PEF History


Project Inspire graduates its 100th teacher committed to working in Hamilton County's most challenged schools.

Teacherpreneur expands to include Teacherpreneur Accelerator, which helps past Teacherpreneurs grow and scale their projects.


PEF's Camp College celebrates its 20th year and graduates its 1000th student! 

PEF's Leadership Fellows celebrates its 20th year and graduates its 600th aspiring leader!


Sixteen middle and high schools create state of the art digital fabrication labs, dubbed Volkswagen eLabs, thanks to a $1 million partnership between PEF, Hamilton County Schools, the State of Tennessee, and VW Group of America.


DuPont and East Ridge become the 11th and 12th elementary schools to receive a grant of at least $50,000 thanks to partnership between Lenore Annenberg School Fund For Children and PEF.


PEF creates and then launches STEP-UP Chattanooga, a paid summer internship program that pairs high school students with industry leaders for college and career development.


The PEF Innovation Hub launches the Teacherpreneur Incubator to provide wrap-around supports for teachers, empowering them to incubate and launch teacher-led initiatives intended to impact the classroom, school, or community.


With funding from local foundations and businesses, the newly created Leadership Pipeline begins providing support to aspiring, new, and veteran principals.

Through the STEM Innovation Hub, PEF partners with Benwood Foundation and Hamilton County Department of Education on a 1:1 technology initiative that provides groups of students and teachers in six schools their own "device" in hopes of transforming student learning experiences.


PEF launches the STEM Innovation Hub, which provides professional development to STEM educators across 16 counties as part of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network. PEF also becomes a Fund for Teachers Site and begins annually awarding grants that empower teachers to design summer learning experiences around the world.


PEF, Tennessee Technological University, and Hamilton County Department of Education launch Project Inspire, an innovative initiative to recruit and train science and math teachers for urban schools through a teacher residency model.


Supported by PEF, the Chamber of Commerce, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Joe Davenport, Unum, the United Way, and an anonymous funder, the Principal Leadership Academy began in summer 2010 to provide more intensive training, mentoring and support over the course of one year to assistant principals interested in moving into a principal’s role.

PEF launched TEACH/Here, an innovative initiative to recruit promising new teachers from nontraditional backgrounds.


PEF, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, UTC, and Hamilton County Schools create the Principal Leadership Academy, which provides intensive training and support to aspiring principals. By 2014, more than a quarter of HCDE schools are led by an Academy graduate.


PEF merges with College Access Center and, with generous support from Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, provides every high school with a college advisor. PEF continues summer programs for students who will be the first in their family to go to college, starts a mentoring program for community college students, launches a volunteer program to assist advisors, and provides scholarships for extraordinary students, through the Leonor Annenberg Scholarship Fund. The number of Hamilton County students who matriculate to college steadily increases. 1,774 members of the class of 2013 enrolled in college the following fall--an increase of more than 34% since 2005.


The Benwood Initiative expands to include seven new schools. Middle and high schools are working to move students to advanced levels, and have broadened their focus to include math as well as literacy. Efforts will continue to prepare students for higher education and increase the number of graduates who enroll – and succeed – in college.


The county’s middle schools are included in reform efforts, with a $2.5 million contribution from the NEA Foundation and $6 million from the Lyndhurst Foundation to support Middle Schools for a New Society. MSNS continues for eight years and impacts all 20 middle schools, more than 600 teachers, and 10,000 students. Math and literacy scores improve steadily during this time.


With community support and another grant from Annenberg Foundation, PEF opens the Ruth S. Holmberg Center for Excellence in Leadership and Education. This space quickly becomes home to many of PEF's professional development activities


PEF, Weldon F. Osborne Foundation, UTC, and Hamilton County Department of Education work together to create a unique masters degree program that focuses on literacy and is free to teachers committed to working in urban schools. 43 "Osborne Fellows" graduate and continue teaching at urban schools.

2001 - 2002

PEF began two major school reform initiatives, both of which have been highly successful. In partnership with HCDE and the Benwood Foundation, $7.5 million was invested to create changes that have revitalized the county’s lowest-performing elementary schools through the Benwood Initiative; as part of the Carnegie Corporation’s Schools for a New Society initiative, $14 million was invested to reform each one of the county’s high schools.


The new superintendent of Hamilton County Schools asks PEF to help train school leaders for the new district. PEF and HCDE launch Leadership Fellows, an intensive year-long program that trains future leaders. The two partners begin hosting winter and summer retreats for principals, assistant principals, and teachers.


The newly consolidated system emerges, and, with community support and grants from the Lyndhurst Foundation and Annenberg Foundation, teachers and principals develop a new set of high standards for all students.


The Chattanooga community voted to turn responsibility for education over to the county, requiring the two systems to merge.

At the request of the Hamilton County School Board, PEF surveyed 3,300 area residents and convened 135 community members – educators, civic and government leaders, residents, parents and students – to help shape the vision for the new school system.


Thanks to generous community support and a grant from DeWitt Wallace Reader's Digest Fund, PEF helps refurbish the libraries of 28 schools.


PEF focused on professional development as a means to school improvement.

  • Generous mini-grants gave educators opportunities to enrich their teaching skills.
  • Principals formed a network to support one another and discuss successful strategies.
  • PEF helped improve the libraries of 28 elementary and middle schools.


PEF was formed to provide support for public schools in Chattanooga and Hamilton County.

The Board of the newly formed PEF approves the organization's by-laws and goal of supporting public education in Chattanooga and Hamilton County. Superintendents of city and county school systems endorse PEF's mission: "to create outstanding schools by applying resources to bold ideas."

Sign Up for Our eNewsletter