School Board Meeting
Even before Volkswagen AG comes to Chattanooga, the local school system needs to be ready to welcome them, officials said Thursday.
Hamilton County Board of Education member Joe Conner suggested at Thursday’s meeting that the school system assemble a delegation of people to make certain “we open the welcome wagon as wide as we can open it.”
“We need to be ready and proactive as a school system to be a very excited partner in this,” he said.
Mr. Conner suggested the school system offer additional German classes in preparation for an influx of students from “other cultures and other countries.”
Since VW is such a globally minded company, hiring additional modern language and English as a second language teachers could be a way for the school system to show its willingness to partner with the company, Superintendent Jim Scales said.
Mr. Conner also wants the district to appoint a contact person to address any questions Volkswagen employees may have about the school system as they begin moving into town.
When Volkswagen AG comes to Chattanooga in 2011, they will be next-door neighbors with the Hamilton County Department of Education. The school system’s central office sits at 3704 Hickory Valley Rd., in old U.S. Army barracks, once part of the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant. Enterprise South, the megasite that will house the VW plant, also was once part of VAAP and sits adjacent to the school district’s headquarters.
“We need a personal touch,” he said. “The first contact we have with someone from outside the community, we need to not say, ‘No’ to them. ... If we show that effort on the front end, it will make a huge difference.”
Dr. Scales said next week he would begin talking to Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey as well as officials with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce to begin forming a preparation plan.
Dr. Scales also wants to make contact with VW officials to get a feel for the demographics of their potential work force.
“We need to ask them what is the likelihood that we’ll have an increase in student enrollment, and students whose first language is not English,” he said.
During the discussion about VW, school board Chairman Kenny Smith, who has spoken publicly about his desire to see a stand-alone career and technical high school in Hamilton County, said teaching students technical skills will become even more important as the new VW plant brings new jobs to Chattanooga.
“Mr. Conner, I agree with you 100 percent on this one, as long as ramping up career and technical is part of that plan,” Mr. Smith said.
In other business, the school board voted against spending $90,000 for asbestos removal at the old Calvin Donaldson Elementary School, which would be necessary prior to demolition or renovation.
The board approved the remainder of its Facilities Committee agenda from the previous week, including:
n Accepting money from the Hamilton County government to construct a multipurpose building on the campus of Woodmore Elementary School
n Promising the city of Chattanooga that the school system intends to donate the current Hixson Middle School building to be used as a community recreation center once students move into the new middle school in January.
n Allowing the Soddy-Daisy High School booster club to construct an indoor batting cage to be used for boys’ baseball and girls’ softball practice
Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...