It's easy to make promises. It's harder to keep them. As your elected District 4 school board member, I'm keeping the promises I made on the campaign trail in 2016. Special thanks to HCDE leadership and my fellow school board members for their teamwork and dedication to driving progress for the students of our Hamilton County public schools.
In 2016, I said:
"Our school board is currently failing to keep the community updated on what is happening in our schools. Hamilton County schools are our schools, and every person has a right to easily access information and stay up to date on how to get involved in a school."
I promised to increase transparency by:
Establishing a transparent superintendent selection process that includes public forums, public interviews, and public comment
2019 Progress: Complete The recruitment and selection process was completely public. Read about the process in these media announcements: Hamilton County school board members discuss interview process for superintendent search firm, Times Free Press, 9/9/16 | Get to know the 14 candidates for Hamilton County superintendent, Nooga.com, 4/25/17 | Dr. Bryan Johnson selected as next Hamilton County Superintendent, Nooga.com, 6/20/17
Performing a top-to-bottom review of the budget with a focus on effective use of funds, and publishing the review in a detailed easy-to-read format.
2019 Progress: Complete All budget planning documents and the final presentation are now available to the public. Read them here.
Hosting school board meetings in schools at more appropriate times, and live-streaming meetings
2019 Progress: Complete: All school board meetings are now live streamed and posted to the HCDE YOUTUBE channel here. Current meeting times and location options have been determined to be optimal.
In 2016, I said:
"Our school system is in dire need of positive change, and our school board and superintendent are not holding themselves accountable to make that change. It's time for our leaders to take their roles seriously, and to be held accountable for both the successes and failures of our schools."
I promised to improve accountability by:
Setting measurable goals for 2020
2019 Progress: Complete Under Superintendent Johnson, we have created an exciting multi-year vision. View the full Future Ready 2023! strategic plan here.
Establishing regular benchmarks for both self-assessment and community-assessment of progress
2019 Progress: Complete Superintendent Johnson’s individual evaluation is directly tied to Future Ready 2023! outcomes, for the first time ever. View a copy of the evaluation form here.
Developing procedures to assess the effectiveness of leaders in central office and our schools
2019 Progress: Complete Intentional relationship building between the board and Superintendent Johnson has allowed for increased communication about the effectiveness of leadership in central office and across the district. This regular communication keeps both parties apprised of opportunities for staff growth and development. Additionally, key hires like the Chief Equity Officer, Chief Talent Officer, and Chief Policy Officer will provide greater oversight for the continued success of leadership staff. Read more about this: Hamilton County Schools names chief talent officer, completing new superintendent’s leadership team, Times Free Press, 1/9/18 | Hamilton County Schools fills final slot on leadership team, WRCB, 1/9/18 | HCDE.org Leader Directory
Creating programs to educate parents on the school board and increase awareness of school board decisions
2019 Progress: Complete The district developed new Learning Communities in 2018 to further educate parents on happenings within their school community. School Board members are engaged in this work, offering parents greater insight into policy decisions made on their behalf within their respective communities. Read more about Learning Communities: HCDE.org website, Hamilton County Schools announces four ‘learning communities’ for schools, Times Free Press 5/3/18
In 2016, I said:
"Schools are the backbone of our community. They produce our thinkers, leaders, innovators, and active citizens. Providing young people with education changes our world for the better, and everyone must be involved in that process."
I promised to encourage community involvement by:
Implementing the community schools model, which turns schools into community hubs that address needs such as providing dinner and healthcare, hosting after-school programs, and even offering work force development and GED courses for parents
2019 Progress: Complete We launched three community schools during the 2017-18 school year, including Red Bank High School, Orchard Knob Middle School, and Woodmore Elementary. There are several more community schools in the works throughout the district now. Additionally, two full-time community school coordinators were hired to work in Districts 4 and 5 for the Opportunity Zone. Read about it: Hamilton County Schools leaders look to community schools to serve highest-needs students, Times Free Press, 4/1/18 | Community Schools in Tennessee report, TN Comptroller of the Treasury, October 2018.
Building partnerships with local businesses to develop programs for students, as well as resource and time donations
2019 Progress: Complete Two community schools coordinators hired to work in Opportunity Zone schools have organized business-school partnerships to support students in District 4 schools. One example is the Orchard Knob Middle School ‘Care Closet” launched in 2018. Read more about this: Orchard Knob Middle School’s Care Closet helps meet students needs ‘from head to toe’, Times Free Press, 12/18/2018.
Additionally, the district has successfully implemented Future Ready Institutes in select high schools in close partnership with local businesses and public organizations such as Unum, EPB, Bryan College, and many more. A new partnership has also been established between NASA and Howard Connect Academy, the new Howard Middle School. Read more about this: HCDE.org website | Four more Future Ready institutes announced for Hamilton County high schools,Times Free Press, 4/30/18. | The sky will be the limit, HCDE.org website, 3/7/19
Increasing parental involvement in our school system by supporting Parent Teacher Associations and establishing parent advisory councils for District 4 and the county
2019 Progress: Completed: Superintendent Johnson and his team have implemented volunteer parent advisory councils, including the Opportunity Zone Parent Advisory Board. Read more here: Hamilton County Schools leaders look to community schools to serve highest-needs students, Times Free Press, 4/1/18.
Supporting student voice by establishing a democratically-elected student advisory council for District 4
2019 Progress: In Progress Superintendent Johnson and his team have begun development and implementation of a district-wide student advisory council. I will be working towards establishing a student advisory council specifically for District 4 during the 2019-2020 school year.
