Boyd, budget and behavior: Things to look for at Thursday's Hamilton County school board meeting

Boyd, budget and behavior: Things to look for at Thursday's Hamilton County school board meeting

July 10th, 2019 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

District 8 Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd is seen during a County Commission meeting in the County Commission assembly room at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

District 8 Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd is...

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

The Hamilton County Board of Education had planned for a regularly scheduled review of board policies on July 11, but the main objective of Thursday's meeting changed when the Hamilton County Commission voted down a 34-cent property tax rate increase to fund public education last month.

Instead, the next draft of a proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, a new code of conduct for students and a review of policies are on Thursday's work session agenda.

Comments from District 8 County Commissioner Tim Boyd also might be on the agenda.

At Wednesday's commission meeting, Boyd spoke out against District 2 school board member Kathy Lennon calling an op-ed she wrote that was published in the Times Free Press on July 8 — "degrading" and "disrespectful."

Boyd accused Lennon of "degrading and disrespecting me and my four commissioners who voted against the tax increase."

Lennon previously told the Times Free Press that she was "really disappointed in the five commissioners who made a choice not to support education in Hamilton County."

Kathy Lennon

Kathy Lennon

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

Boyd cautioned Superintendent Bryan Johnson and Lennon that "these five commissioners are going to be on this same dais next year when you come back and ask for another tax increase, and I'm not going to forget board member Lennon's degrading remarks about me not caring about the education of our children."

Lennon hesitated about firing back Wednesday, but did say she did not feel that her comments were disrespectful.

Boyd's remarks foreshadow a potentially contentious conversation between school board members and commissioners on July 23. The joint meeting, announced by Mayor Jim Coppinger last week, is expected to focus on a new budget request and a long-awaited facilities audit report.

Commissioners are expecting the district to present a balanced budget, something Lennon did say she wasn't happy about.

"I was elected to represent District 2 and the 44,000 students in Hamilton County. It's my job to advocate for the students in Hamilton County. I am disappointed that there was an amendment made in the budget. But I am going to continue to advocate for students."

Lennon said the board would be discussing next steps in the budget process at Thursday's meeting.

"I don't know what the next steps are," she said. "Things are going to be taken out. All of the things that are in the budget that were going to support the teachers in the classroom."

UPCOMING SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS

July 11 at 5 p.m.: Work session

July 15 at 5 p.m.: Agenda session

July 18 at 5:30 p.m.: Regular monthly board meeting

July 23 at 9:30 a.m.: Joint Hamilton County Commission and school board meeting at the county’s McDaniel Building, 455 North Highland Park Ave.

* All meetings except for the July 23 joint meeting will take place in the Hamilton County Schools’ boardroom at 3074 Hickory Valley Road.

Johnson has held one-on-one meetings with the board members this week to discuss the budget proposal, as well as the other big topic of Thursday's meeting: the district's new "Code of Acceptable Behavior and Discipline."

School board members received a draft of the long-awaited code last week. A committee of school principals, assistant principals and other district staff has been working on it for most of the school year.

Johnson previously noted that the district did not have a comprehensive, universal code.

"Districts need a code that is clear," he told the Times Free Press in February. "To date, it has been extremely ambiguous. There's been a lot of variability, and what that does is creates the appearance of disparity in the community. We're just trying to create some consistency among our school leaders."

But some board members have already expressed some apprehension about the new code.

District 8 school board member Tucker McClendon characterized the draft as a step in the right direction but said he would like to see a stricter, tighter approach to discipline.

"I think that we will look at it more in detail on Thursday. I think that we as a board will take it under consideration and will make any changes that we see necessary to make sure that our students are held to a high standard of behavior and that there [is] clear and concise consistency across the district when it comes to behavior," he told the Times Free Press on Tuesday.

Hamilton County District 8 School Board member Tucker McClendon, right, talks with District 1 board member Rhonda Thurman during a conversation on transportation during a school board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Hamilton County District 8 School Board member Tucker...

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

District 1 board member Rhonda Thurman also has expressed concern about how the code will be carried out and implemented district wide in order to ensure it is enforced equally.

Along with the budget and the code of acceptable behavior, board members are expected to review policies as required annually by the state.

Policies up for review now include staff conflicts of interest, drug and alcohol testing of employees, personal health and overtime pay.

The school board work session begins at 5 p.m.

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


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