Three things to know ahead of Thursday's Hamilton County school board meeting

Three things to know ahead of Thursday's Hamilton County school board meeting

June 19th, 2019 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

Document: Memorandum of understanding

The Hamilton County Board of Education heard the first reading of the memorandum of understanding between Hamilton County Schools and the Hamilton County Education Association for 2019-2022 on June 20, 2019.

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IF YOU GO

The Hamilton County school board will meet for a closed session at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 20. The public regular session meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will take place in the board room at at 3074 Hickory Valley Road.

Barely a week ahead of the Hamilton County Commission's vote on whether or not to approve a 34-cent property tax hike to increase funding for public schools, it will be business as usual for the Hamilton County Board of Education on Thursday.

The board will meet for its regular monthly board meeting, as well as for a private executive session beforehand, at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Here are three things on the agenda worth keeping an eye on.

1. A first reading of the results of negotiations between the district and the teacher's union.

A three-year agreement between the district and the Hamilton County Education Association regarding teacher pay, benefits, working conditions and more will be up for a first reading before the school board Thursday.

Some of what has been agreed upon during collaborative conference this spring, such as at least a 3% pay raise, has been widely discussed by the community.

Teacher union members have acknowledged that what has been agreed upon is contingent on available funding, and thus depends on Superintendent Bryan Johnson's requested budget passing the commission.

Some of the changes in the 2019-22 memorandum of understanding include teacher pay raises, pay for professional development days, an increase in life insurance coverage provided to employees and changes to the step salary schedule.

2. Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences petitioning to change names of basketball court, orchestra room.

Principal Jim Boles will address the board Thursday with a petition to name the school's basketball court after longtime coach Mark Dragoo and its orchestra room after teacher and conductor Gary Wilkes.

"CSAS would like to name two of our facilities for teachers who have dedicated many years to our community and have produced incredible results along the way," Boles and seven members of the committee tasked with the project wrote in a letter to the school board.

Lauren Tolbert, a recent graduate of the school, said as Wilkes nears retirement, naming the room after him was something students hoped to do to honor him.

"He's such a passionate teacher who cares for his students and their development both as young musicians and young adults," she said.

Petitions circulated in support of the name changes collectively gathered more than 150 signatures in favor.

3. No update on the new code of acceptable behavior.

This school year, a district improvement team made up of central office administrators and school principals has been reviewing and updating the school district's code of acceptable behavior, or code of student conduct.

Issues such as corporal punishment, how special education students are treated, and other issues of student discipline have been hot topics in recent years.

"Districts need a code that is clear," Johnson previously told the Times Free Press. "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."

District 1 school board member Rhonda Thurman said discipline is the biggest issue facing the district and the reason why teachers leave.

She is the school board point person for discipline but said she has not held a meeting to discuss the topic yet because the board hasn't seen the updated code or been asked for input.

District officials said earlier this year that the new code would be presented to the board for approval before the start of the 2019-20 school year.

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

Document: Letter and petitions

In a letter submitted to the Hamilton County Board of Education, an eight-member committee including Principal Jim Boles and District 4 school board member Tiffanie Robinson, asked the school board to consider renaming the Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences basketball court and orchestra room for long-time coach Mark Dragoo and veteran teacher Gary Wilkes. Several dozen students, teachers and Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences community members signed a petition asking the Hamilton County Board of Education to consider renaming the school's orchestra room for long-time orchestra teacher and conductor Gary Wilkes.

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