Archive for the ‘Get Informed’ Category

Lakeside Academy, Taylor Elementary Schools Awarded Prestigious Annenberg Grants

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Public Education Foundation (PEF) is pleased to announce two grants totaling nearly $100,000 from The Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children to Lakeside Academy of Math, Science & Technology in Hamilton County and Taylor Elementary School in Bradley County. Lakeside will create STEM labs to enable students to experience hands-on learning and become creative problem solvers, as well as purchase books for the library and classrooms. Taylor Elementary will provide laptops for all fourth- and fifth-grade students, including mobile hotspots for at-home use so students can conduct research and communicate with people around the globe.

This is the seventh year of a collaborative effort between PEF and The Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children resulting in significant financial support to 12 area schools. PEF’s collaboration with Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation has enabled the two organizations to multiply the impact of regional educational initiatives for the benefit of students in Southeast Tennessee.

Gail Levin, Ph.D., director of The Leonore Annenberg Scholarship, Fellowship, and School Funds, said, “Since 2010, the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children has partnered with PEF to provide underserved schools with essential resources. While the term ‘value added’ is too often used in the absence of both context and definition, Leonore Annenberg’s grants to public elementary schools are sure to make a clear case for improved teaching and learning.”

“Leonore Annenberg was committed to improving the lives of children, particularly those who, with support, will become leaders of the next generation,” says PEF president Dan Challener. “These grants certainly underscore the heart of her mission to provide students resources to help them shine brightly. We are so pleased to announce this year’s awards to Lakeside Academy and Taylor Elementary. The public will be invited to celebrations at each school in the fall to experience how these grants are making a difference for students.”

In 1997, the late philanthropist Walter Annenberg made a special opportunity grant to Chattanooga as part of his national call to arms in support of American public education. That support, which recognized the merger of city schools with the surrounding Hamilton County system, helped to create PEF’s Leadership Initiative. Several years later, additional support was designated for a strategic communications plan and mission-focused public relations work. The Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children grants build upon this legacy of partnership.

In total, The Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children has given $950,000 to schools in southeast Tennessee as part of their $6.4 million in grants nationally to public elementary schools that serve a high concentration of children from families living in poverty. Previous local grants have funded diverse projects including a reading lab, multi-media facility, art studio, media center, classroom technology, playground improvements, science lab, classroom book nooks, Chromebooks, and a student leadership program.

About the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children

The Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, provides educational resources of immediate and direct value to schools serving children with great need. Visit

2016 Fund for Teachers Fellows announced

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

For the fifth year in a row, Hamilton County public school teachers have earned grants for summer learning experiences across the globe so they can come back and share what they learned with their students. The grants are made possible by the national nonprofit Fund for Teachers, administered locally through a partnership with PEF.

“Fund for Teachers fellowships get to the heart of one of our strategic goals at PEF: to develop and advance highly effective teaching so that all students learn in classes that are engaging, relevant, and rigorous,” stated Dan Challener, PEF President. “We know that when teachers return to their classrooms, their Fund for Teachers experiences help them create rich learning opportunities for our students.”

Fund for Teachers allotted $71,300 in grant awards for Hamilton County public school teachers this year. Teachers could apply for up to $5,000 as an individual or $10,000 as a team. Eighteen grant recipients (or Fellows) from eleven schools will visit 15 countries across four continents this summer. The 2016 cohort includes:

Cara Stiles of Sale Creek Middle/High who will explore Iceland with a National Geographic team to pique student interest in global warming, geothermal energy, and space travel;

Jessica Hubbuch and Sean Brown of The Howard School who are environmental science teachers who will trek through Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala to explore tropical rainforests, plate tectonics, aquatic diversity as well as Central American culture and the Spanish language;

Christopher Raynolds of Signal Mountain Middle/High plans to investigate the historical and cultural effects on Japan resulting from scientific innovation during World War II, to provide deeper perspective and context for history and science classes;

Sarah Lane of Woodmore Elementary and Zena Hanner-Buckley of Lakeside Academy will unlock students’ imaginations as a result of a quest to study the origins of fairy tales in France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, and England;

