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Hamilton County Schools announces 'learning communities'

Hamilton County Schools on Thursday announced its schools would be grouped into four "learning communities" to foster community spirit and identity, according to a news release.

The communities will be North River, Rock Point, Missionary Ridge and Harrison Bay.

The North River Learning Community includes Allen Elementary, Big Ridge Elementary, Daisy Elementary, Dupont Elementary, Hixson Elementary, McConnell Elementary, Middle Valley Elementary, North Hamilton County Elementary, Soddy Elementary, Hixson Middle, Loftis Middle, Soddy-Daisy Middle, Hixson High, Sale Creek Middle/High, Sequoyah High, and Soddy-Daisy High. 

The Rock Point Learning Community incorporates Alpine Crest Elementary, Battle Elementary, Brown Academy, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Lower School, Lookout Mountain Elementary, Lookout Valley Elementary, Normal Park Lower School, Nolan Elementary, Red Bank Elementary, Rivermont Elementary, Thrasher Elementary, Normal Park Upper School, Red Bank Middle, Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences, Lookout Valley Middle/High, Red Bank High, and Signal Mountain Middle/High. 

 The Missionary Ridge Learning Community will feature Apison Elementary, East Brainerd Elementary, East Ridge Elementary, East Side Elementary, Spring Creek Elementary, Westview Elementary, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, East Ridge Middle, Tyner Middle Academy, Collegiate High, East Hamilton Middle/High, East Ridge High, STEM School Chattanooga, and Tyner High Academy. 

 The Harrison Bay Learning Community will include Harrison Elementary, Hillcrest Elementary, Lakeside Academy, Ooltewah Elementary, Bess T. Shepherd Elementary, Snow Hill Elementary, Wallace A. Smith Elementary, Wolftever Creek Elementary, Brown Middle, Hunter Middle, Ooltewah Middle, Central High, Hamilton County Adult High, and Ooltewah High.

"These learning communities will foster a renewed spirit of cooperation between schools and will engage the community to benefit the children," schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson said in the news release. "The new learning communities will be the center of activity in the areas for parents and the business community and will refocus district support to maximize educational opportunities for children in our schools." 

The learning communities join the Opportunity Zone , which includes Barger Academy of Fine Arts, Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy, Clifton Hills Elementary, East Lake Elementary, Hardy Elementary, Orchard Knob Elementary, Woodmore Elementary, East Lake Middle Academy, Dalewood Middle, Orchard Knob Middle, Brainerd High, and The Howard School.

Each learning community will have an executive director. Dr. Neelie Parker, director of elementary schools for the system since 2015, will head the North River Learning Community. Dr. Robert Sharpe, operations director for secondary schools since 2016, will head the Rock Point Learning Community.

Dr. Larrie Reynolds, now superintendent of schools for Mount Olive Township Public Schools in Budd Lake, N.J., will lead the Missionary Ridge Learning Community. And Dr. John Tharp, who was executive director at Pathways Charter High School in Milwaukee, Wis., will be the executive director for the Harrison Bay Learning Community.

Also, Hamilton County Schools has realigned director positions for teaching and learning under three academic leaders. Karen Hollis will be elementary teaching and learning director, Chrissy Easterly will be the middle school teaching and learning director, and Jamie Parris will be the high school teaching and learning director. 

And Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw will be the new chief operations officer for the system, following the retiring Dr. Lee McDade. Bradshaw has been deputy superintendent at Richmond County Schools in Augusta, Ga., since 2014.

William T. Brooks, Lt. Col. (retired) and senior Army instructor at Central High School, will lead the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps. And Erin Kirby, a Signal Mountain native, will be the district induction specialist. In that role, she will lead the district New Teacher Academy induction program, focusing on mentoring and partnerships with universities to recruit, develop and retain outstanding teacher talent, the release states.

"Exceptional talent drives improvement in schools to benefit the children we serve each day," Johnson stated. "These high-quality educational leaders will move the district forward to be the fastest improving school district in the state of Tennessee."