Barriere: School officials must put meat on bones of capital plan

Barriere: School officials must put meat on bones of capital plan

November 5th, 2017 by Jonas Barriere in Opinion Columns

Staff file photo by Doug Strickland / Hamilton County Schools superintendent Bryan Johnson gives a "State of Our Schools" address to the Hamilton County Council of PTAs in the Hamilton County Department of Education board room on Oct. 18, 2017.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

UnifiEd commends Hamilton County Department of Education's new leadership team on its quick work to develop a plan for the $100 million recently granted by the county for capital projects. We appreciate that the plan integrates the priority projects previously identified by the Board of Education and incorporates many of the recommendations of the budget working group report about increased efficiency as a source of cost savings.

We are also pleased to see that the plan takes steps toward reassessing zoning and school usage while calling for a full assessment of capital needs to inform a seven-to-10-year strategic capital plan. In the capital plan adopted by the school board last month, the Department of Education outlined three essential next steps that UnifiEd fully supports — community meetings for affected schools, reassessment of zoning lines and development of a long-term strategic capital plan with an external consultant.

It is clear that given the vast and diverse needs across our community and schools, there must be a community-driven, equitable, and fully funded approach to capital needs in the school system.

That's why we urge the district to take the following specific actions to make these critical goals become concrete reality.

-Outreach and community engagement: Opportunities for the community to engage with the district in decision-making should be accessible and structured. Access means that the opportunities are promoted across multiple media and communication channels to ensure exposure to many audiences. Structure means community members should have a defined platform for voicing their specific concerns and raising issues not pre-identified by the district. In-person meetings should be interactive and facilitated by a third party, while surveys can draw wider participation to prioritize issues.

-Strategic planning: The current capital plan approved by the school board was not on the meeting's public agenda, and the report provides few details about the actual investment planned for each affected school. In the future, when plans are shared with the public, there should be accessible and easily understandable information about how estimates and figures were established.

-Inclusive decision-making: To develop and implement better policies that reflect the diverse interests in Hamilton County, we urge the district to develop a community engagement plan that ensures all future initiatives and strategic plans have a focus on equity, inclusion, and shared decision-making.

Future efforts to address potential zoning solutions should include controlled family choice, a commitment to equity, and the elimination of schools with concentrated populations of students living in poverty.

-Transparent and accessible i nformation: All future plans should be comprehensive, easy to understand, and open for community review in advance of decision making.

Our community's values should be reflected in decisions on how resources are allocated across our schools, and this community has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that all children, regardless of background, have the opportunity to succeed.

We urge our community, elected officials and the school system to consider the importance of a community-driven, equitable and fully funded approach to capital management in our schools. We can easily identify need, but it is much more difficult to build solutions to those needs that are fair to each child and representative of this community's values. However, these are the factors that will make systemic changes both effective and sustainable in the success of our school system.

Jonas Barriere is the executive director of UnifiEd, a community-led movement of parents, teachers, and citizens who seek great public schools.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com