John Echols, Elizabeth Bullard, and Melanie Collins of Center for Creative Arts will attend the Boothbay Literacy Retreat in Maine in order to develop collaborative strategies and knowledge that will transform literacy teaching and school culture across 6th, 7th and 8th grade classrooms;

Michele Pesce of East Ridge Elementary and Reanee Jackson of Ivy Academy will attend several Spanish language/cultural immersion programs in the US and in Central America in order to learn and evaluate different language acquisition strategies, then employ those with the greatest potential to raise academic achievement;

Stevie Davis of East Ridge Elementary and Veronica McCuiston of North Hamilton County Elementary will research and observe endangered North American red wolves in several habitats of the Southeast US and use this information to create wolf-study activity boxes and lesson plans available to all Hamilton County teachers;

Latanya Mason, Mary Avans, and Daniel Silva of Barger Academy of Fine Arts will visit locales in Ecuador and Peru (including Machu Picchu and the Galapagos) to study landforms, wildlife, and indigenous peoples, then use findings and videos for environmental & cultural student projects; and,

Kathryn Russell and Amanda Colvin of East Hamilton Middle/High will travel to Poland and Israel to gain insight into the experiences of Holocaust victims, bystanders and perpetrators, and to see how the lessons of the Holocaust are being applied to improve the modern world.

In partnership with PEF, Fund for Teachers has provided more than $450,000 in grants to 121 Hamilton County teachers over the last five years.

See what Samuel L. Jackson has to say about public education in Chattanooga

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

There aren’t any current DonorsChoose projects in Chattanooga that need funding – but we have a way you can help.

Donate through PEF and your gift will support teachers and schools across Hamilton County. Our programs align with our key values:

Leadership matters most for improving our schools

  • Today is the deadline for the next cohort of Leadership Fellows, a program that for 17 years has trained over 450 teachers in our district.
  • It’s also the deadline for Principal Leadership Academy, where the next generation of school leaders learn from experts in town and across the country.

All students deserve support to help them be successful as citizens, employees, and problem-solvers

  • At the heart of our work are students, and this year we’ve launched STEP-UP Chattanooga to connect them with area businesses for paid internships over the summer.
  • Want programs that help over 95% of participants apply to, be accepted, and attend college? Camp College and Passport Scholars do that year after year.

The most powerful force in boosting student achievement is an empowered, creative teacher

All of our programs are focused on one goal: improving student achievement so all students succeed in learning and in life.

Make a gift today, and see a return on your investment in the years to come. Thank you!

Dialogues on Public Education documentary screening Feb 4

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Local documentarian Robert Ashton Winslow will premier first drafts from a special documentary series posing questions for Chattanooga’s future during special events in early 2016. After collecting interviews with community leaders during 2015, these events are open invitations for community members to help direct the next part of the documentary process. Southern Dialogues in Chattanooga seeks to elevate civic dialogue by opening up questions for public conversation in an experimental documentary process. Live Dialogues events will include screenings, interactive storyboards, informational resources, moderated discussion, and video confessionals.

PEF, UnifiEd, and Hamilton County Department of Education are partnering to screen Dialogues on Public Education on Thursday, February 4 beginning at 6 pm on Floor 5 of the Edney Innovation Center, 1100 Market Street. Details are available on Facebook.

The other themes of the documentary series include Building the Innovation Economy, Housing and Real Estate Development, Thrive 2055 and Regional Economic Development. At each screening event, invitations will be extended for community organizations to co-host more Dialogues events on a continuing basis in order to bring as many voices from the community into the project as possible.

As community institutions and public-private leadership rally for bold vision to tackle big challenges, these documentaries seek to elevate civic dialogue and serve as a resource for ongoing public engagement. All documentary content developed through the program will be ultimately uploaded as an interactive library of conversational video content for public benefit.

Southern Dialogues in Chattanooga is a no-budget creative project solely produced by Robert Ashton Winslow. The program in Chattanooga is now raising funds to engage local media-makers to assist the documentary production process.

