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Hamilton County Dept of Ed. votes to move toward equity; students enter conversation

When Dr. Johnson took over, he created an Equity Task Force, intended to identify the where the lack of equity is in the county and how the school system can work toward improving to benefit students. (image WTVC)

One of Dr Bryan Johnson's goals as superintendent was to make the county more equitable, meaning every student would have the same opportunity to get a good education.

When Dr. Johnson took over, he created an Equity Task Force, intended to identify the where the lack of equity is in the county and how the school system can work toward improving to benefit students.


"At the highest performing student, middle performing student, average performing student, lowest performing student, we've got to move everybody across the board and that becomes our focus," said Johnson. He demonstrated a presentation with information from the newly task force.

Equity became a tense topic when non-profit UnifiEd released their APEX study. In it, the group called for more equity and diversity in Hamilton County schools as a way to fight poverty. Now, an open letter titled "The Opportunity Gap" intensified the conversation among board members. The letter was signed by more than 130 people and it asks that the board consider moving toward equity. Board member Rhonda Thurman said she didn't like the idea of other people telling the board what to do.

"If they really wanted to help these students, y'all, they have the capacity," she said, referring to the people who signed the letter. "If money is the answer, and transportation is the answer, and getting kids where they need to be is the answer, that group, those 130 in the paper today, they could do that. In the morning, they could write a check and do it."

Board member Karitsa Jones said equity is an important conversation and the lack thereof is evident in the county.

"I was born and raised," Jones began. "I can take you on a tour to North Hamilton, to the west side, to the east, south, I can take you all over this county and show you inequities."

For the first time, the board heard from students on the topic. Kadijah Tinker is a rising senior at Lookout Valley High School. She and a friend took to the board of education's podium to share their experiences of the lack of equity in schools.

"I think it was kind of something that needed to be said from a student's point of view," Tinker said. "To make adults in the school board realize there are inequities in Hamilton County and students deal with them every single day, regardless of race or culture background."

Dr. Johnson made three recommendations to the school board: allow the Equity Task Force to hold open, public meetings, search for a consulting firm that can offer guidance on how to be more equitable, and slow the process down so that the board can figure out what plan works best for them. The board voted 8-1 to accept the superintendent's recommendations; the nay vote came from Rhonda Thurman.



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