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Hamilton County educational leaders work to get more parents involved

The Hamilton County School Board met to discuss which schools need a brand new school the most. (Image: WTVC)

As the search for the next Hamilton County Schools superintendent is narrowed down to five candidates, educational groups are working to keep parents informed of the process.

The candidates are each set to visit Chattanooga next month for more interviews and public input meetings.

This week, school board members are hosting forums for parents.

School board members Tiffanie Robinson and Karitsa Jones hosted a public information session at Orchard Knob Elementary Wednesday to update parents on the search.

We were there as the parking lot filled up with parents, but that's not always the case with public meetings.

Earlier this month when the board narrowed down the list of candidates, only three community members showed up to watch the first Skype interview. Elizabeth Baker was one of those.

"It doesn't seem like currently in Hamilton County that parent's voices have much value and that's not OK," Baker said. "I just wonder what has happened so drastically that parents don't believe their voice is valuable anymore."

UnifiEd is working to get more parents involved by hosting informal meetings throughout the end of next month.

"It's a platform for the community to share their voice with their elected officials," said Natalie Cook, communications director at UnifiEd. "Elected officials make better decisions when they have input and feedback from the parents, the students, the community that they have been elected to serve."

Cook says more people are watching public meetings via livestream.

"As far as community members taking action through our Fund Hamilton County's Future campaign since mid-April, more than 400 parents, educators, and interested community members have attended an EdTalk event or face-to-face discussion about funding in the local school system," Cook said.

School board member Kathy Lennon hosted a forum in Red Bank Tuesday night.

"I think anytime you have this you only have five or six people always show up, but I think those five or six people are important and what they have to say," Lennon said.

Instead of five or six, they had more than a dozen from the eight different schools that Lennon represents.

"It makes me excited for Hamilton County that we have so many parents that are engaged right now. I think they want their voices to be heard and they want the best for their children," Lennon said.

We caught up with mom of three Tiffany Richardson in Chattanooga. Two of her children will be attending Hamilton County Schools next year. She plans to be as involved as she can with their education.

"I think it's important that we are involved because I think sometimes we can voice our opinion but then not be willing to put in the footwork to make that happen," Richardson said.

Click here for a list of upcoming UnifiEd meetings.

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