September 18, 2015

Now hiring: Director of Finance & Operations

Are you deeply committed to public education and believe it is the foundation of a thriving community? Are you a CPA looking for a mission-driven career opportunity? If so, you may be PEF’s next Director of Finance and Operations!

The position requires a strong finance background coupled with a passion for improving public schools. See the full job description for more details.

Review of applications will begin on October 12, 2015 and will continue until the position is filled.

Public Education Foundation is an equal opportunity employer with a demonstrated commitment to hiring individuals who reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. Please forward this posting to potential applicants.

September 16, 2015

Emily O’Donnell joins PEF staff as Vice President for External Relations

Public Education Foundation has selected Emily O’Donnell as the organization’s Vice President for External Relations. Ms. O’Donnell will lead the nonprofit’s fundraising and communications strategies, and develop and expand partnerships to strengthen PEF’s efforts to transform public education so students succeed in learning and in life.

Emily ODonnell

“We are delighted to welcome Emily to our staff,” said Dan Challener, President of PEF. “For the last seven years, she has worked as a highly respected attorney at Legal Aid of East Tennessee. I am very happy that Emily will bring her outstanding skills to Public Education Foundation and help us continue our efforts to increase student achievement and strengthen public schools.”

Ms. O’Donnell said, “I am deeply committed to PEF’s mission to improve student achievement. Strong public schools are vital to our community’s success and I look forward to building relationships with individuals, businesses, and organizations that share that belief.”

According to PEF Board Chair Jim Hill, “Emily’s strong relationship skills and enthusiasm for the cause of public education will make her a tremendous asset to PEF.”

Ms. O’Donnell earned a B.A. from Sewanee: The University of the South and a J.D. from the Georgia State University College of Law. She serves on the board of the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga and is a trustee for Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga. She and her husband Johnny live in Red Bank with their daughters Molly and Ellie.

She can be reached at or 423.648.4449.

September 15, 2015

East Side Elementary celebrates $25,000 grant from Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children


East Side Elementary students, teachers, and administrators gathered yesterday to celebrate the dedication of an upgraded Read 180 lab, designed to give targeted support to young readers and writers. A $25,000 grant for software upgrades, as well as hundreds of new nonfiction books, from the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children was facilitated by PEF.

Read more about the event in the Times Free Press and see stories and video from WRCB and WTVC.

We are so proud of East Side Elementary! In the words of Superintendent Rick Smith, “This is one of the schools in Hamilton County that we’re just so proud of, and it’s a school that reflects so much about who we are as a community.”


Stacy Hooper is joined by some Read 180 students


PEF President Dan Challener reads a plaque for the Read 180 Lab to students and guests, as Principal Stephanie Hinton and Superintendent Rick Smith look on.


School Board Chairman George Ricks talks with a student during a tour of the Read 180 Lab

August 26, 2015

How you can stay involved with Teacherpreneur

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Teacherpreneur 2.0, and supporting teachers being part of the entrepreneurial spirit of Chattanooga. We’re excited to tell you that every project received some level of funding, whether to fully scale the idea or to further develop a proof-of-concept model!

If you missed the 48 Hour Launch event, there’s been plenty of news coverage – Channel 12 hosted first-place winner Sarah Clardy and School Rocks, and Amy Myhan and her Ed Trekkin’ guides were recently featured on Channel 9’s This ‘n That. The Times Free Press picked up the story the night of, and you can read the press release announcing funding in the Chattanoogan. Finally, we’ve posted photos from the event on Facebook, as well as the most recent version of Tim Cofield’s Teacherpreneur 1.0 video on our website; watch what, after just a year, some of these teachers have accomplished!

And now Teacherpreneur 2.0 participants are asking for the community’s help. There are two ways for you to get involved:

– Time & Talent. We’ve been meeting with teams individually to discuss their needs, and we’d love for you to connect directly here. Time and talent needs differ from project to project, whether it’s advice, time, or resources. Connecting directly will help determine how you can best help.

– Financial Support. Every project needs additional financial support. We would love for you to make a tax-deductible contribution online. We’ve already had over $1,000 in donations to help scale projects beyond their initial startup, and any amount will help.

