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Hamilton Co. school board discusses other options for I-Zone schools

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

The fight over Hamilton County's five low-performing schools or I-Zone schools continues as school board members discussed their options Thursday night. 

Board members spent an hour discussing the schools' future. They say they're not getting the answers they need from the state to decide on how to move forward. 

Several board members noted they're against a state takeover and don't quite trust the state because they have yet to receive test scores. Board Chairman Dr. Steve Highlander says the state is still compiling. 

2,300 Hamilton County students attend the district's five i-zone schools, cited by the state for low scores, year after year. Those students are in the middle of a tug-of-war between the state and the county. 

"For us to be asked to show some urgency in entering into an agreement, but yet we still don't know exactly how this funding is going to take place; that is very very concerning to me," said District 7 Board Member, Joe Wingate. 

District 8 Board Member, David Testerman, says the state taking over the schools is not a real partnership. 

"I do not think it's legal in the state of Tennessee to do so and I think we need to hold them to that if they want to take over our schools they're going to have to change some laws." 

So far, State Education Commissioner Dr. Candace McQueen has been adamant about two options; a state takeover, or a partnership with the county, governed by a board with a majority of members selected by the state.

State Representative JoAnne Favors says board members can simply say no. 

"The current law allows the commissioner to approve any proposal that this body submits to her," said Favors. "I don't think anybody would put schools into an almost dysfunctional system. They've eliminated positions in ASD (Achievement School District) it's not doing well at all." 

Some board members say the principals of the five schools have already made improvements and are headed in the right direction. The district's new superintendent Dr Bryan Johnson met with those principals earlier Thursday, and says he likes what he sees.

"Everybody wants to move student achievement forward that's the common ground," said Johnson. "Allow us to have time to work with these principals and get into the communities that means were going to come to the community and involve the stakeholders that are there and lets develop a comprehensive plan."

READ MORE | The future of I-Zone schools uncertain

Thursday was Johnson's first school board meeting as the district's new leader. Dr. Highlander says Johnson will officially be in office on Monday, July 24. 

The school board has until the end of august to make submit a decision to the state.

The following is Tennessee law regarding I-Zone schools:

 

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