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The UnifiEd Student Voice Team's School Board Blog
This was not your typical board meeting. Many of the board members were not present, in the flesh, but the ones there were spread apart about three feet. The rest of the board members were displayed on the...
TV’s via conference call. Did I mention it wasn’t open to the community? Due to most of the board members attending via conference call, there were multiple technical issues. They removed the public input due to this being a closed meeting.
General Board Matters:
Dr. Johnson states that there is no plan to look to the state regarding graduation requirements. They believe that you can begin to determine if a student is on track starting in the ninth grade. If they are not they will be working closely with the parents/guardians to ensure they get on the right path to graduation. Due to the absence of the county's student population, they have been forced to push back ACT dates and will be disclosing them as soon as they are informed. The board proceeded to a new topic regarding scheduling across the district. They are planning to place each school on the same schedule deciphering between block and traditional schedules. This is another opportunity for students to let their voices be heard. Changing schedules could possibly place a lot of chaos and stress for the upcoming seniors.
There is a company in the Chattanooga Area that builds cell towers. The board voted to allow this company to market the school system’s properties to cell carriers. If the carrier chose to build a tower on school system land, then they lease land from the school system for that land they are using and have a one time payment to schools for each carrier using the tower. Adding these towers on school grounds sounds like a win-win-win-win. The schools system gets added revenue which allows them to do more for our schools and individual schools get more money to spend within the school. By adding more towers the general community gets better cell phone coverage in areas that may have previously been dead spots. Additionally, when carriers build towers on school grounds they allow first responders to place equipment on the towers for free, so these towers also increase capacity for emergency situations. There are already four of these sites within the schools system. They are located at Central High School, East Ridge, and two at CCA. This is extremely helpful to these schools and to help build up the general funds budget of the board as half of the revenue generated from these towers is given to the school that hosts it. In the grand scheme of the board budget this isn’t very much, however, it is still extra money that the board and schools can use to help students.
New Student Suicide Prevention Policy!
Finally, after months of long hours and dedicated research, our policy has passed! It was one of the first items to be presented and was unanimously voted through. The amount of strenuous work and effort that has been put in by the Student Voice Team and our group of supportive advisors and staff have propelled the policy that was already set in place, from standard to a more copious and comprehensive policy. The platform that UnifiEd has provided us as students has been more than exceptional to do the work we’ve had the opportunity to partake in. UnifiEd did not give us a voice to evoke change, they handed us the microphone to up lift our voices for concerns we’ve already had. This has been a great win for us and is just one piece that reflects the work that we do.
The board had one of the longest discussions that we have seen them have in a very long time. Most discussions that the board has had recently have been making comments about what MGT has just presented, so this was a refreshing look at how the board plans to address facilities themselves. Throughout this discussion the board seemed to be fairly in unison on this issue. Several board members echoed the sentiment that they needed to start working on phase 0 immediately, but they were all concerned about funding for these projects going forward. Tucker McLendon has been talking for a while about having a board retreat to work on facilities and tonight many board members expressed extreme interest in that concept. Jenny Hill even outlined all of the things that she hoped the board could accomplish during this retreat. It is promising to see that the board is united and ready to solve the problems with our current facilities with all deliberate speed. However, it seems that many roadblocks could halt their progress in this journey. For instance, many board members and central office staff echoed that the times are uncertain right now and that the economic state we are currently in could have unfortunate consequences for our ability to work on things and spend money. Dr Johnson called the board to reality with candor, saying that “we’re not going to be able to do some of the things that we wanted to do. It is the reality of where we are financially.” However, Jenny Hill called the board to plan for the future regardless of uncertainty and to dream high rather than restricting ourselves to what we can do right now. “It’s truly our responsibility to consider what the best next steps are regardless of what’s going on.” The board still has a long road ahead of them for determining what path they will take for the facilities plan, but it seems that they are united in their goals for that plan which is promising for the future of our school system.