Education in Grundy County
The past several years have seen turmoil in the Grundy County education system. Multiple leadership changes and division among the Grundy County School Board members have left the school system without specific goals to better the education system for all students. When goals were put in place by a Director of Schools, they did not always align with the new director’s plans, leaving teachers, students, and parents in a constant state of unrest.
Student performance is inextricably linked to teaching, but, Grundy County ranks 114thout of 123 school systems according to the Tennessee Education Association. Funding for the school system is a challenge, not only for teacher salaries, but for essentials such as books for students.
Student safety is of primary importance. School shootings occurring in the United States, and bullying across the country and in Grundy County, make the safety of students one of the most important issues the school system faces. Students must feel they are in a safe environment to learn.
Reform is not easy, requiring patience and resolve from a diverse number of stakeholders.
We asked candidates what concerns they have for Grundy County Schools. How can their chosen office have a positive impact on the school system and address these concerns? Where does education in Grundy County fall on their list of priorities?
Iva Michelle Russell: Candidate, Grundy County Mayor
Boy, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. My family has always held education as a cornerstone in all our lives from way
back. I did everything in my power to instill it in my children as well. In their younger years, I was heavily involved in our parent/teacher organization. I think parental involvement is key to a child’s growth and we should work hand in hand with our teachers to create the best learning environment possible.
Because we are a small county, our budgets are very tight, so we have to find ways to prioritize where our money is spent. I feel that is a community effort. We need to come together to decide short and long- term goals and create action plans to implement them. There is no North and South Grundy, there is only One Grundy. Bottom line, we must give our children the tools to succeed at whatever they want to do or be in life. That is the most important job we have as a community.
My thoughts on priorities:
- School Safety – Do all we can to keep our babies safe.
- Technical Training – Health, Industrial, Construction, Mechanics, High Tech, Creatives.
- Communication – Open, Transparent Communication for all Stakeholders.
- Expectations – Teach our children to be the best at whatever they decide to do.
- Respect – We need to start showing and expecting respect for each other and ourselves, we are our children’s role models.
Final thought. We need to support our teachers in any way we can, which includes becoming involved in our children’s education. Volunteer where you can for school activities, read with your child, get a library card, go on family learning field trips, grow a garden together. Pay it forward.
Mayor Michael Brady: Candidate, Grundy County Mayor
Education is extremely important and has such a broad range. Education is crucial in our economic development, future of our children, and our prosperity. Two of the main topics I feel that the County Mayor’s Office has the ability to be influential regarding education of Grundy County is supporting K-12 and post education.
We have and will continue to support K-12. We have been the mechanism of grants for our education system. We have administered several grants through the County Mayor’s Office for educational purposes, such as the Read to be Ready Grant, LEAPS and the Innovative Health Grant. We have supported renovations and improvements to our schools. We will always be supportive and work together to peruse every avenue to achieve the most affective degree of safety and well-being of our students.
Post-secondary education is vital for Grundy County. Whether college or vocational, youth or adult, folks in Grundy County have to travel great distances to further their education. We have been working with Chattanooga State to offer three delivery methods for accredited college courses: through on-campus, internet and kiosks located within the county. We are currently working with TCAT Chattanooga to offer classes at the high school. I have had commitments from four of the Governor candidates from both sides of the axel to construct facilities and offer TCAT classes in Grundy County. We have used grants and our workforce funds to be able to pay tuition and materials. I will continue to be persistent in getting classes in Grundy County for secondary education so the citizens of Grundy can have the skills to obtain employment and living wages.
As County Mayor, I will support our K-12 and will aggressively pursue every avenue to bring secondary education to the citizens of Grundy County for the future of our children, economic growth, and prosperity of Grundy County.
John Henderson: Candidate, Grundy County School Board District 1
It would be nice to live in a perfect world where our county, state and federal revenues are more than sufficient to build the best schools and hire the best teachers. Unfortunately, education takes a hit competing for funds with public safety, roads, the court system and local government. It is always a compromise of competing needs.
Grundy County teachers are some of the best in the state – and many of them are here because they love teaching – despite the fact they earn less than their counterparts in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis or Chattanooga.
Unfortunately, students who work hard and complete college are less likely to return to Grundy County because there are no jobs commensurate with their education. Likewise, high school degree students have difficulty finding a living wage and move to Coffee or Franklin Counties where industry is on the rise. Their move is our loss of revenue.
So how do we increase our revenue in Grundy County?
Increasing property taxes is not the answer. The Commissioners of Grundy County along with the Mayor should make it a top priority to invite numerous industries from high-taxed states to visit Pelham Valley for the advantages this area offers – no state income tax, lower cost of living, plant growth potential, readily available labor and access to one of the main arteries of Tennessee, I-24.
An Industrial Development Board should begin interviewing high-tech and engineering companies, among others, to pitch the advantages of working and living in Grundy County. Infrastructure (water, sewer, electric and fiber) surveys must be completed ASAP.
Now is the time to begin the process of building our county to meet the technological needs of the future, increase the revenue for our schools and keep our young adults here in Grundy County.
Vote John R. Henderson, School Board, District 1.
Rep. Paul Sherrell: Candidate, Tennessee House of Representatives
Tennessee students are the fastest improving in the entire nation across math, reading, and science. In 2017, we posted the best high school graduation rates ever — 89.1 percent. We know and data from the Tennessee Education Association clearly
indicates that there is room for improvement.
All Tennessee children should have an opportunity to obtain a high quality education, and our teachers play a vital role in ensuring this successful outcome. That is why we must attract and retain the best and brightest educators. As a member of our General Assembly, I have prioritized additional resources and funding to support our educators while working to make our academic institutions safer.
We have made considerable progress this year, fully funding education across the state with more than $200 million in new funding for K-12 education and $55 million in teacher raises as part of our budget — which I supported.
Additionally, we implemented a school safety plan created by recommendations made by a working group organized to identify immediate safety enhancements to classrooms and buildings across the state. These include a review and risk assessment of all facilities to identify vulnerabilities, an increase in available resources to assist in securing more school resource officers, and a statewide technology application for anonymous reporting of threats. This year’s budget combined with the school safety plan doubles the amount of recurring school safety grant funding for schools. In fact, we have increased school safety grant funding by more than 500 percent for this fiscal year alone.
Education is the cornerstone in the foundation of our future leaders. All of us — parents, educators, school and local officials, as well as elected state leaders including me — must continue to support our teachers and our children. When these groups have the resources they need to succeed, we all benefit.