Hamilton County Schools plans to hire the new Howard Middle School principal a full year before the school opens, as well as bring in a national education design firm to help build the new school with grant funds from the Benwood Foundation.
At the school board's May 24 meeting, it approved a grant contract between the district and the foundation, providing $100,000 for a year's salary for the new principal, $20,000 for travel for the local design team and $127,000 to bring in the Louisiana-based consulting firm 2Revolutions.
The new Howard Middle School was approved by the school board in October as part of Superintendent Bryan Johnson's plan for the $100 million allocated for school capital projects by the Hamilton County Commission last year.
The middle school, which was closed in 2009, will be renovated and reopened as a magnet school in 2019 and serve the Howard High School feeder pattern, with students coming from Battle Academy, Clifton Hill and East Lake elementary schools.
"I tell people all the time that this is a very exciting time to be a part of the Howard community," said board member Tiffanie Robinson, of District 4, which includes Howard. "The opportunity to build a school from the ground up only comes around every so often."
Robinson, along with Johnson, Opportunity Zone chief Jill Levine, and Opportunity Zone director of secondary schools Zac Brown, interviewed three design firms before settling on recommending 2Revolutions to the board.
Since external funds are being used to pay the consulting firm, the district's request for bids and procurement processes were not required.
This summer, the district plans to form a local design team alongside 2Revolutions consultants, who will engage the community through surveys, focus groups and interviews to determine the needs and goals for the new school.
The school's theme, mission, course offerings and even physical features will be brainstormed, Levine said.
The principal position will be opened and the district hopes to fill it as soon as possible. The principal will work closely with the design team throughout the 2018-2019 school year, implementing the final plans in time for a fall 2019 launch.
"You don't get opportunities very often to create a new school," said Sarah Morgan, president of The Benwood Foundation. The timing is great, Morgan said, in light of the district's new superintendent, the launch of the Opportunity Zone and the district's new Future Ready Institutes.
Benwood has committed to supporting the preparation and design for the school in addition to the district's more than $8 million planned for facility renovations, a new track and stadium.
"We're not trying to tweak anything, we are trying to design something new based on what we know kids respond to. We think it can be extremely important to not only the neighborhood, but also to that entire feeder program, if it's designed intentionally," Morgan said. "Howard has such a rich legacy and the school is changing. We believe the middle school can really be the finest example of what a middle school can be."
Levine hopes the new school will attract students from different areas of the district to the Opportunity Zone.
"This is a chance to create something great from scratch," she said. "When we have a school with exciting and engaging opportunities and a rich academic program, we have the potential to attract students from a wide range of backgrounds, which will ultimately increase diversity at the school and increase opportunity for every child."
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.