Q: Do you believe educational equity, as defined by Chattanooga 2.0, should be a priority for the Hamilton County School Board and Hamilton County Schools? Why or why not?
A: Educational equity as defined by Chattanooga 2.0 must be a priority of Hamilton County Schools and its school board. It is essential for school board members and educators to consider all decisions through an equity framework in order to be sure that all students have the opportunity to unlock their full potential. As I have said, you must unlock the heart before you can unlock the mind. Therefore, additional resources must go to students with greater needs.
Q: What specific strategies or policies have you learned about or experienced that you believe would promote greater educational equity in Hamilton County Schools?
A: When it comes to strategy or policy, I suggest working to strengthen the links between school and home to equip parents to help their children learn. We didn’t call that a strategy or policy when I was young, but I experienced it. My mom said that when I was a student in district one, many times she didn’t have enough extra money to buy a Coke. Fortunately for me, I had teachers, coaches, community and people in my church who invested time and resources in me. They helped me have positive experiences and at times they believed in potential and a future that I did not yet see myself. Being raised by a single mom, I am grateful that teachers and other key adults in my life partnered with my mom to ensure that public education would be the “great equalizer” that Horace Mann believed it could be. No one called it equity back when I was a student, and there were not any policies to ensure that I experienced equity, but the difference it made continues to significantly impact my life. I’m a data guy. I like data, and I believe it tells a story. Using data to shine a spotlight on equity and illuminate our equity issues is a strategy that should continue. How we use and respond to data matters. My experience looking at trends, patterns and their implications will help as the school board works to promote greater educational equity.
Q: What role should the school board, specifically, play in eliminating racial and socioeconomic disparities in resource allocation, discipline, and access to high quality learning options in Hamilton County Schools?
A: There’s three parts to this question, so let me tackle one part at a time.
- Resource Allocation. School board members can insist that the district root causes for disparities in resource allocation and set clear expectations for the elimination of these gaps.
- Discipline. Enforcement of discipline and code of conduct is the role of an administrator and classroom teacher. Anyone who has been a teacher knows that classroom management is essential to being an effective teacher. School board members do approve the code of conduct, and we can of course ask questions. It is my understanding that the district has offered COMP (Classroom Organization and Management Program) training to educators. This program is out of Vanderbilt University and from the teachers I have talked to I have heard positive feedback. They say it does improve student behavior, student learning, and they enjoy teaching more after participating in the training. If elected, I would like to form an advisory council of parents and school staff to better understand how I can improve training and policies to support the discipline needs in our schools.
- Access to quality learning options in Hamilton County Schools. The role of the school board should be to examine the data and see how we are progressing towards the goals of our strategic plan. If elected, I will constantly be asking myself before I vote, “How will this decision improve student learning and performance?” I believe and support accountability. The school board, along with the Superintendent, sets the tone for the district in being tightly aligned and focused on our priorities.
Q: 48% of students in Hamilton County Schools identify as non-White, yet in 2019, approximately 11% of teachers employed by HCS were classified as racially diverse. Do you support increasing teacher diversity in Hamilton County Schools? If so, how will you prioritize the development of a more racially diverse teaching workforce?
A: If our teaching work-force does not mirror the racial demographics of our students, those minority students have limited access to same-race role models. Research indicates that minority students find greater success in school when they experience teachers with similar racial and cultural backgrounds. This leads into the second part of this question: in order to have a racially diverse teaching workforce, we have to increase the number of minorities attending college.
Q: What steps do you support the Hamilton County School Board and Hamilton County Schools taking to ensure students from low-income backgrounds and students of color attend college and earn college degrees at the same rates as their peers?
A: I think we need to take a close look at how we dedicate resources to increase college readiness. Getting more students ready for college will require an all-hands-on-deck approach with strategic early interventions, smaller class sizes in grades K-3, early interventions to connect low-income students to college, summer programs and other enrichment activities, financial aid awareness and opportunities, and early exposure to STEM education and college level coursework. I might have been a student who slipped through the cracks and did not attend college if class sizes were as large when I attended school as they are now.