Smith lobbies for technical school

Former Hamilton County Board of Education Chairman Kenny Smith addressed the board as a citizen Thursday night, lobbying for the career and technical high school he's wanted for years.

"I know I'm a broke record, but it's what I'm passionate about, and I think it can happen," Smith told the board at the end of its meeting.

Smith said last week he was looking at the feasibility of creating a vocational charter school, but he said Thursday he thinks a magnet school is a better option.

Public charter schools in Tennessee can, by law, serve only students who receive free or reduced-price lunches, who are zoned for a failing school or who have themselves failed a core subject on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test. Smith believes that a magnet -- a regular public school with a specific area of focus, such as career and technical education -- would make training available to more students.

Smith said he met Thursday with elected officials and community leaders, including Chattanooga State Community College President Jim Catanzaro; Hamilton County Commissioners Jim Coppinger, Warren Mackey and Chester Bankston; and Chattanooga City Court Judge Russell Bean, to talk about his plan.

He said he wants to see the new school on the campus of Chattanooga State.

Bankston, who attended the school board meeting, said it is time for Hamilton County to have another career and technical high school. Kirkman Technical High School closed in 1991.

"There are a lot of kids who aren't going to college, and they want something else. We need to offer it to them," Bankston said.

Board member Chip Baker said partnering with Chattanooga State "makes a lot of sense," but he was unsure about how to make that happen.

Smith said his next step is to talk with board members and Superintendent Jim Scales individually to gauge interest and support.

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