Free Press picks for District 3, District 5 and District 6

Free Press picks for District 3, District 5 and District 6

July 18th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Greg Martin

Greg Martin

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

District 3: Martin's experience the difference

District 3 includes areas of Hixson and Middle Valley

• Big Ridge Elementary *

• DuPont Elementary

• Ganns Middle Valley Elementary *

• Hixson Elementary

• McConnell Elementary

• Hixson Middle

• Loftis Middle

• Hixson High

* Reward Schools

Schools among the top 5 percent in the state for annual growth and the top 5 percent for academic achievement.

Greg Martin, who was appointed to the Hamilton County Board of Education to fill the unexpired term of Everett Fairchild in District 3 in 2012, deserves the vote for a full term in the Aug. 7 county general election.

Martin, a seminary graduate who manages two cemeteries, said his job is to be "responsive to his constituents" as well as set policies and procedures for the district and work with Superintendent Rick Smith.

Although he didn't vote for a $25,000 raise for the superintendent in 2013, he "supports the superintendent, likes his vision," supported teacher raises and notes that systemwide test scores have risen in the last several years.

Since Martin's appointment, Ganns Middle Valley Elementary was approved by the Hamilton County Commission for a replacement building, and funding was secured for a new roof at Loftis Middle School.

Though he has never run for public office before, he also was an appointed school board member in Long Beach, Miss., and served as chairman of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Martin is opposed by Jim Watson, an impressive, award-winning teacher who retired after 30 years in the Hamilton County Schools and five years at Dalton High School. So interested in education is he that he will continue teaching this fall at Ivy Academy, a charter school. Since he will not do so as an employee of the Department of Education, he is fully eligible to take a seat on the school board.

He advocates getting the county's Basic Education Program funding formula from the state raised, wants to see a "stagnant" budget for non-student personnel within the schools and seeks better communications between the school board and the public since it appears "lines are not open."

Both candidates believe more vocational education opportunities are necessary for students, Watson even calling the lack of such "a disaster" and saying a third, more basic track could be offered in addition to college and vocational tracks. Both also like the vision of Common Core in raising student standards but don't believe what has been implemented so far has been sound.

We lean to Martin because of his previous experience on the board.

Patrick Hampton

Patrick Hampton

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

District 5: Hampton has edge over Mosley

District 5 includes Summit, Bonny Oaks, Woodmore and Dalewood

• Hillcrest Elementary

• Lakeside Academy of Math, Science & Technology

• Woodmore Elementary (I)

• Dalewood Middle (I) • Tyner Middle Academy

• Brainerd High (I)

• Tyner Academy

• Washington

(I) Izone Schools

Schools among the bottom 5 percent in state test performance.

Chattanooga is fortunate that seven members of the community stepped up to offer themselves for the District 5 seat on the Hamilton County school board.

Of those, we believe the top top choices are Patrick Hampton, director of the Goodwill YouthAdvantage Mentoring Program and director of students at Hawkinsville Baptist Church, and Karitsa Mosley, a licensed clinical social worker. Both were born and raised in the district, and both believe they can champion improvement for the district, which has some of the lowest performing schools in Hamilton County.

Hampton, because of his daily hands-on work in the schools and his out-of-the-box thinking about solutions to improving the schools, gets our nod.

Among other things, he'd like to work toward an all-boys' elementary school in the district, more vocational education opportunities and an early "pipeline" for students who want to go in that direction, better use of technology in engaging parents, a community fund to help pay for extras within schools and a nonproselytizing system in which churches commit to assist adjacent schools.

In the Goodwill mentoring program, he works with at-risk students in Brainerd High, Tyner Academy and Dalewood Middle schools within the district, and other schools, to help them prepare for school completion, post-secondary training and productive work. Before joining Goodwill, he also worked in the schools through STARS as a bullying prevention coordinator and trainer and for WhykNOw as an instructor in abstinence education.

Mosley, who is stressing advocacy, accessibility and accountability in her campaign, would like to see resources from community partners within the district pooled and intensified to assist all schools. She also would like district schools to adopt a community center model and remain open after school so the likes of fathering, GED and cooking classes could be offered.

The candidate pool also includes three other sharp women, Jackie Thomas, Yashika Ward and Cynthia Stanley Cash, as well as Samuel Blakemore and Richard Bennett. Cash, however, has suspended her campaign, and Bennett did not make himself available for a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board and did not attend a recent District 5 debate.

Ballard Scearce

Ballard Scearce

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

District 6: Scearce is narrow favorite

District 6 includes Lookout Valley, St. Elmo, Lookout Mountain, downtown, North Chattanooga and part of Red Bank

• Brown Academy for Classical Studies

• Lookout Mountain Elementary

• Lookout Valley Elementary

• Normal Park Museum Magnet/Upper

• Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts

• Lookout Valley Middle High

• Dawn School

The candidates for the Hamilton County school board seat in District 6 are two businessmen and a career educator. All three are worthy candidates and come before the electorate for different reasons and with support from different parts of the district.

Oscar Brock, a commercial real estate broker and resident of Lookout Mountain, comes from a prominent Republican family - his dad is former U.S. Sen. Bill Brock - with a commitment to social justice and the betterment of the community as a whole.

One-term incumbent Joe Galloway has spent 39 years as a teacher, coach, athletic director and assistant principal at Lookout Valley Middle/High, where his passion and dedication for students in that community is legendary and could be the model for anyone in his profession.

Ballard Scearce, an attorney in private practice who has heavy support in the Riverview community, has three children in Hamilton County Schools and has felt "frustrated" and "less than impressed" with school board decision-making.

We lean to Scearce because he believes the board should provide a long-term "vision" for the Hamilton County Schools and treat it with the financial eye of "a $400 million company," and because of the motivation of having children attending schools in his district.

He believes it is important for the board to foster better communications with the community, to seek more nonfinancial investments (that encourage investors to become more involved in the schools) and to embrace the technology that's necessary for students and schools.

On both Common Core standards and a college-only track for students, Searce says one size doesn't fit all. And he suggests using best practices to make all the schools in the system "the best."

Brock points to the necessity of training students better because of the preponderance of jobs currently - and more in the future - requiring at least a certification, the need to pay teachers more and the importance of starting a career and technical education (CTE) track for students.

Galloway says "everybody on the [current] board gets along," that it is "unified in supporting the superintendent" and that the board "needs people who understand your system." He also says there is no fat to trim in the current Hamilton County Schools administration staff.