Friday, April 18, 2014 · 6:35 a.m.

Concerned parent: School board is missing the point

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There has been a fair amount of discussions and questions in and around the East Hamilton rezoning.

Where do we go from here? Will the rhetoric and games end? This situation needs to be viewed by our leaders as an opportunity, an opportunity for the school board to seize on. The hope is that the board will work with the volunteers to conduct a thorough review of the issue, which is growth. There should be a review to develop strategies and recommendations for a thorough review by board members.  It’s my sincerest hope that the board members will support the volunteers, support the work produced without prejudging the outcome, set aside any bias they may have and act in the best interest of the children and the community, not any one person.  The board members have a fiduciary responsibility to review all material; ask questions; and make informed, independent decisions based on facts and long-term solutions.  What this issue has presented is a very unique opportunity to partner with community volunteers to look farther and deeper into the entire issue: growth, budgeting, facilities, long-range planning, etc. ... Please remember that actions speak volumes.

No disrespect to the members, but based on what I’ve observed in meetings along with media quotes, it’s evident that board members are missing the point.  This isn’t about rezoning, it’s about process.  It’s not about new schools, it’s about education. It’s not about other schools, it’s about the safety of our children. Living in Arizona a few years ago, my oldest was getting ready to start school—we were fortunate in that there was an open enrollment in the district, giving us the ability to choose the school we wanted.  After research, the school we selected was one of the oldest in the state.  The school was selected not because of the location or the structure but because of the faculty, the parental involvement and the quality of education the kids were receiving.  There wasn’t transportation for the 10-mile trip each way, so we set up a carpool with other parents, and it worked. What we’re saying to the school board is that it’s not about the school or its location, it’s about the education of our children. No one can say that there is consistency in the schools.  There has been a significant amount of talk but no action or plan to improve the not-as-good schools, attract and retain good administrators and teachers, and create a warm and wonderful environment for our children to flourish in.  Today, the school board has an opportunity to set the standard, be the example.

We applaud the school officials for recent accomplishments in several areas, including the STEM project, but isn’t this an empty victory if there are gaping inconsistencies in the education delivered?

The school district isn’t alone here. The county (mayor and commissioners) has a responsibility here as well.  When approached about the rezoning, the response was less than appreciated when officials told the community that schools and our children were not in their jurisdiction, similar to the response from the office of Mayor Littlefield.  Again, the rezoning issue has brought to light the real problem: the dysfunctional relationship between the elected officials.  Isn’t it the responsibility of all elected officials to protect and enhance, first and foremost—I don’t believe that anyone can say that they’ve fulfilled their fiduciary responsibility to the community in this instance, which is an extremely large and glaring disappointment.

Come on, we’re not splitting atoms; Chattanooga isn’t experiencing anything different from what other communities have experienced.  Chattanooga has a decision: Will the elected officials become leaders and take the community to the next level in a manner that will set an example, or will it become the butt of jokes, an example of what not to do?

Will the media step up and report on what the real issues are and not just the drama associated with the side effects of the problem? There are plenty of examples of how this dysfunctional relationship has impacted the community, costing us all real dollars. The media should be asking the county/city/school board why there isn’t an accurate growth plan. UTC has a nice plan; I saw it just today. Ask the tough questions and hold everyone accountable for inactions and misrepresentations.

If we cannot set the example here, what are we really teaching our children? I’m ready and willing to help, and so are my neighbors, but we just need to be lead. We need someone to step up, own up to what’s happening and work to resolve it.

Chris DeLong
Chattanooga

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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