New round of EdTalks focuses on disparity in Hamilton County schools

New round of EdTalks focuses on disparity in Hamilton County schools

August 23rd, 2017 by Myron Madden in Community Signal Mountain

People listen as new Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson speaks at a welcome reception hosted by the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, Chattanooga 2.0 and UnifiEd at Bessie Smith Cultural Center earlier this month. UnifiEd is conducting a series of EdTalks to focus directly on disparity in schools. (Staff photo by Doug Strickland)

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Team members at local nonprofit UnifiEd have long heard of the disparities that exist between Hamilton County's 79 public schools. But they say what they haven't yet heard are solutions.

That's why the education advocacy organization is working to develop policy that would ensure a bright future for every student in the community, regardless of his or her socioeconomic status — a process that starts by gathering input from parents, teachers and citizens all over the county.

"It will be a grassroots-developed policy," said UnifiEd Communications Director Natalie Cook. "Rather than being top-down from the school system control office, we're organizing the community to give their input on what they see as the biggest issues of inequities in our school system, and then gathering their ideas on what they feel could work within our school system specifically."

On Thursday, Aug. 31, UnifiEd will solicit such opinions and ideas about educational equity from local residents during a small community gathering at Guthrie's Chicken. Guthrie's is located at 1235 Taft Hwy. The EdTalk will begin at 5:30 p.m.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, UnifiEd will solicit such opinions and ideas about educational equity from local residents during a small community gathering at Charlie's Restaurant & Lounge in Soddy-Daisy. Charlie's is located at 8504 Dayton Pike. The EdTalk will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Additional talks

UnifiEd will host an EdTalk each Tuesday at 1609 McCallie Ave. until Sept. 26. Each will begin at noon.

Additional area talks are:

Aug. 24; 5:30-6:30 p.m.

The Tap House, 3800 St. Elmo Ave. #114

Sept. 7; 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Universal Joint, 532 Lookout St.

Sept. 21; 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Los 3 Amigos, 3536 Cummings Hwy.

Each week, UnifiEd will solicit such opinions and ideas about educational equity from local residents during small community gathering throughout Chattanooga. The meetings are part of a new series of "EdTalks" started by the nonprofit earlier this month as part of its new Action Plan for Educational Excellence, or APEX, to create said policy.

From now until late September, UnifiEd will host one EdTalk each Tuesday at its McCallie Avenue office, and another each Thursday at rotating locations across the county.

After hearing from county residents, the nonprofit's policy and research team will create an initial list of policy recommendations by working with the APEX project's newly formed steering committee, made up of three community representatives from each of the nine districts selected by UnifiEd. From December to January, the resulting policy recommendations will be taken back to the community to allow citizens to vote on how they should be prioritized, Cook said.

The issues and needs most important to the community will then be rolled into an equity-policy platform and released to the public by February in hopes that the school board, Hamilton County Commission and Hamilton County Department of Education will implement it.


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