District 3: Watson is the best choice
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.
In this two-man race, long-time science educator Jim Watson is challenging incumbent Greg Martin, a cemetery operator who was appointed to the board in March 2012 for his business expertise after Everett Fairchild stepped down.
Watson, who retired after spending more than 40 years in education in Hamilton County and Georgia schools, also has coached, served as a trustee on the sick leave bank, created professional development activities for teachers, raised and managed money for more than 60 overnight field trip activities and athletic teams. Even in retirement, he plans to teach a dual enrollment geology course at Ivy Academy, a local public charter school.
He wholeheartedly supports moving the public school system away from a single college-track curriculum to a multiple-track approach that includes vocational training. While college is wonderful, it is not the right fit for every child, he believes.
Martin, on the other hand, believes Hamilton County Schools already accommodate vocational training in scattered programs like a hydroponics course.
"I will continue to work to fund and expand our STEM and vocational curriculums," he said.
Both Watson and Martin say funding the schools is a challenge.
Watson would support a tax increase "only if the money went 100 percent to a very specific need. Examples would be the building of a new school, the renovation of an old school, labs and supplies for science classes, reading programs for early elementary, etc. I would not support any increase for administration of those programs. The entire tax increase would have to go directly and completely to the learning environment."
He thinks costs can be trimmed in the school administration's central office and in conserving energy within school buildings.
Martin, a Hixson High School graduate with a bachelor of arts in Bible from Bryan College and a master's of divinity and doctor of ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, is the family services director for Lakewood Memory Gardens and Hamilton County Memorial Park. He says he would not support a tax increase, preferring to find cost reductions in the central office and in consultant fees for things such as outsourced teacher development.
Both men are good choices.
We endorse the STEM educator: Jim Watson.
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
(I) Izone Schools
Schools among the bottom 5 percent in state test performance.
The August ballot for the Hamilton County Board of Education's District 5 seat carries seven names, but only five candidates have actively pursued the post. Two stand out: social worker Karitsa Mosley and Goodwill's YouthAdvantage Mentoring Director Patrick D. Hampton.
Both are outstanding candidates. We endorse Mosley.
Mosley grew up in a single-parent household in the district, graduated in 1999 from the Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences and now has a master's degree in social work. She believes that both students and parents in the district can relate to her.
She believes the most important change we can make as a community is to improve educational opportunities for children and part of that is making sure District 5 schools -- several of which are low performing schools -- have adequate and equal funding. This is not the case now, she says.
She advocates a "best practices" school approach that partners with proven community organizations to shore up the weakest links of schools. She also is a strong proponent of adding vocational schools or vocational tracks into Hamilton County's current "single-track" college curriculum.
Hampton, too, is a product of District 5, and he believes that fact -- along with his decade of classroom mentorship work in programs ranging from abstinence to drug resistance to work ethics and workplace literacy skills -- gives him a special advantage.
Also a youth pastor, husband and father, Hampton says he hopes to lay the groundwork for an all-male elementary school in the district to help boost the prospects of young black boys.
Mosley would support a tax increase for schools "if the funds were dedicated entirely to schools and to no other purpose" so all students systemwide would have access "to more resources in the classroom; increased teacher support and retention; technological innovations; extracurricular educational activities such as ROTC, athletics, fine arts, and band; pathways programs, literacy programs, building improvements and renovations."
District 6: Scearce wins endorsement
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
In District 6, incumbent and former educator Joe Galloway faces lawyer/parent Ballard Scearce Jr. and businessman Oscar Brock as challengers.
We endorse Ballard Scearce Jr., who has become an avid follower of education policy locally thanks to his three children who are Hamilton County public school students.
While improved education of all children is his primary goal, Scearce says that making sure parents, students and taxpayers get the biggest bang for their buck is also paramount.
"I look at this [school system] as a $400 million company and what you do to run it," he said.
As a parent and a lawyer/businessman, Scearce says the board has not communicated well with parents, nor has it been easily accessible to parents.
Calling himself a "huge proponent" of increasing the school system's offerings in vocational and technology training, he says two other important points in his vision for local schools include what he calls "non-financial investments, lead by example," along with increased technology in all classrooms.
As an example of what he means by "non-financial investments" he points to Chattanooga's Gig and tech renaissance: "Would these people not just love to tap into our schools (as real-time labs)?" he asks. "We just have to give the schools and teachers the tools and the vision," he said.
Brock, too, is an excellent choice for a District 6 vote.
With a bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University, and a master's in business administration from Vanderbilt -- along with his longtime involvement in Chattanooga civic organizations -- Brock is concerned with both life learning and moral obligations.
"We can talk about social justice. We can talk about the income gap. But the most damaging gap we've created is the opportunity gap. ... We have to give the opportunity for a high-quality education to every child," he says.
This district is fortunate to have both of these candidates.