Uni­fiEd team to be­gin anal­y­sis of pub­lic in­put on school in­equities

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - REGION - BY ROSANA HUGHES STAFF WRITER

Next week, a Uni­fiEd team will be­gin an­a­lyz­ing com­mu­nity in­put as it works to ad­dress in­equities within Hamil­ton County’s pub­lic schools.

The lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Ac­tion Plan for Ed­u­ca­tional Ex­cel­lence, or APEX, project was launched Aug. 1 with the goal of gath­er­ing com­mu­nity feed­back from around the county. Once opin­ions are gath­ered, the data will be an­a­lyzed in order to draft a pol­icy plat­form the pub­lic will vote on be­fore Uni­fiEd pre­sents it to lo­cal of­fi­cials.

To gather pub­lic in­put, Uni­fiEd has been host­ing a se­ries of small group dis­cus­sions called EdTalks

dur­ing which fa­cil­i­ta­tors col­lect sur­veys from at­ten­dees. Once the project’s steer­ing com­mit­tee was es­tab­lished, those mem­bers held their own set of EdTalks in their neigh­bor­hoods. And not long af­ter the ini­tial Au­gust launch, an on­line ver­sion of the sur­vey was es­tab­lished.

“The sur­vey is an even deeper dive into the com­mu­nity,” Ariel Ford, steer­ing com­mit­tee mem­ber, said. “[It’s] a way that we’re try­ing to get even more in­put from as many peo­ple as we can across the county to learn what’s im­por­tant to our com­mu­nity.”

The sur­vey asks re­spon­dents to name three eq­uity is­sues that need to be ad­dressed, as well as pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to those in­equities.

Regi­nald Gil­more, an­other steer­ing com­mit­tee mem­ber, said the re­search gained through the EdTalks and the sur­vey will help cre­ate poli­cies that will pro­vide “the same re­sources through­out Hamil­ton County in­stead of it only be­ing avail­able in cer­tain schools.”

The EdTalks will wrap up Mon­day, and the on­line sur­vey, found at www.uni­fied.org/apex, will close that day at mid­night.

Uni­fiEd’s team will an­a­lyze the re­sponses for the fol­low­ing two weeks and en­list the help of the steer­ing com­mit­tee to cre­ate a pol­icy plat­form, which will be a col­lec­tion of poli­cies that would be adopted at vary­ing lev­els of county gov­ern­ment, school board, school sys­tem or in­di­vid­ual schools.

Once those poli­cies are drafted, Uni­fiEd’s sec­ond phase in­volves tak­ing a small school bus to sev­eral high-traf­fic lo­ca­tions around the county, such as gro­cery stores, malls or com­mu­nity cen­ters. The bus will be fit­ted on the inside with an in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibit show­ing the col­lec­tion of pre­lim­i­nary pol­icy pro­pos­als.

Be­tween De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, peo­ple will be in­vited to board the bus, talk to or­ga­niz­ers, re­view the pre­lim­i­nary poli­cies and vote on the ones that fit their pri­or­i­ties. The out­come of those re­sults will be the poli­cies in­cluded in the fi­nal pol­icy plat­form to be re­leased and pre­sented to lo­cal of­fi­cials in Fe­bru­ary.

Uni­fiEd will con­tinue to work with the school board, county com­mis­sion and school district ad­min­is­tra­tors to adopt the pol­icy changes by the end of 2018.

“The goal of the APEX project is not just to cre­ate an ac­tion plan by el­e­vat­ing com­mu­nity voice, but also to fight to see that plan’s poli­cies adopted and fully im­ple­mented by the county and school sys­tem,” Jonas Bar­riere, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Uni­fiEd, said in an email. “And fol­low­ing the pol­icy plat­form’s re­lease in early 2018, that’s what we in­tend to do.”

He said he is not con­cerned that the poli­cies may go by the way­side once they’ve been brought to the school board or other county of­fi­cials.

“We are al­ready work­ing to en­sure our elected of­fi­cials un­der­stand the work we are un­der­tak­ing, and what role they play in the ac­tion plan,” Bar­riere said.

Ford also said she doesn’t think it will be­come a pol­icy “that sits in a drawer.”

“All of us have a re­spon­si­bil­ity for eq­uity,” she said. “This does not fall on the shoul­ders of the school district alone. So, while it could be­come one of those poli­cies, the power is re­ally in the fact that we have so many voices con­tribut­ing to this ef­fort and we each have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to carry it through.”

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