Five things to watch for at Thursday's school board meeting

Five things to watch for at Thursday's school board meeting

July 18th, 2018 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

Hamilton County school board member Karitsa Jones speaks during a meeting on March, 22, 2018.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

As summer slowly winds down, the Hamilton County Board of Education has a full slate for its July meeting Thursday night. Here are five things to watch for during the meeting:

Equity task force update

Noticeably absent from the agenda are the two to three recommendations to the board for equity consultants to work with the district's Equity Task Force, which were promised at last month's meeting.

After a tumultuous few weeks as the community debated integration, segregation and the merits of UnifiEd's APEX report, Superintendent Bryan Johnson pumped the brakes on the task force's work, proposing to bring a few consultant options, rather than the one previously approved, back to the board for a vote of approval.

Kathy Lennon, of District 2, said an equity task force update will be discussed at Thursday's 4 p.m. policy committee meeting, though.

"I'm glad they are looking at outside firms," said Lennon, who has been in favor of the task force's work since its launch earlier this spring. Lennon said she had been researching what other districts in the state also have task forces focused on equity.

The most recent task force meeting, scheduled for the week after the June 21 school board meeting, was canceled, and the district did not provide a schedule of task force meetings.

Strategic plan presentation

Also on the agenda is Johnson's strategic plan, which the board was given a draft of last month. The plan builds off the work already set down by the board.

Board Chairman Steve Highlander, of District 9, said the board is required to have a strategic plan and Johnson can build off that.

Lennon said when she joined the board it worked with the Tennessee School Boards Association to draft a plan and has worked together on strategic planning every year. According to the draft presented last month, the board's goals include ensuring safe, orderly schools, improving the academic performance of all students, recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, strengthening citizenship and character education programs, encouraging parent involvement and implementing a communications plan.

Discussion of the superintendent evaluation

The first public discussion of Johnson's one-year evaluation, which was a mostly positive one, is also on the agenda. Individual board members' evaluation forms, Johnson's self-evaluation and an executive summary were released Friday with the district's meeting announcement.

Johnson, whose contract set down some more specific parameters for evaluation, has been mostly praised by central office staff and board members since his tenure began last July.

The nine board members each evaluated Johnson in seven categories relating to strategic planning, student achievement, school leadership, operations of the district and his relationship with the board, resulting in an average score of 3.68 out of 5. Board members Joe Wingate, Joe Galloway and Lennon rated Johnson the highest, with Rhonda Thurman and David Testerman rating him the lowest of the nine board members. Board members Joe Wingate, of District 7; Joe Galloway, of District 6; and Lennon rated Johnson the highest, with Rhonda Thurman, of District 1, and David Testerman, of District 8, rating him the lowest of the nine board members.

A three-year plan for special education

A special presentation from new Exceptional Education Director Garfield Adams and the Chattanooga Inclusive Education Work Group is scheduled.

The working group, which is included in Chattanooga 2.0's primary implementation committees, has been working since 2016 to improve services and outcomes for special education students in Hamilton County Schools.

The group previously drafted a white paper outlining the needs and gaps in services for students in the district and received the go-ahead from the board last fall to draft a plan to better serve such students. That plan, calling for inclusion, implementing best practices and providing more assistance for students when they transition out of the school district, will be presented to the board for the first time Thursday.

Possible discussion of test scores

At 3 p.m. Thursday, the state will release 2017 and 2018 TNReady scores. The test scores will include results for grades 3-12, with subject areas including science, math and English and student groups at state and district levels. Commissioner Candice McQueen is expected to comment on the release, and state officials communicated with districts Wednesday about the release.

Though a discussion of test scores is not on the agenda, and individual school results will not yet be available, discussion about the release is possible, especially after the plethora of testing problems statewide this spring.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.