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In this July 2017 staff file photo, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson, left, and board members Steve Highlander, center, and Karista Mosely Jones take part in a Hamilton County Board of Education meeting.
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Members of the Hamilton County school board will meet today with a full plate on the agenda.

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen will join the board in a 4:30 p.m. work session to unveil the state's new plan for the five lowest-performing schools it previously threatened to take over.

McQueen is expected to present a memorandum of understanding that the board will vote to approve at its regular board meeting Feb. 15. The agreement will establish a "Partnership Network" — a slight change from the previously proposed "Partnership Zone" — that will include a seven-member advisory board and a state-appointed liaison.

Most of the board members have expressed enthusiasm about the proposal.

"I am happy with where the partnership is going," District 4 school board member Tiffanie Robinson previously told the Times Free Press. "I think Commissioner McQueen's mind has changed into a different direction. I think the reasons why she's willing to make those changes is she's seeing the progress that Dr. Johnson is making in those schools."

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The board also will meet in an executive session, which is a private session in which only board members and their attorneys are present, before the work session to reportedly discuss two recent judicial rulings and ongoing litigation in the 2015 Ooltewah rape case. The board has not held an executive session since at least prior to the 2017-2018 school year.

Two board members as of Wednesday had confirmed that they would not be present for either session, though.

The Times Free Press has reported on the rulings and the overall lack of understanding of them among board members — one of whom denied board attorneys more time to depose three expert witnesses. That came after a scathing order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger last week that said the attorneys "wasted the court's time" by refusing to release evidence that clearly fell under a previous order he'd made.

Finally, the board is set to discuss the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school year calendars.

The calendar of which a version was originally proposed last fall underwent review after the district appointed a committee to develop alternative options in December.

"We had three meetings and the committee completed a draft of [2018-'19] and '19-'20, and that will go to the board," said Tim Hensley, spokesman for Hamilton County Schools. "We will talk about what [the committee] was thinking tomorrow. There's not a lot of huge alterations from what the board saw last November."

The board is expected to review the proposed calendars and vote to accept them at next week's regular board session, as well. The district previously assured parents that this year's fall break, scheduled for Oct. 8-12, will not change.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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