Group hopes to boost learning

Group hopes to boost learning

August 19th, 2011 by Kevin Hardy in News

A new group sparked by a 2009 community survey wants to shift the conversation surrounding local education.

Organizers say they began Shift Chattanooga to help improve public education in Hamilton County. The group, which will hold its first meeting Aug. 31, is under the umbrella of CreateHere, a local nonprofit organization that supports artists and other entrepreneurs and is funded by the Lyndhurst Foundation.

Helen Davis Johnson, co-founder of CreateHere, said Shift Chattanooga hopes to tell stories of success in local schools instead of the more negative stories.

"We think there's a lot of great things going on in public education," Johnson said.


  • What: Potluck dinner and first meeting for Shift Chattanooga

  • When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 31

  • Where: CreateHere, 55 E. Main St.

  • Cost: Free and open to the public, though RSVPs are preferred, at


To learn more about Shift Chattanooga, visit the group's website at

To help tell success stories, the group is posting video interviews on its website with various educators and community members.

But that doesn't mean organizers are ignoring the major challenges facing education.

"What we're not doing is putting on rose-colored glasses and saying everything's OK," Johnson said.

She said the group hopes to identify things that are working in certain schools and find ways to replicate those ideas in others.

"If you say nothing's working - A, that's not true, and B, where do you start?" Johnson asked. "What we're doing is recognizing success and holding our schools and leaders accountable for replicating that success."

Both the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga and the Public Education Foundation are partnering with CreateHere in the creation of Shift.

Christa Payne, PEF's director of development and external relations, said the new organization should have no problem garnering community interest, especially given its grass-roots nature.

"I think sometimes improving public education can seem so overwhelming. And if all you hear is that [it] is so hopeless, then the public feels like there's no way to get involved," she said. "I think there's certainly a place in the community for Shift."

Leaders launched Shift in response to the 2009 Stand survey, which gathered 26,000 responses from the community about issues facing the city. Johnson said survey results show that locals identify education as their greatest concern.

While the group has initiated other projects in response to the survey results, Johnson said Shift is the first such initiative to tackle the education issue.