Celebrating school climate: UnifiEd hosts block party to roll out school video series

School education pencil tile

If you go

UnifiEd’s Video Launch Block Party is Saturday from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at UnifiEd’s office at 1609 McCallie Ave.

Last year, UnifiEd launched the Hamilton County Public School Guide, providing an easy way for people to access state and local education data about each of the county's schools.

But the data doesn't offer a complete picture of what's taking place in schools, said Jonas Barriere, executive director of UnifiEd, a local education advocacy nonprofit organization.

So UnifiEd is creating a series of videos highlighting the climate of every school in the district, and it will host a block party Saturday to roll out the first batch of videos. Starting at 3:30 p.m., the community is invited to eat ice cream and popcorn while learning about schools in districts across the county.

Katie Stiffler, a senior at STEM School Chattanooga and student organizer with UnifiEd, said she looks forward to all different groups of people coming together at the block party and celebrating the school system.

"I want everyone to come," she said. " I want people to see the value in public education."

D'Andre Anderson, a senior at Central High School and also a student organizer, said the videos provide students a way to cherish their schools long after they leave.

"It helps us bring pride to our schools," he said.

Watching the video about Bess T. Shepherd Elementary brought back a lot of good memories, Anderson said. He attended the school years ago and said it was great seeing the school's hallways and some of his old teachers in the video.

Ashley Conrad, director of policy and research at UnifiEd, said videos are complete for about half of the county's schools, and in coming months the remainder will be finished.

"It's been an amazing process," Conrad said, emphasizing the role principals and students play in identifying the strengths of their schools and figuring out how to best highlight them in the videos.

Conrad hopes the videos encourage people to take action and get involved in public education.

"I hope [the videos] help our community members be better advocates for public schools," she said.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at krainwater@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.