisy 

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