Hamilton County Department of Education announces Opportunity Zone leadership team

Opportunity Zone leadership team

Jill Levine, chief of Opportunity ZoneSaunya Goss, elementary directorZac Brown, secondary directorDebbie Rosenow, coordinator of literacyBrandon Hubbard-Heitz, literacy coach (6-12 focus)Denver Huffstutler, coordinator of math and scienceAnthony Goad, STEM coachBrenda Boyd, behavior SpecialistDemetrius Wiley, exceptional education supervisorCeleste Walton, exceptional education coach

Ten people will lead the Hamilton County Schools' Opportunity Zone, and two more will join the team in the near future.

New system Superintendent Bryan Johnson last month announced his plan to launch an Opportunity Zone to support 12 of the district's struggling schools. The zone will include schools in the Brainerd High and the Howard School feeder patterns and provide more staff, targeted support and a heightened urgency for improvement.

"The implementation of the Opportunity Zone shows the district and board commitment to becoming the fastest improving school system in Tennessee," Johnson said in a prepared statement. "This team will support school communities and ensure there is a focus on all students graduating post-secondary ready."

Jill Levine, chief of the Opportunity Zone, said the state approved the budget for the zone last week, and since then the district has "urgently assembled an exceptional team of top educators to lead this critical work."

The new team will work with with the Tennessee Department of Education, and the state's Partnership Zone will work within the Opportunity Zone. How that collaboration will work will be discussed in coming months as the county and state continue discussions about what exactly the Partnership Zone will look like.

photo Hamilton County Department of Education Chief Academic Officer, Jill Levine, speaks to reporters. Members of the Hamilton County Department of Education visited the Chattanooga Times Free Press to discuss goals for the 2016 school year.

Schools in the Opportunity Zone

Brainerd HighThe Howard SchoolEast Lake Middle AcademyDalewood MiddleOrchard Knob MiddleBarger Academy of Fine ArtsCalvin Donaldson Environmental Science AcademyClifton Hills ElementaryEast Lake ElementaryHardy ElementaryOrchard Knob ElementaryWoodmore Elementary

The Partnership Zone is a shared governance between Hamilton County Schools and the state to allow the two to work together to provide a better education for students attending the five lowest-performing schools - Brainerd High, Dalewood Middle, Woodmore Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle and Orchard Knob Elementary schools.

The Partnership Zone was an alternative to a full state takeover of the five schools, an option known as the Achievement School District. The intervention came after those schools posted little, if any, academic progress for more than a decade.

"The way we see it, is the Opportunity Zone is a broader umbrella that encompasses 12 of our schools right now," Johnson told the Times Free Press. "The Partnership [Zone] fits within it concurrently to support these schools at a deeper level."

Johnson said the implementation of the Opportunity Zone is about making sure that students get what they need immediately.

"We don't have the luxury of having a year to plan," he said, referring to the year it will take to iron out the details of what the Partnership Zone will be.

"We know we've got to respond right now, and that's what the implementation of this zone was about," he said. " We just felt like we owed it to these 12 schools to provide them the support right now."

Two community school coordinators and a human capital coordinator will be added to the Opportunity Zone leadership team in the near future, according to the district.

A kickoff event will be announced, offering parents, educators, community members and students the chance to learn more about the zone. Stakeholders will be able to offer feedback on ways to help make Hamilton County the "fastest-improving district in the state," according to the statement.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.