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Hamilton County school board candidates talk education equity in Chattanooga 2.0 survey


Educational equity was the topic of a survey given to the 2020 Hamilton County school board candidates through Chattanooga 2.0, an education partnership founded in 2015.

Chattanooga 2.0 defines educational equity “as intentional supports, resources and policies designed to meet the individual needs of each learner and eliminate disparities in outcomes, ultimately ensuring that all students have the opportunity to unlock their full potential.”

Executive Director Molly Blankenship said in a video statement that equity has been the source of much discussion.

“Most recently because of the national conversation taking place about racial injustice,” Blankenship said. “We think it is an important moment to set common definitions around equity.”

In the five-question survey, one question asked the candidates their view on educational equity defined by Chattanooga 2.0 and “should [it] be a priority for the Hamilton County School Board and Hamilton County Schools? Why or why not?”

Here is how each candidate answered:

DISTRICT 1

Rhonda Thurman: “Equity has been a priority for many years in Hamilton County Schools. In 2006, a document titled ‘Hamilton County Secondary Priority Schools Resources Provided and Actions Taken'” shows the following schools – Dalewood Middle, Chattanooga Museum Magnet (now closed-became Normal Park Upper), Orchard Knob Elementary, East Lake Elementary, Calvin Donaldson Elementary and Woodmore Elementary received either all, or a vast majority of the following between 2004-2006: Lower student-teacher ratio, system-wide fact-finding team, system-wide fact intervention team, added assistant principal; provided training for administrators in leadership accountability and achievement, provided literacy consultants, secured literacy coaches, provided coaching and training in team building for staff, provided professional development in math strategies and literacy instruction, secured family partnership specialist to work with families, provided consulting teachers, secured principal coaches, provided attendance incentives, secured literacy coaches, provided curriculum facilitators, provided reading interventionists for at-risk students, reconstituted school staff, added alternative classroom, implemented in-school suspension programs and truant officers. So, yes, equity has already been a focus for Hamilton County Schools for many years.”

Stephen Vickers: “Educational equity as defined by Chattanooga 2.0 must be a priority of Hamilton County Schools and its school board. It is essential for school board members and educators to consider all decisions through an equity framework in order to be sure that all students have the opportunity to unlock their full potential. As I have said, you must unlock the heart before you can unlock the mind. Therefore, additional resources must go to students with greater needs.”

DISTRICT 2:

Tom Decosmio: Did not respond to survey questions

Marco Perez: “Yes. Education is often referred to as the great equalizer, but it cannot be if the quality of education is not equitable across the county. Every one of our students should have an opportunity for an excellent education regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status. Creating opportunity for every one of Hamilton County’s residents builds the overall well-being of our community attracting businesses and additional talent.”

DISTRICT 7:

Debbi Meyers: “Yes, I do believe that educational equity should be a priority. All children regardless of their race, gender, socioeconomic background should have the opportunity to unlock their fullest potential.”

Joe Wingate: Did not respond to survey questions

Chattanooga 2.0 released the survey late Thursday afternoon. The election is Aug. 6.

Contact Monique Brand by email at mbrand@timesfreepress.com.



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