UPDATE: Hamilton Co. school board members host community forums on superintendent search
The search for the next Hamilton County school superintendent is moving along with the help of the community.
UPDATE: Hamilton County school board members, Tiffanie Robinson (District 4) and Karitsa Jones (District 5), hosted another community forum Wednesday.
The forum allowed community members to continue voicing their concerns and questions about the superintendent search.
The school board has narrowed its superintendent search down to five candidates, but some expressed that they're happy with the district's current leadership.
"We have a unique county. We need someone who understands the needs of our students, our teachers, and our community. Support us and trust our judgment on who we feel is best for our community," said one community member.
Another controversial topic was the future of the five I-Zone schools, which are considered the district's low-performing schools. They include Brainerd High School, Dalewood Middle School, Orchard Knob Elementary School, Orchard Knob Middle School, and Woodmore Elementary School.
Jones explained that the board is faced with two options; let the state take over the five schools or agree to partner with the state to turn the schools around.
"We have not signed an agreement with anybody. We are not turning over our schools to a private company. We are not giving away our schools," said Jones.
Dr. Candice McQueen,Tennessee Commissioner of Education, proposed a partnership six months ago after the board asked expressed reservations about letting the state completely take over the schools.
The goal is to transform the five schools so the 2,300 I-Zone students are well prepared to excel and succeed academically and socially. Since 2012, the schools have received over $10 million of additional funding, but have achieved little academic progress.
Brainerd High School principal disagrees. He said the says the i-zone schools have made major progress, including Brainerd.
"See for yourself. Those that walk in the doors at Brainerd to come visit; you know the truth," said Agee. "Stop letting the media, the newspaper, and state folks come and define what it is that success is, because they define it in the paper and y'all just run with it."
The board has until July 28 to submit a letter of intent or resolution to the Tennessee Department of Education.
PREVIOUS STORY: The search for the next Hamilton County school superintendent is moving along with the help of the community.
District two school board member, Kathy Lennon held a community forum to get input on the board's final five candidates on Tuesday.
The meeting at Red Bank High School lasted for about an hour. During that time Lennon opened the floor to community members, allowing them to help come up with questions for each of the final candidates to answer during the final interview.
It's the first time community members have been able to voice their opinion on the superintendent search.
Parent Jaime Kerns said she was happy to be heard.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to have like a Town Hall type of meeting where we can come and ask questions, raise our concerns and that everybody's question, everybody's concern was taken; was not ignored," said Kerns. "I really just hope other parents encourage their school board members to have something like this so their voice can be heard."
As a mother and teacher at Red Bank High School Kerns said she understands the importance of education and important the selection for a new superintendent is.
"On paper alone we have some really good candidates and I hope that whoever is chosen will definitely take a good hard look and make the right choices."
The group consisted of other parents, teachers and administrators who discussed wanting more engagement between schools and parents, funding art programs, and evaluating teachers along with the superintendent frequently.
One parent raised the question, "how can you evaluate a teacher without talking to parents?"
Other topics of concern included student discipline the administration's ability to relocate students. Moreover, many voiced being in favor of pushing the start time back for Hamilton County high schools.
Lennon explained that the high school start times is listed on the agenda for the board's next meeting. However, she did admit that she hadn't heard many of the questions and concerns that were heard.
"I think you can tell from the some of the questions that were asked that they are very engaged so I'm hopeful; that gives me a lot of hope, and that they're concerned and that they want equity for all kids in Hamilton County. Every child should have the same opportunities presented from the I-zone schools, to the schools in Red Bank, to the schools in East Brainerd. It doesn't matter where you are you should have the same opportunities," said Lennon. "No matter who it is, there's going to be criticism, but I think that if we all start trusting each other and being involved I think that we're going to make a good decision."
The search for a superintendent has gone on for longer than expected, but many believe it's about picking the right person for the job.
"I'd rather it take the time that it's taking and know that they have thoroughly vetted each one of the candidates and at the candidates had the time to vet us," said Kerns.
District 4 and 5 board members, Tiffanie Robinson and Karitsa Mosley Jones will host a forum at Orchard Knob Elementary School Wednesday at 6 p.m.. The superintendent position and how the state plans to turn around five of the district's lowest performing schools will be discussed.