Archive for the ‘Get Informed’ Category

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

PEF staff members visit Seattle education fund, residency program

Monday, July 20th, 2015

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!

Dan Challener joins third class of Leadership Tennessee

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

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!

HCDE releases Citizens’ Budget Guide

Monday, June 8th, 2015

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.