Again, thank you for your interest in and support of Hamilton County’s innovative educators! We look forward to sharing more stories of how Chattanoogans – teachers and entrepreneurs alike – are changing public education for the better.

The PEF Teacherpreneur Team

July 22, 2015

Teacherpreneur 2.0 launches Sunday, August 2

Community invited to Pitch Night to hear teachers share their visions for transforming education

After a competitive application process, 21 teacher teams from Hamilton County public schools will participate in an intensive 48-Hour Launch weekend as participants in the second cohort of the Teacherpreneur Incubator through PEF.

The Teacherpreneur Incubator is a unique leadership initiative which offers teachers support, time and space to incubate big ideas and execute them in the best interests of their students and their profession. PEF and the Hamilton County Department of Education are collaborating with the Benwood Foundation, Footprint Foundation, and CO.LAB on this innovative approach to engaging and empowering area teachers.

In May, HCDE teachers submitted more than 60 proposals to the Teacherpreneur Incubator.  Those proposals were narrowed to 21 teams who will enter the Teacherpreneur 48-Hour Launch, based on the CO.LAB model where educators will receive feedback, support, and encouragement from mentors and community members throughout the weekend.

On Sunday, August 2 from 4:00-6:00 p.m., the Launch culminates with educators pitching their ideas to a panel of judges at Granfalloon, 400 E. Main Street. Pitches will be chosen to receive funding and on-going support to take ideas from concept to classroom.  The community is invited to attend – please reserve tickets below:



Keri Randolph, PEF Vice President of Learning says, “Last year’s Pitch Night was incredible. It was a great opportunity for the community to hear innovative ideas directly from our teachers. Educators have creative, entrepreneurial solutions to classroom, school and community challenges, and Teacherpreneur is a way to invest in them as professionals by helping those ideas come to life.”

This year’s diverse Teacherpreneur proposals include:

– A professional audio recording studio for high school students in downtown Chattanooga
– Bridging physical activity and learning by retrofitting classroom furniture
– An on-demand app for students to access guidance counselors and personalize their interactions
– Student-created 360 degree virtual field trips to be used by participants worldwide

Contact PEF’s Keri Randolph at or 423-648-2426 for more information.

July 20, 2015

PEF staff members visit Seattle education fund, residency program

Just as teachers and principals need to hone their skills and learn from one another, PEF staff members are committed to ongoing professional development. In July, Erin Harrell, Assistant Director of Project Inspire, and Shannon Edmondson, Development & Communications Officer, traveled to Seattle to visit the Alliance for Education and Seattle Teacher Residency. PEF and the Alliance are strikingly similar in organizational size, both work with similarly sized partner school districts, and both have teacher residency programs – we are truly sister organizations.

Erin wanted to understand STR’s strategies for successfully recruiting a high percentage of minority candidates for residency, in order to reflect the diversity of the students in Seattle Public Schools. She also wanted to learn to how maximize a small staff to do more and work more intentionally and efficiently. Shannon was interested in Seattle’s fundraising events, successful ways to keep donors engaged, and marketing strategies for a teacher residency housed within an education fund.

After Erin and Shannon returned to Chattanooga, they reflected on the visit.

What was most valuable about the site visit to Seattle?

Erin: This trip encouraged me that even with a small staff we can maximize our time and efforts to do the most important work for sustaining an effective teacher residency program and training effective teachers. I also left with a sense of hope for our high-need students in Chattanooga and Seattle public schools! Both in Seattle and Chattanooga there is a strong caliber of the teacher residents — their commitment to students, to excellent teaching, and to equitable education for all students.

Shannon: It’s always helpful to step away from your daily work and reflect on what your organization does well and what it can do better. I really enjoyed talking with Sara Morris (President and CEO) about the challenges education funds face in terms of public relations, fundraising, and administration. Seattle does a great job with fundraising events, which is something we’re just now beginning to explore. PEF has a great social media presence, and we were able to share that success story.

