FIRST ON 3: Scales, Thurman Differ on "Adult Issues" - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

FIRST ON 3: Scales, Thurman Differ on "Adult Issues"

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By David Carroll

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- In between helpings of Thanksgiving meals, Hamilton County Superintendent Dr. Jim Scales and District 1 Board member Rhonda Thurman engaged in a testy e-mail exchange.

The difference of opinion began Wednesday, when in his weekly e-mail update to Board members, the superintendent thanked them for their participation in last weekend's School Board retreat.   He wrote, "We covered a lot of material and had good discussion on some difficult topics."  But later he added, "It is sometimes difficult to separate adult issues from actual problem solving for students' educational benefit."

Thursday morning, Mrs. Thurman responded to the superintendent by asking, "Would you please define "adult issues"? Would you also define any issues we discussed that were not actual problem solving for students' educational benefit?"

As Eyewitness News School Patrol reported exclusively from the retreat on Saturday, Mrs. Thurman was highly critical of Dr. Scales and his top administrators for poor principal training, communication practices, and curriculum choices.   She asked aloud why principals "are shifted all over the place when they fail, but no one holds Central Office accountable.  They're never moved or demoted.  They're a bunch of sacred cows."

Thursday afternoon, Mrs. Thurman got her answer, in an e-mail response from Dr. Scales.  He wrote, "I meant that as we move forward trying to address the many issues we face, our attention and resources must be directed toward providing the best we can for students.  We should not spend time debating how we feel about each other.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Jim Scales"

Mrs. Thurman has been highly critical of Dr. Scales since he joined the school district in 2006, and voted against his controversial four-year contract extension in 2008.  She has been even more vocal since the release of the State Report Card earlier this month, which showed Hamilton County's graduation rate declining, and disappointing achievement scores from many of the county's schools.

However, most Board members remained silent after Mrs. Thurman's critical remarks at the retreat, and District 6 representative Janice Boydston came to Dr. Scales' defense, saying Board members should not try to "micro-manage the school system."

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