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District 4 candidates face-off in last Hamilton County school board debate series

Pierre's says her platform is to see school board to doing a better job it comes to budgeting and integration. Jones, the incumbent and current vice-chair, said she's played a vital role in getting the school board in the right direction. (Image WTVC)

Debates for Hamilton County's school board races wrapped up Tuesday night at Dalewood Middle School. There, district five incumbent Karitsa Mosely-Jones faced off against her challenger, Ann Pierre.

UnifiEd and Chattanooga 2.0 hosted and facilitated the debates. They asked each candidate the same five questions, then allowed the public to write in questions. The two candidates advocated for similar policies, saying early childhood education and transparency are priorities to them.

Pierre's says her platform is to see school board to doing a better job it comes to budgeting and integration. She told the crowd she had a masters in education and worked with major companies like TVA, specifically working on budgets. She says that, as well as her involvement with the community, makes her the right candidate.

"The school system is not where it should be," Pierre said. "If it were not for the community people that have stepped in, we would not be as far as we are now."

Jones, the incumbent and current vice-chair, said she's played a vital role in getting the school board in the right direction.

"The fact is I'm already doing them [advocating for district five policies]," she said. One other topic discussed by both women: equity and integration. This comes after two school board members, Rhonda Thurman and Joe Smith, shot down a proposal by UnifiEd's APEX plan which called for more socioeconomic and racial integration within Hamilton County schools. There was a question from the public on how each candidate would fight push back against integration.

"There are a lot of days where I fight back and push back with my board peers," said Jones, who acknowledged she was the only person of color on the school board. "They just don't get it because they just don't look like me or come from communities that I have lived in, grown up in or worked with."

Pierre said people have a tough time understanding what equity is and the best way to fight push back, is to educate people.

"You need to go in and dust off some things and let people know that they are responsible for making sure each student in the Hamilton County school system has an equitable chance to get an education," Pierre said.

Overall, Pierre said change is needed. She said an example of that was demonstrated by the state's Department of Education's idea to takeover the county's five lowest performing schools, some of which are in district five. Jones says she fought against the takeover, which eventually led to the school system entering a partnership agreement with state instead.

Voters can register to vote for school board by July 3rd. The election will be on August 2nd.

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