published Thursday, March 8th, 2012

School rezoning, retirement dominate Hamilton County agenda

Hamilton County School Board member Everett Fairchild listens during a meeting in this file photo. Fairchild is stepping down from the board due to health reasons.
Hamilton County School Board member Everett Fairchild listens during a meeting in this file photo. Fairchild is stepping down from the board due to health reasons.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Hamilton County Commission meeting - March 7, 2012

Two major schools issues dominated Wednesday's Hamilton County Commission meeting -- East Hamilton Middle High School rezoning and the appointment of a replacement for retiring school board Member Everett Fairchild.

Commissioners can, and did, act on one -- the upcoming appointment. Rezoning is out of their control.

"According to my documentation here, about 90 percent or more of our correspondence recently has been about the school system," Commissioner Fred Skillern said. "Some of it is our responsibility. The other half or more we've received about the zoning, the County Commission has absolutely nothing to do with that."

Commission Chairman Larry Henry set out the process for appointing a replacement for Fairchild, whose is retiring March 15 for health reasons. Commissioners will take applications for his District 3 school board seat on March 15 and 16, hold one-on-one interviews with candidates, then appoint someone on March 29.

The appointment will run until August 2014, the remainder of Fairchild's four-year term.

At least 10 people have said they're interested in the appointment, District 3 Commissioner Mitch McClure said.

Commissioners also discussed a likely public forum about the appointment hosted by an outside group, possibly a parent-teacher association. McClure said he was working with a group that might hold an event on March 22.

Henry first suggested that a Republican women's group host the event, but after some discussion about possible partisanship for a nonpartisan position, commissioners agreed that a parent group might make a better choice.

Marty Haynes, who won the Republican District 3 County Commission primary on Tuesday, said the Hixson Kiwanis Club also may host a public forum to allow parents across the district to question those seeking the school board seat.

No forum date is final.

The other District 3 commission candidate vying in an August general election, Democrat Mitzi Yates, criticized commissioners for not holding public interviews with candidates.

Commissioners also touched on the proposed school rezoning in the eastern part of the county. School officials proposed the rezoning to relieve overcrowding at East Hamilton Middle-High School as well as some elementary schools in the area.

Henry and Commissioner Joe Graham said they aren't school board members and don't have authority over rezoning but offered their opinions.

Graham questioned the school system's choices about what facilities to build, suggesting a new middle school would be a solution to the overcrowding.

Henry said he's concerned that the same students who would be rezoned under the proposal unveiled last week could be moved again in a few years due to projected growth in that part of the county.

"This is a wonderful conversation, but I think most of the people who've spoken up here today have admitted they're not on school board and have for one reason or another admitted they don't know what the school board is doing," Commissioner Greg Beck said. "All of this says to me we're way overdue for a retreat with our school board and our County Commission.

"We're puzzled about which way they're going and they're puzzled about why we feel the way we feel about what they do," he said. "I think a lot of that could be cleared up if we all sit down and talk."

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about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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