Drug testing in Sullivan schools on hold until at least July

Rick Wagner • Apr 26, 2018 at 8:50 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — It will be at least July until a student random drug testing policy is considered for a vote by the Sullivan County Board of Education, policy proposer and school board member Mark Ireson said.

Ireson already had postponed consideration of the matter until the June meeting, but during Tuesday’s BOE work session he announced he would delay it for another month. He said he simply didn’t feel that he and the board could do it justice at the upcoming meeting Monday since he had been out of town. So the drug testing proposal will remain under “unfinished business” on the agenda until at least July. 

Ireson made the announcement during the non-voting work session at which the board decided not to have a May work session before the June 5 meeting because of scheduling conflicts and a light agenda. Called meetings will be scheduled for work on the 2018-19 budget and the sale of the former Weaver Elementary School. The budget work awaits details of state funding, while the school sale awaits a survey of the property so bids can be evaluated.

Kingsport system also considering testing

The Sullivan County and Kingsport school boards are considering policies to test students in “voluntary extracurricular activities,” as allowed by Tennessee law and based on U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Both movements came after two Kingsport parents in February held a community meeting decrying drug use by students of Dobyns-Bennett High School. The city BOE held a recent public input session on the matter, but only Suzie Weatherall, the mother who organized the February meeting, spoke.

Other agenda items

Also on the agenda of the May 1 county school board meeting, the BOE is to:

— Approve tenure for 41 eligible teachers.

— Approve four special courses at Sullivan Central High School: a new drone class and existing leadership, freshman orientation and microbiology classes. Because of Central’s close proximity to Tri-Cities Airport, school officials said FAA regulations will require advanced notification of drones being flown at the school.

— Approve a series of grants that are housekeeping matters.

— Approve an amendment to the 2017-18 General Purpose Budget for the benefit of the comptroller of the treasury, another housekeeping matter. The amount of the current-year budget is correct, but in a rush to get budgets to the comptroller in late August, an earlier version was submitted.

Details of school funding changes

Ingrid Deloach, school system business manager, explained that the Sullivan County Commission cut the county school system’s share of property tax rate funding, a reduction of $1,119,000. However, the commission added $1 million to the lease and rental payment it makes to the county school system for non-school community recreational use of school facilities, making for a total of $1.3 million.

Still, that left $119,000, which Deloach said was taken from the fund balance, although she and Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski assured the school board that money would not be spent and would return to the fund balance on June 30.

The $1 million did not have to be shared with Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City school systems, but it will count toward maintenance of effort from the county to the county school system. That means if the commission ever increases education funding overall, it cannot reduce the lease and rental payment to the county school system.

The commission move leaves the city school systems shorter on revenue, and in Kingsport’s case, the city is to be forced to pay the city school system  $644,000 to make up the state’s mandatory maintenance of effort.


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