Southern Dialogues is an independent documentary webseries by Chattanooga-native Robert Ashton Winslow using ordinary conversation to explore themes in civic life and the changing South. Past documentary topics have included the the growth of the film industry in Louisiana, the 2015 Civil Rights anniversaries in Alabama, the industrial footprint in Alabama as a window into the new American
manufacturing economy, and political advertising during the 2014 Kentucky Senate election.

Southern Dialogues in Chattanooga program during 2015 and 2016 has been hosted on the 4th Floor of the Downtown Public Library.
Visit for more.

Chattanooga 2.0 launches

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Chattanooga 2.0, a community-wide effort for academic excellence in Hamilton County, launched a 100-day initiative to develop practical, hands-on action plans to provide quality education for all students in Hamilton County and connect them to jobs that pay a living wage. “2.0 is not just an issue of geography or ability; it’s an issue of support and expectation,” said Jared Bigham, project director for 2.0. “The report is out. The conversation has started. But the work has just begun.” Bigham said, “The 100 days is the start and not the end of achieving academic excellence for everyone in Hamilton County. This work will be generational, but there will be short-term wins such as the Manufacturing Excellence Program and Step-Up Chattanooga that show the community is willing to act now.”

Addressing Chattanooga Rotarians, he said, over the next 100 days, “we have the opportunity to create a path forward that will bring 8,000 adults out of poverty. We can do that by achieving the goal of 75 percent of our residents obtaining a post-secondary credential.”

According to the 2.0 report, Hamilton County is experiencing job growth, but 83 percent of those jobs that provide a livable wage require a postsecondary credential. Currently, only about 40 percent of residents have the education necessary to gain one of these positions and benefit from the improving local economy. “Our community is one of the best places to live,” said Bigham. Great things are happening here, but there is a difference in having opportunities and our high school graduates being in a position to benefit from those opportunities. The community challenge is to come together, set education improvement as a priority, and support our local talent in obtaining a good job.

The community outreach is underway, Bigham said. “We are in the process of bringing together educators, faith-based leaders, teachers, volunteers, professionals and students to start creating four work groups. Each team will focus on researching and developing bold strategies that emphasize innovation, as well as probably taking us a little out of our comfort zone,” he said. The initial work groups are early childhood, K-12, postsecondary and workforce, and faith-based outreach.

Bigham said. “Each work group has a charge to be creative, bold and set objectives that are aspirational. They will be looking at successful programs in other communities, things that may never have been tried, and asking what will work. We’re looking at anything and everything that can make a difference and change lives and outcomes for Hamilton County students,” he said.

Some of the primary areas of focus within 2.0 where measurable outcomes can be defined are: school readiness, third grade literacy, career exploration in middle school post-secondary readiness, post-secondary completion and workforce readiness.

Try an Hour of Code Dec 7-13

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Heard of coding, but still intimidated? Curious but not sure where to start? Next week is your chance to jump in and learn.

The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.

PEF’s Geoff Millener leads an initiative called Dev Dev (Developing Developers) which, in partnership with the Hamilton County Department of Education, brings schools, companies and organizations together to help promote technology and digital literacy. Geoff explains, “We want more young people to not only use technology effectively, but also understand how applications and web tools are developed. The Hour of Code is a great introduction to the opportunities out there for students interested in programming.”

Several area schools are participating, including Clifton Hills, Bess T. Shepherd, and Battle Academy. Geoff was joined by Clifton Hills media specialist and Teacherpreneur Cristol Kapp on WDEF’s “This Morning” to share more about the importance of coding skills and digital literacy.

For more on local Hour of Code experiences, email Geoff Millener.

PEF hiring for multiple positions

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Are you deeply committed to public education and ready for a challenging, rewarding career? Join the PEF staff and help us increase student achievement so all student succeed in learning and in life.

The following positions are accepting applications; please read the complete position descriptions for materials requested, contact information, and review dates.

Please share these opportunities with your networks. Public Education Foundation is an equal opportunity employer with a demonstrated commitment to hiring individuals who reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.

More information about PEF is available on our website.

Now hiring: Director of Finance & Operations

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

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 26, 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.

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

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

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.” Review spellcaster maxim.

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.

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

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015


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