The Hamilton County Board of Education had an in-depth conversation on educational equity at Tyner Middle Academy Friday evening.
Board chairman Joe Wingate said the dialogue is one of many needed to improve the district’s ability to provide all students with the resources they need to achieve equitable results.
Throughout the two-hour discussion, the board was hit with data about the district’s cultures and socioeconomic statuses.
The district’s student demographic breakdown is 48% white, 31% African-American or Black and 17% Hispanic. Meanwhile, the staff is 89% white, 8.7% African-American or Black and 0.7% Hispanic.
Board member Tiffanie Robinson said her area has seen a spike in enrollment among Hispanic students. She says her zone’s biggest equity challenge is engaging with non-English-speaking parents. Robinson represents the majority of downtown Chattanooga.
Steve Highlander, who represents the Harrison and Ooltewah areas, said he would like to see better English as a second language staffing at the district’s central office.
2020-21 school year demographic representation students vs staff:
Students: 48% White, 31% Black/African-American,17% Hispanic
Staff: 89% White, 8.7% Black/African-American, .7% Hispanic
Source: Hamilton County Schools Equity Data
Board members also heard the results of a survey addressing racial discrimination. In the 2019-20 school year, one-third of students said they had been on the receiving end of some form of racial or ethnic discrimination. The same data also showed that Black students were five times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension when compared to their non-Black counterparts.
The school district also faces inequities when it comes to facilities and teacher support.
Board member Karitsa Jones, representing Brainerd, said she has observed within her area quality teachers leaving to work in charter schools. She added that she hears from students about how campuses or buildings look better in other parts of Chattanooga than in her area.
Other board members — Jenny Hill, Rhonda Thurman and Tucker McClendon — also voiced concerns with aging facilities and lack of staffing at their schools.
The meeting ended with board members saying they are more engaged in addressing education equity, as some of them have children enrolled within the district.
Contact Monique Brand at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.