Hamilton County parents want more involvement in the school system, an idea Superintendent Rick Smith said he supports.
Smith made his first “State of the Schools” address Wednesday to about 50 people gathered at a meeting of the Hamilton County Council of Parent-School Associations. He was tapped as superintendent in July.
In a question-and-answer session following his address, parents expressed a desire to have more contact with school and district administrators.
Smith said he may bring back a parent advisory council, a practice that took place during Jesse Register’s tenure as superintendent from 1996 to 2006.
“You don’t need someone talking at you,” he said. “I and my staff need to hear from you.
“If I were a board member, I would think I would want to have some community meetings,” Smith added.
Parents said they’d like to see school board members again hold meetings with families in their districts, as some used to do.
“To me, it’s important to feel the parents have a voice,” said PTA Council member Jimi Crooks.
Crooks, who has two daughters at Normal Park Elementary School, said he’s had trouble getting in touch with district leaders and school board members for help with issues.
After Smith’s address, Crooks said he was encouraged by the new superintendent’s words.
“I think the current administration has been a little more open,” he said. “I know there was some contention over his appointment, but I’m hoping the partisanship has stopped and we can move forward.”
Badiema Waldrep, president of the Hamilton County Council of PTAs, said individual parents have reported problems in the past reaching high-level administrators such as the superintendent. But she said Smith seems to have an open-door policy.
“I think there has been some disconnect in the past,” Waldrep said. “But I get the impression that they’re very open to hearing concerns from parents and addressing them.”
During the address, Smith spoke about student achievement, his work to improve principals’ performance and the school system’s pressing need for new facilities.
One of his first priorities after taking the job, Smith said, was to strengthen relationships with parents as well as political and philanthropic leaders.
“One advantage I have as a local guy is I don’t have a learning curve,” he said, referring to about 30 years’ experience in county schools. “I know every one of them. Part of what I want to do is work hard on getting those relationships back to where they need to be.”
He said parents and other PTA members are crucial in their role of supporting teachers and schools.
“The more we pull together,” he said, “the better our kids will be.”
Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...