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Chattanooga 2.0 Director Jared Bigham

Leaders of the Chattanooga 2.0 initiative say despite the tumultuous couple of months Hamilton County's school system has experienced, the group's commitment to supporting and partnering with the school system has never been stronger.

"Chattanooga 2.0 has grown larger than any of us as individuals," the group said in a statement. "The work of 2.0 will go beyond 2016 and beyond 2017, and nothing is more important in our community."

Chattanooga 2.0 is an education reform initiative focused on preparing students to enter the workforce. The initiative has gained widespread support since it released a sobering report about the state of Hamilton County's public schools in December.

A 100-day planning period is underway to address problems presented in the report, and four groups are working to develop strategies for the community to act upon moving forward. The groups are: early childhood and school readiness, K-12 education, the connection between graduation and career, and the faith-based community.

Jared Bigham, director of Chattanooga 2.0, announced this week the Boston Consulting Group is working with these groups by bringing expertise and experience to help gather resident's input across Hamilton County.

"As we began our initial community conversations, what we quickly found out is we needed additional capacity and expertise to make sure we are gathering all of the ideas and viewpoints, and could turn those into tangible and specific steps forward," Bigham said. "BCG will be an invaluable partner to us as we make sure we are listening to and learning from all sectors of our community."

Boston Consulting Group has worked globally but also with metropolitan school systems in Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas on community engagement, system assessment, strategic development and implementation plans, Bigham said.

He said Boston Consulting Group will begin its outreach and facilitation work with Chattanooga 2.0 immediately, with reports and action plans presented back to the community by early May.

"We have one chance to do this right, so we are deeply grateful to the foundation and business leaders in our community who are bringing this additional expertise to our community at zero cost to the taxpayers," Bigham said. "This is yet another example of how citizens and organizations from all across Hamilton County are coming together to help make sure this work succeeds."

Lane McBride, partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group, said she is excited for her team to be in Hamilton County several days each week working with these groups and the community.

"We are excited about the opportunity to support the Chattanooga and Hamilton County community in this important work," McBride said. "We see this kind of coalition coming together and are excited to be a partner in ensuring, as the Chattanooga 2.0 report describes, that all children and adults have an education that gives them access to the economic opportunity the community has created over recent decades."

Maeghan Jones, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, is one of the people leading the early childhood and school readiness group. She said she is looking forward to BCG's input.

"I think they will be the biggest help to us by helping us map the resources we already have in the community," Jones said. "They will be helping us structure community voice, and will not be out in front leading the group, but a helpful adviser."

Jones said she hopes Boston Consulting will bring some outside knowledge of best-practice approaches that have proven successful in other cities, as she thinks it will help her group to learn from them and determine what models would work here.

"Whatever happens, it has to be unique to our community," Jones said. "I just hope they can help us understand what could be most effective."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow on twitter @kendi_and.

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