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Opportunity Zones established to prevent more Hamilton Co. Schools from falling into I-Zones

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

Channel 3 has obtained an academic improvement letter from the Hamilton County Schools superintendent. The school board approved Dr. Bryan Johnson's request to establish "Opportunity Zones" to assist with academic improvement.

It would focus on the five I-zone schools along with several other schools on the edge of being taken over by the state.

I-Zones schools are among the worst performing schools in the state. Doctor Johnson's vision with the Opportunity Zone is to prevent seven more schools from falling into that category.

Doctor Bryan Johnson has only been with the Hamilton County School System for a month, and some of those involved with the education system believe he's making progress. “I think this is a very good move. I think there is a whole lot more than needs to be done. I think the plan is to have a lot more done as well great first step,” said Jonas Barriere the Executive Director of Unified.

At this week's school board meeting Dr. Johnson introduced the idea of Opportunity Zones. It's a plan to focus on twelve of the district's struggling schools. “Taking two feeder patterns. The Howard School feeder pattern and the Brainerd feeder pattern and putting an extra emphasis on the things they need to succeed.”

The seven schools added to the list are Howard High, East Lake Middle, and the Barger, East Lake, Donaldson, Clifton Hills, and Hardy Elementary Schools.  Doctor Johnson requested additional staffing for community school coaches, curriculum coordinators, and recruiters for teachers. “Having a person whose job it is to recruit the best teachers and retain the best teachers is a really exciting move.”

Doctor Johnson said he has been in communication with the state about his plans. “We think this is exactly what the community has been asking for, we applaud him for listening to that perspective and moving forward on it.”

The goal is for both the state and the district to work together to improve student success. “The state has said for several years these schools need specific interventions and measurable interventions. I think this is Doctor Johnson's and his team's attempt, and the school board's attempt now to make some of those interventions that could very well have a positive effect on student outcomes.”

The nine new positions will all be paid by federal funds and there will be no impact the General Purpose budget.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is planning to visit Hamilton County next week to discuss the district's next steps. 

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