How do Chattanooga and Seattle’s teacher residencies compare?

ErinSTR is exclusively focused on training elementary and special education teachers, while Project Inspire is focused on training secondary math and science teachers. The residencies are similar in the scope and approach to clinical work– all residents are trained with an effective mentor teacher over a fourteen month program in an urban school while completing graduate coursework. Some residencies work more within charter schools, but Project Inspire and Seattle Teacher Residency are similar in that we focus on training the most effective teachers for our specific districts and maintain close relationships with the public school systems.

How will you use what you learned?

Erin: I left Seattle with some new perspectives for our recruitment strategy. This visit came at a perfect time as I am starting to recruit the 2016-2017 cohort of teacher residents. My daily role with the residency is grounded in operations, so I also came away with some ideas on how to tighten up what we do and maximize our small staff.

Shannon: I came home with lots of fresh ideas for sharing our successes and keeping investors updated throughout the year. We have a great annual report, but the Alliance for Education has some excellent ways to share updates on programs on an ongoing basis. I’m looking forward to stealing those ideas and customizing them for our donors.

From both: The staff of Alliance for Education and Seattle Teacher Residency were gracious and incredibly knowledgeable hosts, and we deeply appreciate the opportunity to visit and learn from them!

June 22, 2015

Twelve Teacher Residents Join Project Inspire

Summer brings a time of much needed rest for many area teachers, but there is one group of new teachers who will be spending the whole summer preparing to enter area math and science classrooms as part of Project Inspire, PEF’s teacher residency program that partners with Tennessee Technological University and Hamilton County Department of Education to train new secondary math and science teachers.


Back row: Michael Romano, Susie Everly, Anne Holt, William Budd, Katie Butler, Jennifer Zellner, Tiffany Corkran, Scott Tunnell. Front row: Ella Bonah, Hannah Beker, Anne Holt, Kasi Quinn

As of June 1, PEF and Project Inspire’s twelve new teacher residents embarked on their journeys into math and science teaching by participating in Project Inspire’s orientation and starting their graduate courses with Tennessee Tech in curriculum and instruction. The residents are a select group, as almost one hundred individuals completed applications to the program. Many are recent college graduates who found teacher residency to be a fit because they wanted to pursue teaching, but had undergraduate degrees in other subjects, such as environmental science, mathematics, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, geology, and economics.  While several of the residents call Chattanooga home, some became new Chattanooga residents when they moved from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Idaho, and from other cities in Tennessee to join Project Inspire. Our professionals write my essay for cheap at its best. Diplomas, reference work – all this will be done in the best possible way! Guaranteed!

What would cause a young twenty-something to move across the country to teach in urban schools?  Across this particular group, you will find a deep commitment to build relationships with students and the belief that strong public education is essential for a flourishing city. “I started to desire more out of a job than just a paycheck,” says William Budd, formerly of Antioch, Illinois, who joins Project Inspire from a former career as a geologist and environmental scientist. “I believe that STEM is the future for many exciting and rewarding career paths as our society moves forward. I would like to be an avenue to help educate, motivate, and support our future engineers and scientists. Chattanooga has a very productive future and it is my goal to help build a local workforce to fill those jobs.”

All of the residents are eager to start the school year so they can start working with students. Tiffany Corkran is a recent graduate of Christian Brothers University with a B.S. in chemistry. When asked what biggest life lesson she wanted to teach her students, she turned the question around and replied, “I hope to learn humility from my students. At times, it’s easy to think that we know everything. Already I’m learning this isn’t true, and I know that learning about my students’ lives and backgrounds will give me a new perspective on my life and help me understand how the world works.” Tiffany’s answer reflects the whole cohort’s desire to be lifelong learners and hold themselves to the same growth-mindset that they will require of their students.

