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Name that school: Survey says Sullivan East Middle

Rick Wagner • Sep 8, 2017 at 2:16 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s new middle school in the East High zone will be East Middle if an online survey’s results are adopted by the Board of Education next week.

And the school board also learned in a Thursday work session how the 2017-18 county budget, approved by the County Commission Aug. 31, will cost Kingsport schools $1.78 million and Bristol schools more than $1 million but won’t cost the county school system a cent.

The online survey, active for about 10 days, drew 4,082 votes. Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said the naming committee unanimously endorsed the results and that she will recommend at the Sept. 14 meeting that the BOE, which has the naming authority, name the school Sullivan East Middle School.

“We made sure every student had the opportunity to vote,” Rafalowski told the BOE. In addition, the public could vote, and she said IP addresses indicated no effort by a single group to skew the results. The survey did not include a choice for mascot and colors since earlier student surveys indicated an overwhelming desire to replicate the East High mascot of Patriots and colors of red, white and blue.

East Middle was the choice of 1,451 or 35.5 percent, closely followed by Overmountain Middle, a reference to the nearby Overmountain Victory Trail from the Revolutionary War, at 1,329 votes or 32.5 percent. Victory Trail Middle was third at 684 or 16.7 percent, followed by Mountain View Middle at 441 or 10.8 percent and Victory Mountain at 180 or 4.4 percent. Those choices were determined by input from students and the committee of students, parents and teachers.

“As an adult, I voted for the choice that got the least (support),” BOE Chairman Michael Hughes said, while Rafalowski said, “They (committee members) know the one that I voted for didn’t make it, either.” The $20 million facility, along with a $60 million high school near Exit 63 of Interstate 81, are being funded from a $140 million county bond issue. She said a naming committee for the new high school, to replace Sullivan North, South and much of Central high schools, is being formed.

Rafalowski also explained to the board at the work session that “rental income,” a payment from the county to the school system for the use of school facilities for non-school events and activities, increased from $300,000 to $1.1 million in the commission’s budget. She said a budget amendment, removing revenue from the general purpose school fund and adding revenue for the facilities use line, will be on the Oct. 2 voting agenda and be a wash for the county. However, that money doesn’t have to be shared with the city school systems and also allows the county to meet state maintenance of effort requirements, something she said the Comptroller of the Treasury and state Department of Education confirmed.

“The bottom line stayed the same,” Rafalowski said. “The (revenue) source just changed from one line to another.” The commission also did not share property tax-generated renovation funds with the city systems, allowed by a court ruling interpreting state law, and cut 5.5 cents in the property tax rate from general purpose schools. The commission increased the rate 8.5 cents.

Answering a question from member Matthew Spivey, Rafalowski said the $1.1 million would be a recurring part of the county budget each year. She also said the expenditures and increases in the county school budget, including 2 percent raises, would remain.

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