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: Equity has been a priority for many years in Hamilton County Schools. In 2006, a document titled, “Hamilton County Secondary Priority Schools Resources Provided an Actions Taken”, shows the following schools – Dalewood Middle , Chattanooga Museum Magnet, (now closed-became Normal Park Upper), Orchard Knob Elementary, East Lake Elementary, Calvin Donaldson Elementary and Woodmore Elementary received either all, or a vast majority of the following between 2004-2006: Lower student teacher ratio, system-wide fact finding team, system-wide fact intervention team, added assistant principal; provided training for administrators in leadership accountability and achievement, provided literacy consultants, secured literacy coaches, provided coaching and training in team building for staff, provided professional development in math strategies and literacy instruction, secured family partnership specialist to work with families, provided consulting teachers, secured principal coaches, provided attendance incentives, secured literacy coaches, provided curriculum facilitators, provided reading interventionists for at-risk students, reconstituted school staff, added alternative classroom, implemented in-school suspension programs and truant officers.
So, yes, equity has already been a focus for Hamilton County Schools for many years.
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: In addition to the aforementioned programs and positions that have been in place since 2004-2006, more have been added. Millions in Opportunity Zone money from the State has also been poured into these Priority Schools. We have added additional teachers, counselors, night school, additional buses to make extra trips to get students to school, Dean of Students, attendance specialists, later school starting times and other positions and programs. Teachers and administrators are given stipends to work in hard to staff schools.
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: The Board has approved a Code of Acceptable Behavior to ensure that students in every school get the same punishment for the same offense. HCDE has also formed an Equity Task Force as well as appointed a Chief Equity Officer. I trust the Leadership Team to continue to make sure equity issues are a priority.
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: HCDE Human Resource has made hiring minorities a top priority. HR hired recruiters to do nothing but actively search surrounding counties and states searching for minority teachers. Also, Teach for America was hired last year to recruit and hire minority teachers.
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: The main thing the School Board can do to ensure low income and students of color attend college, is to be sure they are academically ready to go to college. In 2008, Dr. Robert Green, Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University, (at the cost of $150,000), did a study “A School Retention and Academic Achievement Plan”. In this study Dr. Green states, “one fourth of Brainerd and Howard ninth-graders are over age (17-18 years-old). Dr. Green went on to say that in interviews with current at-risk students, recent dropouts, and high school teachers, it was revealed that many young males “never learned to read in elementary school.” Teachers interviewed for the study said many 17-18-year-old students either can barely read or cannot read at all.” Dr. Green recommended a “renewed emphasis on reading.” HCDE has taken steps in recent years to improve literacy in all of our schools, especially at-risk schools. Reading must continue to be the most important focus of the School Board.
Other findings in Dr. Green’s study was the need for “more positive male role models in schools, development of a black academy, possible same-sex classes, more support from black businesses, professionals and churches, a student recovery class in each school, cultural and diversity training for teachers, better trained and highly paid teachers and an expansion of vocational programs.” Most all of these suggestions have been acted on. However, more can be done to accomplish Dr. Green’s suggestions.
Each high school has College Access Counselors to encourage students to seek higher education. Counselors find opportunities and assist students and parents to fill out paper work with colleges that many times offer minority only scholarships. Counselors provide students information so they can pursue vocational opportunities if that is their desire. Students are also given information how to apply for admission to Chattanooga State where they can attend for two years free of charge.
As far as “ensuring that students from low-income backgrounds and students of color attend college and earn college degrees at the same rate as their peers”, I do not see how the Board can ensure students go to college and graduate. We can provide the opportunity but, not the outcome. After high school it is their responsibility to continue their own education.