UPDATE: Meeting by county commission, school board leaves Hamilton County teachers feeling ignored
UPDATE: Hamilton County Commissioners and school board members tried to reach common ground when it comes to public schools, though some teachers in attendance were concerned some important issues were dodged.
John Devore has taught English at Hixson Middle School for six years. He says he isn’t surprised the commissioners and school board members dodged financial issues and thinks the meeting didn’t help them at all.
"They did not discuss any increases to our compensation or additional for funding the schools, which is how Mayor Coppinger started the meeting saying we were not going to talk about finances,” Devore said.
Teachers in attendance were flashing cards during the meeting, sharing their thoughts if they agreed or disagreed with the topic at hand. They believe the commission doesn't understand what the school system needs.
"And for some reason, they don't trust the people that do know how things work in the school system to give them opinions on what they need to fund,” Devore said.
County commissioners along with school board members discussed other issues like elementary reading levels.
County Commissioner Chester Bankston told the school board that he will support whatever they do if they can raise reading levels.
"If you can fix literacy by the time they leave the third grade, and you will do more good for the good of our citizens or anything else you can do,” Bankston said.
School board member Rhonda Thurman told county commissioners they need to help address classroom behavior throughout the county.
"And so, that's one of the problems we have. We have to get it. We don't have a choice. We have to fix this,” Thurman said.
Dr. Bryan Johnson hopes the meeting was the start of something better for Hamilton County.
"I think it's a really good thing to really discuss from a collective standpoint of what's most important,” Dr. Johnson said.
Commissioner Katherlyn Geter said during the meeting that she hopes this isn't the only time they meet.
School board member Dr. Steve Highlander thinks the board needs to be present in future budget conversations with the commission.
ORIGINAL STORY: Hamilton County educators continue to express their frustration with the school's budget.
It comes after a heated town hall meeting on Sunday night.
Hamilton County teachers voiced their concerns in front of the school board and a portion of the commission.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson have agreed to host a joint meeting with the county commission and school board in December.
The meeting will allow commissioners and school board members to discuss educational issues.
John DeVore is a sixth-grade teacher at Hixson Middle School.
"It's frustrating because I feel like I should be focusing on my classroom and not on my compensation," DeVore said.
He makes about $44,000 a year with six years of experience and a master's degree.
"Obviously what we would like to see happen is for the school board and county commission to come to an agreement to address compensation for teachers," DeVore said.
This comes after the Hamilton County Commission voted down a 34-cent property tax increase in the summer.
The extra funds would have gone toward a 5% pay increase for teachers.
In October, county commissioners voted down a 60-dollar wheel tax referendum that would have given teachers a pay raise.
Instead, educators received a one-time bonus of $1,500.
"It was a compromise," DeVore said. "We needed the staff as much as we need compensation."
State Senator Todd Gardenhire said these teachers should take their concerns to the school board.
"They [school board] makes that decision," Gardenhire said. "The county commission doesn't make that decision, the state doesn't make that decision, now if they want us to make that decision, we will be glad to but I don't think they want us to make that decision."
DeVore did not agree.
"We went to the school board," DeVore said. "The school board presented a budget the budget was rejected to the county commission."
County commissioners and school board members will discuss these educational issues during a meeting at Red Bank Middle School on December 9.
The meeting will start at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend.