State of the System sets a direction of promise
Posted on 02/08/2019
Dr. Johnson speaks during the State of the SystemDr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools, presented the State of the System address to the community on Thursday at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences. An excellent crowd of parents, students, community leaders, teachers, administrators, and staff gathered to hear about successes, challenges and the promise of the future for Hamilton County Schools. “We want to talk tonight about promise. The promise that exists within our school system,” Johnson said. “We want kids to reach their highest and fullest potential.”

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger introduced Dr. Johnson to the gathered crowd calling him the “right man at the right time” for the future of the schools in the community. Christy Gillenwater, president, and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, also shared the stage in the presentation expressing her support for Dr. Johnson and the work taking place in the school system. She also encouraged the community to get involved in the future of our schools. “I think it is also a responsibility for all of us to be a part of this process,” Gillenwater said.

The presentation by Dr. Johnson outlined successes with examples of individual stories of student and staff success. The district has celebrated 17 state Reward Schools, 25 state Level 5 growth schools, 17 digital fabrication labs that makes Hamilton County Schools a national leader, ten merit finalists, and 53 National Board Certified teachers. Johnson noted that more than 40 school choice options including 27 Future Ready Institutes in the fall and 15 unique magnet schools were available in the system and the district had the highest graduation rate at 86.5 percent since the method for calculating the rate was adjusted in 2013. Zavier Chavez, a senior at Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, was recognized for his work on the Student Superintendent’s Advisory and his acceptance to Harvard for the fall. Jack Poss and Max Burke, seniors at Signal Mountain Middle/High were recognized for scoring a perfect score of 36 on the ACT. Tiffany Earvin, principal at Orchard Knob Middle, was honored for academic improvements at her school, Tammy Baxter was recognized for contributions by a parent, and Brittany Harris and Colleen Ryan were noted for their work to take education to the community on their bus they call the Passage. The superintendent also noted the improvement across the district in student growth as the district moved from the lowest state level of Level 1 across all areas of measure in 2015 to only one Level 1 in Numeracy today. All other subject areas scored a 3,4, or 5 with an overall composite of 3 from the state.

“Successes are important and must be celebrated,” stated Dr. Johnson. “However, we are not where we want to be, and there is much difficult work to be done for our children to be successful and our community to prosper.” He noted that only two in five kindergartners are deemed “ready” for school when they enter our school buildings. Only one in three third-graders are at or above grade level on the state literacy assessment. Also, only one in three 2018 graduates completed advanced coursework while in high school. Another challenge is the facilities in our school system. The average age of a school building in Hamilton County Schools is 40 years. “We do not shy away from these challenges, but boldly seek solutions,” stated Johnson. “With the continued support of Mayor Coppinger, the Hamilton County Commission, parents, and the business community, we will move forward to realize the great promise this school district possesses.”

Superintendent Johnson outlined Future Ready 2023 the five-year action plan adopted by Hamilton County Schools this year to reach the promise our system holds for the future. The five priorities of accelerating student achievement, future ready students, great teachers and leaders, an engaged community, and efficient and effective operations are the key components of the plan the superintendent discussed. He pointed out five performance targets that will help the district and community know if the plan is on track to make a difference for children. The targets include at least half of all third-grade students on track or mastered state standards, 90 percent of students graduating by 2023, double the percentage of students on track in Algebra I across all grades, 75 percent of graduates completing at least one advanced course or industry certification exam, and the district averaging 21 on the ACT by 2023.

Johnson ended with first-grade students joining him to talk about the promise of the school system and how that focus should impact the Class of 2030 upon graduation. The promise: Every graduate of Hamilton County Schools will be fully prepared to reach his or her highest potential - equipped to be academically and professionally productive, socially and civically connected, and physically and emotionally healthy. Referencing a John F. Kennedy speech played at the beginning of the presentation, Dr. Johnson said, “We choose to do these things not because they are easy. We know these advancements will be hard, but they are necessary for the success of our children and our community.” Johnson concluded,” I firmly believe that the best days of Hamilton County Schools are ahead!”