Former Hamilton County Commissioner Responds to Facilities Report Recommendations


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — A Consulting Group’s preliminary report on School facilities in Hamilton county was unveiled in a community meeting last night. It focuses on combining schools and closing dozens more.

“One point three six billion dollars,” said Dan Schmidt with MGT Consulting Group.

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MGT Consulting Group released it’s preliminary report in July, and many local officials were stunned at the 1.36 billion price tag.

Their recommendations include renovating 11 schools; building on to 10 schools; closing a total of 15 school buildings, and creating 3 new schools.

These proposals also come with suggestions for moving a lot of students to different locations, and sometimes, to different schools.

At the Lookout Valley community meeting Wednesday night, former Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham was outspoken against many of those suggestions.

“I think every citizen in Hamilton County has a stake in this. It doesn’t matter if you live in Sale Creek or Lookout Valley or Lookout Mountain,” said Joe Graham, former Hamilton County Commissioner.

One of the suggestions from that preliminary facilities report, is to add two levels to this existing building here at Lookout Valley Middle and High School, and then take the students from Lookout, and Lookout Valley elementary schools and bring them together here, under one roof.

“The plan that we are seeing is to make these mega, 1,200 student schools, when right now the reason that the smaller schools are successful is just that; they’re small, they’re small. The principal knows everybody in the building, the teachers know all the students. You put twelve hundred students in one building, I don’t care where it is, you lose that one on one connection, you lose that neighborhood school,” said Graham.

“Some schools are quite small, we’re talking under 300 students. When you get down that small, you’re talking about a school where the per pupil funding doesn’t cover the cost of operating that school,” said Dan Schmidt, Director of MGT Consultants.

The final facilities report with recommendations, after community input from several public meetings, will be presented to the Hamilton County School Board by MGT Consultants in early March of 2020.


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Ashley is a lifetime Chattanooga area resident, and a 1987 graduate from UTC, with a BA in communications. While there, he was commissioned through the ROTC program, served simultaneously in the 1/181st field artillery Tn. Army National Guard, finished Airborne school, was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honor society and ROTC Rangers, the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, played snare drum with the UTC Marching band, and played in a southern rock band called Southern Atmosphere, while working a full time job as a trainer at the Sports Barn. He also won the Southeastern United States teenage bodybuilding competition during this time. Ashley has been with News 12 Now for 21 years. Prior to working here he was a videographer, director, producer and editor at Falcon Cable TV in Dalton, Ga. for 6 years where he produced thousands of commercials and dozens of hour long features. He also worked as a freelancer and employee at another network affiliate in Chattanooga. He has operated a part time video production business from home for 25 years. He says his passion is telling stories that feature people who give of themselves to help others, and stories that inspire people to make positive changes in themselves and their communities. Ashley is ecstatically married to Debbie Henderson, and has two step sons, a daughter in law, a sister, and lots of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews. His parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Ashley and Debbie are active members of Brainerd Baptist Church. His interests include weight training and cycling with his wife, photography, poetry, playing drums, and checking off items from his extensive honey-do list. If you would like to reach Ashley, email him at