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Students exit Howard High School in this file photo.

Parents want to be involved in the academic lives of their children, but they have barriers, said Pam Thompson, an educator of 40 years.

So she asked seven judges for money to provide transportation for parents to the school, to give parents free childcare and serve them dinner when they attended school meetings.

Thompson was among nearly 30 educators vying for a share of $100,000 that the Benwood Foundation offered in Chattanooga's first ever "Teacherpreneur" competition. Sunday's event was hosted by Benwood, the Public Education Foundation and the Hamilton County Department of Education.

Competition organizers expected about 30 entries. They got 60 and narrowed it to the top 28 for public presentation.

The ideas ranged from a request to fund drones for science class at Red Bank High School, to a North Chickamauga Creek Local Science and History Museum for Ivy Academy and a Taste Tennessee Culture Festival at Ooltewah Middle School.

Teachers asked for more updated technology, money to purchase prizes as incentives for students and money for more field trips to give low-income children more exposure.

Presentations lasted more than two hours before judges named the top four winners. A project from The Howard School won the top prize. At least six other winners will be announced within a week, said Keri Randolph, vice president of learning for the Public Education Foundation. In all, about 10 to 12 projects will be funded, she said.

Judges said they looked for sustainability and innovation when selecting winners.

The amounts the projects will receive will be announced at a later date.

Thompson hopes her project is funded among the remaining six.

"I want to meet parents where they are," she said. "No parent is beyond training."

Keri Randolph, vice president of learning for PEF, organized Teacherpreneur because she knew teachers had lots of good ideas but probably lacked the time and business expertise to implement their plans. The business community brought their suggestions and offered advice on how to get the projects started.

"It's not just about funding," said Randolph. "It's about support from the community."

Educators with the top four projects also received prize money for themselves separate from the money that will be issued to fund their projects.

The scheduled personal prize money was $1,000 for first place, $500 for second, $250 third and $100 for fourth.

But to applause, Justin Junda of Lamp Post, a venture capital incubator, told judges to double the personal prize money.

He said his goal was to show his gratitude to teachers.

"They don't get enough," he said. "Teachers work hard."

Contact Yolanda Putman at or 757-6431.