Race to the Top could bring drastic personnel changes

Race to the Top could bring drastic personnel changes

March 12th, 2010 by Kelli Gauthier in News

Related article: Chattanooga: Howard alumni speak out in support of alma mater

Tennessee education officials outlined a host of potential personnel changes in a 250-page promise they made to the federal government to turn around the state's chronically failing schools.

Chattanooga's Howard School of Academics and Technology is one of 13 schools targeted by the state for inclusion in the new state-run "Achievement School District." The district gives authority to state Education Commissioner Tim Webb to remove and replace superintendents, school board members and any person deemed to have contributed to a school's failure.

Hamilton County Board of Education member George Ricks, who represents Howard's district, said he is not too concerned.

Staff photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press Howard School for Academics and Technology is located on Market Street .

Staff photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

"I think we're doing a great job here. I think we'll be all right," he said. "I'm going to be supportive of the school system whether they remove me or keep me. I can't control that."

In January, when state lawmakers passed the First to the Top Act of 2010 -- which includes programs such as the Achievement School District -- they did so mostly to improve the state's chances of winning federal Race to the Top funds. Along with 15 states and the District of Columbia, Tennessee now is a finalist to receive the $501 million it requested.

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jim Scales said that, if the school system must make drastic personnel changes, he hopes local officials will be able to do it on their own terms.

"I'm only concerned that ... we're given the opportunity to do it in such a way that individuals are not personally damaged, where their careers are short-circuited," he said. "Where they're the 'fall guy' for something that hasn't gone right."

Dr. Scales added that his support of Howard principal Paul Smith "is no secret."

The Achievement School District itself also will get its own statewide superintendent, whose base salary will be $250,000, according to Tennessee's Race to the Top application. State officials will begin looking for an in-state candidate in the next several months, said Amanda Anderson, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

Dr. Scales said he would not throw his name into consideration for the statewide position.

"I have my own district whose achievement I'm responsible for," he said.

PDF: Turning around the lowest-achieving schools

RACE TO THE TOP

Along with 15 states and the District of Columbia, Tennessee now is a finalist to receive the $501 million it requested in federal Race to the Top aid.

Under the achievement district, state officials also could oversee how much money Hamilton County Schools allocates to Howard.

County schools Chief Financial Officer Tommy Kranz did not return messages seeking comment.

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