published Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Free Press picks for District 8 and District 9

District 8: Testerman favored over Rock

District 8 includes Missionary Ridge, Concord, Hamilton Place, East Ridge and parts of Brainerd

Barger Academy of Fine Arts

East Ridge Elementary

Spring Creek Elementary

East Brainerd Intermediate

Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts*

East Ridge Middle

East Ridge High

No matter what happens, the Hamilton County Board of Education will have a dedicated educator in the District 8 seat after the Aug. 7 election.

We believe incumbent Dr. David Testerman, whose longtime experience in Hamilton County Schools ran from teacher to principal, is the better choice.

We especially salute his understanding that "one shoe fits all" is not the right way to go for students who have "different needs" and are from "different communities" and that many students, parents and teachers are tired, as he is, of "reform after reform after reform" and believe the "game of buying new reforms" should stop.

Much "has been thrown away," Testerman says, in the name of education reform." Schools need to be "more autonomous" in how they can educate students.

As such, he believes more vocational education is an idea whose "time has come again," especially for students who live in poverty and may not be college bound but want to work and earn a good living.

"It can give them some hope," Testerman says.

His opponent, Samevelyn Morgan Rock, a recently retired 40-year teacher and former president of the Hamilton County Education Association, has similar feelings.

She says there is "too much testing," that standards are "changing so quickly" and that the state jumped into the new Common Core program "too quick."

"There's [no program] that fits every child," Rock says, "but every child can learn. I want the freedom [as a teacher] to pull from what I know. What's appropriate is what works."

The two candidates said there are roles for students, parents and teachers in the education process.

"All students," says Testerman, "want to be successful," but too often they "see hope leaving," drop out and some get involved in things they shouldn't. "Crimes could have been prevented."

"Parents and students should be partners," Rock says. Somewhere, "we dropped the ball on how important school is."


District 9: Highlander has 'hands-on' experience

District 9 includes Ooltewah and Birchwood

Harrison Elementary*

Ooltewah Elementary

Wallace Smith Elementary

Snow Hill Elementary*

Wolftever Creek Elementary

Brown Middle

Hunter Middle

Ooltewah Middle

Central High

Hamilton County Adult High School

Ooltewah High

*Reward Schools

Schools among the top 5 percent in the state for annual growth and/or academic achievement.

Five men and women from various walks of life have offered themselves for the District 9 seat on the Hamilton County School Board. All have or had children in district schools or have been involved in the schools.

We believe Steve Highlander, a retired Hamilton County Schools teacher and coach, is the best fit for the seat based on his in-school experience, his desire to seek full funding of the county's Basic Education Program money from the state, and his opposition to unfunded mandates from the federal and state governments.

Like many school board candidates, he believes the Common Core program "put the cart before the horse" in introducing testing before students were taught proper skills and that many schools do not have the technology necessary for such testing.

A set of skills that "encourages critical thinking" implemented in a progressive fashion, where developmentally appropriate, is a better way to go, Highlander says.

At a recent UnifiEd campaign debate, he also made it clear for whom he would be working on the school board.

"I will work for you," Highlander says. "You have ownership of the school board. It's important to let people know what the money is spent for."

Dean Moorhouse, a retired health care executive and property manager, eyes the seat from a budgetary -- but no less important -- standpoint, pointing out that Hamilton County spends more per pupil than the state's three other largest cities and stating the school system needs to "maximize operational efficiencies."

That could include "taking a hard look" at older schools to determine if they're operating at below a break-even point and perhaps replacing them with newer, larger facilities, he said. With maximum efficiency through his "dollars and cents objectivity," more money can flow into the classroom, he said.

The race also includes University of Tennessee at Chattanooga police Officer Karen Farrow, who finished second in the District 9 school board race in 2012, and McKee Foods employees Larry Lewis and Tim White.

Farrow says she wants taxpayer "money spent wisely" and believes the board should work together rather than on their own agendas. Lewis says the school board has been "indifferent on issues" and that "nobody's listening" and wants to establish better two-way communications. White, meanwhile, says he won't have all the answers but will work the hardest.

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