Developing strong relationships with the county commission who determines the school system budget
2019 Progress: Complete We on the board continue working closely with colleagues at the Hamilton County Commission. An annual meeting has been set between the board and the commission, a first-ever joint commitment, to facilitate ongoing relationships. Additionally, the board and commission has begun meeting to discuss budgeting, as occurred on January 2019. Commissioner Mackey and I communicate regularly and work together toward shared goals, and Superintendent Johnson has built a strong relationship with the commission and Mayor Coppinger. Read more about this: Hamilton County school board prepares for budget talks with county, meeting with state delegation, Times Free Press, 1/10/19 | Hamilton County commissioners get a snapshot of school district’s vision ahead of budget talks, Times Free Press, 1/14/19.
In 2016, I said:
"There is currently a lack of equity in our school system. Where a student lives and how much money their family makes impacts the opportunities they have access to. Every student should have the same opportunity to succeed, regardless of who they are."
I promised to establish equity by:
Establishing student-based budgeting which funds schools based on the needs of every student
2019 Progress: Complete We have established a budget with a multi-year view and are now operating on a priority-based budget, which has been determined to be the best format considering our district’s current access to funding and complications with the state BEP. The FY 18-19 budget was made public on the HCDE’s new website, as was the FY 19-20 proposed budget and timeline; both can be viewed here.
Additionally, I and the board have worked diligently to “do more with less”, having started the 2018-2019 school year with $1M less in the budget but adding the following in District 4: an art teacher in every school, additional school counselors, $10M investment in The Howard School stadium and track, and a new state partnership for the Opportunity Zone bringing an additional $11M into the district. Read more about this: Hamilton County works to bring back more art in the schools, Times Free Press, 4/28/17 | A long time coming: Hamilton County finally breaks ground on a new Howard stadium, Times Free Press, 1/31/19 | Increasing the number of school counselors a priority for Hamilton County Schools, Times Free Press, 1/21/19
*Note: This platform area, after being in office for two years and learning of limitations and alternative options that are more beneficial to the district, is no longer being pursued specifically towards student-based budgeting. It is my hope that the district will one day have funding secure enough to revisit this approach to equitable funding.
Investigating the use of the cluster school zoning model, which increases parent choice in schools as well as socioeconomic diversity
2019 Progress: In Progress: Open enrollment started at select schools in spring of 2017. This includes open enrollment through the Future Ready Institutes, opened in 2018, and other parent choice options that continue to be added. This open enrollment includes elementary and middle schools at Rivermont Elementary, Brown Elementary, and Howard Connect Academy; as well as Future Ready Institutes in high schools including The Howard School. I am also reviewing feeder patterns in District 4 with Superintendent Johnson, and am optimistic about the positive impact the new Howard Middle School will have on these patterns. See a list of all Future Ready Institutes here.
Advocating for universal access to Pre-K so students enter school prepared, regardless of their socioeconomic or ethnic background
2019 Progress: In Progress Access to Pre-K has been made a legislative priority on a state level as stated in the district’s new legislative agenda for this year. As an LEA, we have no control over access to Universal Pre-K, but will continue to support partnerships that open this opportunity to more children so they are ready for school on day one. The district has also created programming like Parent University and Camp Kindergarten to prepare younger students to be ready for Kindergarten. Read more about this: Local leaders present legislative wish list to Hamilton County delegation, Times Free Press, 1/5/19. | About Parent University, HCDE.org website | Camp K, Times Free Press, 5/13/18
Recruiting teachers earlier in the year to ensure Hamilton County is competing for the best teachers from the best universities
2019 Progress: Complete HCDE HR Department significantly strengthened in 2017. Teacher recruitment now begins earlier in the year, with more focus on universities and diversity. Additionally, the district’s HR Director delivered a comprehensive plan for effective faculty recruitment and retention with a focus on diversity, including a partnership with HCBU’s, higher wages, and bonus pay. Read about it here HCDE holds recruitment event for teachers, Times Free Press, 12/11/17 | Full HR Director staffing plan
Retaining talented teachers in our neediest schools through improved professional development, support systems, and incentives
2019 Progress: In Progress: Several teacher retention programs have been launched during the 2017-18 school year to keep our most talented teachers in Hamilton County including a teacher mentoring program and robust training, as well as higher wages and bonus pay. The district also approved the Teach for America program to aunch here in Hamilton County. Read about one of them here UTC, Hamilton County Schools launch mentorship program for new Opportunity Zone teachers, Times Free Press, 12/16/17 | Teach for America receives green light to launch in Chattanooga, Times Free Press, 11/8/18
Expanding academic offerings in District 4 to mirror other districts throughout Hamilton County
In Progress: Major progress has been made here with development of the Future Ready Institutes, increase in number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, building of a new Howard Middle School and more! For example, Orchard Knob Middle School has made advances in math, and East Lake Academy advances from a score of ‘1’ to a ‘5” (the highest) in RISE literacy and reading intervention program and CSAS was named a level ‘5’ school as well. Read more about this: HCDE.org website | Hamilton County leaders proud of latest TNReady test results, WDEF, 8/16/18 | Massive effort launched to prepare Hamilton County students for workforce, Times Free Press, 3/15/18 | Benwood commits more than $240,000 to help launch new Howard Middle School, Times Free Press, 6/9/18