Times picks for District 8 and District 9

Times picks for District 8 and District 9

July 19th, 2014 in Opinion Times

David Testerman

David Testerman

Photo by Clark Bowen

District 8: Testerman is best choice

District 8 includes Missionary Ridge, Concord, Hamilton Place, East Ridge and parts of Brainerd

Barger Academy of Fine Arts

East Ridge Elementary

Spring Creek Elementary

East Brainerd Intermediate

Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts*

East Ridge Middle

East Ridge High

In District 8, a former principal who is the incumbent school board member is challenged by a former teacher who also is a former teacher's union president.

We endorse the incumbent, David Testerman. But the former classroom teacher and former Hamilton County Education Association president, Samevelyn Rock, would be a good choice as well.

Both say they think state education reforms have been misguided and put too much emphasis on standardized testing. And both believe teachers have been underappreciated.

Perhaps most importantly, both also think that Hamilton County schools should rethink its position on single-track/college-track curriculum, saying we need to bring back vocational and technical training to supplement the college course track.

"When we went single-track, we left some kids behind," Testerman asserts.

Rock believes we are at a crossroads in public education -- one where we must choose teaching over testing as a policy.

"I want to bring back some of the old-school techniques to support the students and not let standardized testing continue to drive education policy. Students are more than a test," she said.

Each of these candidates would do a good job as a school board member, but Testerman's already up on the board's work and votes.

We believe he should be retained.

District 9: Highlander tops field of five

Steve Highlander

Steve Highlander

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

District 9 includes Ooltewah and Birchwood

Harrison Elementary*

Ooltewah Elementary

Wallace Smith Elementary

Snow Hill Elementary*

Wolftever Creek Elementary

Brown Middle

Hunter Middle

Ooltewah Middle

Central High

Hamilton County Adult High School

Ooltewah High

* Reward Schools

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

With five hopefuls and no incumbent in the District 9 Hamilton County Board of Education race, candidates have tried to differentiate themselves.

Steve Highlander, who has taught for 42 years in Hamilton County and North Georgia, rose to the top as our choice to succeed Mike Evatt, who was elected in 2o10 and announced in February that he would not seek re-election. Evatt has taken a leadership position at Southern Management, one of Hamilton County Schools' largest contractors and the sole provider of district janitorial services.

Highlander wants to prioritize school safety and to create more vocational opportunities for students who aren't college-bound.

"We have to have our kids ready for the job market when they walk out the door, and right now they're not," he said.

Highlander also is concerned with the growing emphasis on testing in local schools for newly mandated standards aimed at ensuring our students are on par with the rest of the nation. That aim is good, he says: We should make sure our children's education is improving. The trouble is that "most if not all of our local schools do not have the technology necessary to perform the testing."

The Tennessee Department of Education "has seen the fallacy" of testing without total preparedness and has postponed part of it, but now teachers and students face a mix of testing that is confusing for everyone, he said. As a school board member, he would push to find solutions.

Another candidate, Dean Morehouse, also identified vocational education as a priority. But Morehouse, a retired businessman with strong Hamilton County Commission and Republican connections, seems far more focused on cutting school "inefficiencies."

It seems to us that the primary inefficiencies in Hamilton County schools begin with what we have agreed to spend on our students, not cut from them.

"Cuts" has been the Hamilton County buzzword for years among the courthouse crew. Employers in Hamilton County say they have jobs our students are not prepared for. That clearly shows that cuts are not fixing our problem.

Highlander's priority is children. So is ours.