There's No Need For A Separate Signal Mountain School District - And Response

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I was pleased when I discovered a survey available from the Signal Mountain School System Viability Committee.  I thought the survey for “Concerned Citizens” would let me express my opinions about an independent Signal Mountain school system.  I was wrong. It appears the real goal of this survey is to encourage complaints about the schools to justify creating an independent system. 

If there were serious shortfalls in the operation of Signal Mountain schools, perhaps there would be some justification for considering a separate school district.  But we have some of the best performing schools in the system.  Our test scores are consistently high, graduation rates are among the best in the county, and Signal schools offer many classes otherwise unavailable in other county schools.  

The middle/high school offers an International Baccalaureate degree.  A look at the curricula available discloses a huge array of advanced academic and arts classes.  The graduation rate is 92 percent and the school ranks 26th among 341 high schools in Tennessee on the Niche website.  Nolan Elementary ranks 23rd and Thrasher 24th among 853 elementary schools in our state on the School Digger website.  

Everything I see indicates that our children are receiving an excellent education. 

The feasibility of an independent system does not depend upon whether you want better schools, it depends upon whether you can create and sustain them.  Costs would seem a major consideration in this assessment, but the cost of acquiring buildings for the district has been removed from the committee’s consideration.  Furthermore, the committee cannot say whether students in Walden, or the unincorporated parts of Hamilton County on the mountain, would be allowed to participate in the Signal Mountain district (even though these students must be counted for Signal to qualify for consideration as an independent district).  

If I had children and lived outside the town limits, I would be loath to trust the future of my children’s education to some yet-to-be negotiated intergovernmental agreement.  But then, those folks will not be able to vote on whether to have a separate district, or whether they can participate in the district, or how the district will be run. 

I oppose a separate school district, first, because I see no reason to incur added expenses and taxes when the schools we have seem perfectly adequate to the task of educating our children.  Second, many of the families directly affected by the creation of such a district will have no voice in the district’s operations.  Third, this action smacks of the snobbish, elitist, racist attitude of which we are so often accused.  If people on Signal Mountain really care about educating children, they should work harder to improve all Hamilton County schools and not just their own. 

Sandra McCrea
Town of Signal Mountain

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I could not agree more with Mrs. McCrea.  We have two sons who graduated from the high school.  One is now in graduate school and the other is a senior at Lee College.  Both have done well in college and were well prepared by SMHS.  The Signal Mountain schools are some of the best schools in the state.  I don't see the urgency or need to change a school system that is working so well.  I question the motive of the group that is leading this effort.  

There are a lot of unanswered questions that I am sure the committee will address at some point.  For those of us outside the town of Signal Mountain, we have a lot of concern.  I live in the city of Walden.  Walden contributed $3 million to the school.  Would we be allowed to attend the schools?  What about Fairmount district?  

I cannot see how a new school district could improve what we already have.  We are very satisfied with the Hamilton County Department of Education.

Mike Harvey
Former School Board Candidate

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