published Monday, September 17th, 2012

Hamilton County officials seek ways to bridge divide over schools

Warren Mackey, from left, Tim Boyd
Warren Mackey, from left, Tim Boyd
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They keep talking, but members of the Hamilton County Commission and the Hamilton County Board of Education still are having a hard time communicating.

So one commissioner is asking for the commission to revamp its Education Committee to help bring peace between the two boards, which have been bickering publicly in recent months.

The commission has sought more control over how school dollars are spent.

The back and forth reached a tipping point when the commissioners halted the progress toward building a new East Brainerd Elementary School last month until they could get reassurance on how the school district would spend the money it receives for the sale of the old building.

At Thursday's agenda session, Commissioner Tim Boyd recommended ditching the current Education Committee, which is led by Commissioner Warren Mackey, and proposed a new committee that included members of the commission, the school board and the superintendent.

He said the current committee had been "ineffective" and that a new committee could help bridge the communication gap.

"We could at least try it for a year. If it works, we have a big 'hallelujah' moment," Boyd said Friday. "If it don't, OK, well, we tried."

In August, Mackey called for a joint meeting of the full school board and commission to start working out some of their issues. But so far no meeting has been set.

School board Chairman Mike Evatt said he needed time to get new board members up to speed on school facility issues first. The nine-member board has two newly elected members and one who was recently appointed to the panel.

Mackey put the blame on the school board.

"If you asked a woman out for a date and they said 'no,' what then would you do?" Mackey said.

Some of those involved don't think a major communication meltdown is taking place but said a new committee wouldn't hurt.

"Let's sit down in a meeting and, if you have to lock us up in there until we get it done, then let's get it done," said school board member David Testerman.

At the end of Thursday's meeting, several commissioners who had taken swipes at the board turned around and praised their board colleagues for communicating well with them.

Staff writer Kate Harrison contributed to this story.

about Kevin Hardy...

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 ...

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