published Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Hill City parents seek access for children to Normal Park

Several Hill City residents want Hamilton County school board members to remember a commitment made to them that their children could attend Normal Park Museum Magnet School.

“The bottom line is we’d like them to follow through with the promise,” said Nelson Barrios, a Hill City resident and father. He and other residents recently met at the North Chattanooga Recreation Center to discuss their desire for their children to attend the North Chattanooga elementary.

Board of Education members Joe Galloway and Rhonda Thurman, who attended the meeting, said they are willing to revisit the issue.

“I think we should do what we said we were going to do,” Thurman said.

Galloway, who represents the Hill City area, said he wouldn’t have any problems talking about the issue again. However, the school board’s first priority is tackling next year’s budget, he said. The fiscal year starts July 1.

He said a board member will need to request that the board revisit the Normal Park issue, then another board member will have to sign off on it.

Hill City resident Mitta Chestnutt said she felt betrayed by the school board.

“We elected you because we trusted you,” she said. “Right now we feel like our little block doesn’t matter.”

Normal Park’s attendance zone has been an issue for several years. In 2007 school board members voted to expand the zone to include all of Bell and Spears avenues in Hill City for this school year, according to newspaper archives. Interest in the Hill City area picked up. According to Assessor of Property records, more than 30 properties were sold in the area between 2007 and 2009.

But last year, Superintendent Jim Scales said because more families moved into the school zone, he would not expand the boundaries as promised.

“The problem is that our population grew tremendously. It has tripled in the past three years,” Principal Jill Levine said.

School board member Chip Baker said sometimes projections don’t materialize as expected.

“The thing I’ve always tried to emphasize is a projection is just that. When things actually take place then you have to adjust on actual performance,” Baker said.

Levine said any Hill City student who wanted to attend Normal Park was given an opportunity to come. She said Hill City students all received letters sent home by the schools central office and by Red Bank elementary and middle schools.

But only 38 children chose to attend Normal Park, Levine said.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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Drewcifer said...

Most of the families who live in Hill City have been there for generations and they aren't going anywhere soon. I understand that young families have moved into the neighborhood because living next to gangbanger wannabe's and crack dealers is apparently the hip thing to do nowadays (i.e. Highland Park) but if their children are allowed into the Normal Park Schools then you have to allow the undesirable children from Hill City to attend as well. I will not name names but if you live in the neighborhood you know who I'm talking about. The children who walk four deep in the street flashing gang signs, the ones you call Police on because they're standing on the sidewalk in front of your home, the ones who idolize the Gangster Disciple who was recently released for Murder. I wouldn't wish those children on any school especially not a school that works so hard at being one of the best.

March 26, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
HCworkingclass said...

So are you telling me low-income neighborhoods can't be zoned for quality neighborhood schools because people might move into the neighborhood so as to get better educational opportunities for their children? Think about that for a minute. That is what happened to the Normal Park zone east of N. Market St and Dallas. So it's okay if it happens over there but not over here? So affordable housing and quality education are mutually exclusive - Is this what Chattanoogans value?

The irony is the relationship this article has with the other article Ms. Putman wrote in this issue: 'Leaders Say Community Should Reach Out to Youth'....because that is what this community is doing!!! Rep. Brown said "young blacks must be convinced that this city belongs to them, just as it belongs to every other resident. They also must have access to jobs and the hope of a better future." And access to quality community schools within walking distance that allow children from low-income neighborhoods the opportunity for solid early childhood education, and the opportunity to stay at school and participate in after-school programs, sports, reading-intervention, and mentoring.

I've been up and down Spears Ave talking to residents and black families certainly do not feel as though they are stakeholders in this city - neither do white families in this working-class neighborhood. Residents on Spears Ave have been pushed outside of the zone for the community school one mile away and sent to elementary and middle schools over 5 miles away in the city of Red Bank which is not accessible by public transportation - some parents can't participate at the school. Also, four years ago Spears Ave was scraped in preparation for repaving. At the same time the city was telling residents on Spears Ave there wasn't any money to repave Spears Ave, crews were hard at work repaving Barton Ave.

These problems do have solutions and they begin with doing away with the existence of "Two Chattanoogas." There needs to be a stronger overall effort to create unity and community healing.

In my opinion, this article does not fully communicate the breadth of the information provided to the public at the Hill City community meeting. After paying $330 for an Open Records Request to the Hamilton County Department of Education, community leaders in Hill City acquired a large amount of enrollment data specific to Normal Park. Considering that the school board voted in 2007 to include Hill City in 2010 one has to wonder - where was the implementation plan and whom was responsible for the failure? Well, it's all in the data. Please visit our blog to view the records request, the response from HCDE and our analysis of the data. www.northchattanoogaschoolzoning.word...>

March 26, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.
CBIKAS said...

People forget Hill City was in the zone before 2007. The promise was to let Hill City back into the school by 2010. Of course, that was just a delay tactic. And discrimination is the reason. As for Hill City kids being allowed into the school that was a one time exception for 2010. It does not apply going forward. And it does not apply to Nelson and Nicole's Barrios's child who hasn't started school just yet. I highly encourage the authorities to audit Normal Park's lottery winners. There is no doubt in my mind that criminal activity has taken place. And it needs to stop.

March 26, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
mamamitta5 said...

@ drewcifer this article is about students k thru8....and for you to conclude that those gangbangers represent all children in our area is ignorant at best....what would be fair is to vote us in as promised but at least a revote..realize that not every family got the survey...transparency is what this Issue is lacking...I am blessed to have children In the magnet schools of Hamilton county....but I will continue to fight for my community

March 26, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.
HCworkingclass said...

Why does that map not show Red Bank Elementary and Red Bank Middle? Because the map would have to be much bigger to show the great distance those schools are from Hill City - but it would provide the much needed perspective.

March 26, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.
NorthChatt01 said...

@ Drewcifer I am amazed at your opinion of our neighborhood. In any neighborhood there are neighbors that we would rather not have but I have lived here for 6 years and have developed wonderful relationships with some of the neighbors. I have endured hardships and affording a nicer, bigger place to live close to my work is impossible on my salary. I made a investment in this neighborhood to better the area and my future. I have seen an improvement since I have lived here for the better. Younger people aren't moving here because they idolize gangs or drug dealers. We move here because we can make a change and invest in something that is ours. One of the main reasons for moving here was the hopes to better my child's education and to expose her to culture...because again, I cannot afford private schooling. The school board should hold up their word and better yet show us the facts. To date, they have refuted the facts that we keep showing them but have no data themselves to back it up.

March 31, 2011 at 6:39 a.m.
HCworkingclass said...

"I understand that young families have moved into the neighborhood because living next to gangbanger wannabe's and crack dealers is apparently the hip thing to do nowadays (i.e. Highland Park)..."

Oh Drewcifer you smug person you - it has never been hip to be poor or working-class when you're looking at Americans through elitist colored glasses. However it has always been hip to work for a living, live modestly and within your financial means and intermingle with people who are not like you.

Like all neighborhoods, we have crime, but not as much as you may think. We have a strong neighborhood watch and I think you would be surprised at how aggressive our Neighborhood Watch pursues criminals from crime to incarceration. Our neighborhood watch fb page is filled with court dates, police reports and mugshots. But I don't have to legitimize to you, you have already written off a couple hundred people as being "undesirable."

Don't confuse an entire neighborhood of decent, honest hard-working citizens with a handful of "gangbanger wannabes" who need solid, quality educational intervention now more than ever!

April 3, 2011 at 3:49 p.m.
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