In order to prepare these new teacher residents to be classroom-ready, there is much work to be done. Because of this, life as a new resident is a little like drinking from a fire hydrant! Summer classes from Tennessee Tech, seminars with the Project Inspire staff, and community learning take up the majority of this group’s time. As the new school year approaches, the teacher residents will spend time in their new classrooms with their clinical instructors, veteran mentor teachers from Dalewood Middle School, Tyner Middle Academy, and Tyner Academy. By the time that school begins the second week of August, the residents will be supporting their clinical instructors in their classrooms and working towards teaching their first lessons. After the residency year, the teacher residents will graduate with master’s of education degrees from TTU and be well prepared to make a difference in the lives of students in their own HCDE classrooms.

Please join PEF in welcoming these twelve new teacher residents! We look forward to the ways this group is going to push our thinking and help us get excited all over again about impacting students. We are also grateful for the contributions of the National Science Foundation, the Tucker Foundation, and AmeriCorps, which make teacher residency a reality in Chattanooga. If you, or someone you know, is interested in secondary math or science teaching, visit, as the application process for the 2016-2017 cohort opens July 1.

June 17, 2015

Dan Challener joins third class of Leadership Tennessee

PEF President Dan Challener was recently selected to participate in the 2015-2016 class of Leadership Tennessee, a leadership education program designed to cultivate a network of business, nonprofit, education and government leaders who are committed to addressing the state’s challenges and opportunities. The 10-month program provides collaborative learning and dialogue spanning the state’s three grand divisions, issue-specific education for demonstrated leaders, a diverse representation of participants and opportunities to affect change. It will meet several times as a group in addition to participating in other activities, research and projects throughout the year.

The upcoming class includes 34 business, government, education and nonprofit leaders from across Tennessee, including fellow Chattanoogans Charlie Brock, CEO, Launch Tennessee, Bill Kilbride, president and CEO, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and Rep. Gerald McCormick, majority leader, Tennessee House of Representatives.

“Leadership Tennessee is designed for top leaders across the state to learn from different perspectives, but also to understand the collaborative nature of conversation and action that will continue to move our state ahead,” said Cathy Cate, executive director of Leadership Tennessee and director of community leadership programs for the Andrews Institute. “In the first two years of the program we have seen how relationships developed and strengthened among our participants and have led to collaborations and more informed decision making that benefits all Tennesseans.”

Read more in an article from Lipscomb University

Congratulations to Dan on this honor!

June 8, 2015

HCDE releases Citizens’ Budget Guide

From Hamilton County Department of Education –


The Citizens’ Budget Guide provides an overview of Hamilton County Department of Education’s budget for the past year (FY15). This guide is intended to provide residents with basic budget information in an easy‐to‐read format. It includes information on revenues, expenditures, the budgeting process and how funding has changed over time. This is the first edition of a budget guide for HCDE, but we expect to publish a guide to correlate with each year’s budget going forward. The guide is available in print and on our website at

As a large, diverse school district, HCDE’s budget is very complex. However, it is very important for stakeholders – parents, students, elected leaders and taxpayers – to understand how public education is funded and how those funds are spent in Hamilton County. It is our hope that this guide will contribute to the ongoing informed dialogue in our community about funding priorities and goals around public education.

The Budget Guide was put together under the leadership of HCDE’s Finance Department. In addition, we received input from an advisory group that included:

  • Andrew Kean, former President of Tennessee Stillhouse
  • Warren McEwan, CPA & Partner, Mauldin & Jenkins
  • Karitsa Moseley, School Board Member
  • Christa Payne, PEF
  • Lori Quillen, Benwood Foundation

The layout and design of the guide was provided by Widgets & Stone.

We view this Budget Guide as a positive step in increasing accountability to the public. It is a work in progress and we look forward to feedback from stakeholders on how it could be improved for next year’s budget!

Questions, comments, or feedback? Contact HCDE Finance Director Christie Jordan at 209‐8686.


June 2, 2015

PEF is hiring!

Are you passionate about improving equity, access, and excellence in our region’s public schools? Join our team of committed professionals to help students succeed in learning and in life.

PEF is current accepting applications for two positions: Vice President for External Relations and Technology Program Associate. Full job descriptions and instructions for submitting materials are in the employment section of our website.

Please circulate these opportunities throughout your networks – PEF is an equal opportunity employer with a demonstrated commitment to hiring individuals who reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.

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