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Moorhouse looking to future of STEM, CTE in Kingsport

• Jun 9, 2018 at 6:00 PM

KINGSPORT — New Kingsport Superintendent of Schools Jeff Moorhouse has fond memories of Kingsport from when he was growing up in Mountain City.

“It was always a big deal when you came to the city,” Moorhouse said. “You held it in high esteem.”

“The city” when he was growing up was generally Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City or Boone. It was where his family, including a father who was a minister and a mother who was a teacher, took trips to shop and eat out. Today, he makes his home in Kingsport and said the city is a big deal in education circles because  Kingsport City Schools is able to explore the possibilities for which other school systems may not have the money, employees and other resources.

“I have always regarded this (KCS superintendent) as a pinnacle position in the region,” said Moorhouse, who joined the system earlier this year after a school board vote in late 2017. “We have a chance to be a lighthouse for other people.” He said KCS has the resources to “swing and miss” in trying new things.


During a recent meeting with the Kingsport Times News editorial board, Moorhouse said that his father was a preacher from Minnesota and his mother an educator. They initially settled in Elizabethton, where the father pastored a church and his mother was a teacher. They later moved to Mountain City, where he was a minister and she was a teaching principal. One thing his parents emphasized to Moorhouse and his younger brother was that the “purpose of our life is to have an impact on others.”

Moorhouse and his brother were athletes, the future superintendent playing basketball for Milligan College, and his brother played football at East Tennessee State. The brother is an athletic trainer at Daniel Boone High School.

Moorhouse met his wife, an Erwin native, at Milligan. After graduation and marriage, they headed to South Carolina, where he led a state alternative school for a year and than moved to Hamblen County (Morristown) where he became an elementary principal and then was principal of Morristown West for 10 years. Along the way, they had two daughters, and he ended up director of Greeneville City Schools.


Kingsport’s Board of Education opted to hire a consultant to search for a new superintendent when former Greeneville Superintendent Lyle Ailshie resigned as Kingsport superintendent to become a deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Education. Moorhouse said that process is why he became a finalist for the Kingsport position.

“If it was something I had to apply to, I wouldn’t have applied,” Moorhouse said, adding that he hadn’t spent enough time in Greeneville to feel comfortable publicly applying for another director’s or superintendent’s position. In addition, his oldest daughter, a student at Belmont University’s school of law, is interning this summer for Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus. His younger daughter is a high jumper for Belmont and soon will be spending time studying abroad in Austria at the University of Salsburg.


“To be on the outside, you always wonder what the secret sauce is,” Moorhouse said of school systems. “It is and it always has been about people.” Amassing talented people also must be accompanied by having enough resources. With a school budget of $30 million in Greeneville to $90 million in Kingsport, he said either way about 80 percent of the costs are basically fixed: employee pay and benefits.

“That (larger budget) didn’t intimidate me at all,” Moorhouse said.

Moorhouse said he hopes in years to come KCS will grow its STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, offerings into hands-on programs needed for jobs in the area and those the area can attract in things such as advanced manufacturing, information technology and health care. Those are the “three big buckets” he said Mayor John Clark and economic developers tell him are integral to Kingsport and the region’s future. He predicted robotics will be huge in the years to come.


The system recently announced the hiring of Bo Shadden of Sullivan County Schools as the director of career, technical and post-secondary education to fill a retirement vacancy, and Rhonda Stringham, a retired superintendent from Alabama, as assistant superintendent of instruction to fill a vacant position.

He said Shadden’s background in career technical education and Stringham’s background in workforce development will serve KCS and the region well, although he said he understands Sullivan County Schools, headed by Superintendent Evelyn Rafalowski, values Shadden.

“Evelyn and I are friends,” Moorhouse said. “Bo coming on board with Kingsport is going to be a better use of Bo Shadden.”

Moorhouse said bringing together resources and opportunities will help with Dobyns-Bennett’s new Regional Center for Science and Engineering, set for completion in 2019. And D-B EXCEL, a blended online and in-person learning school, this year made the list of 15 STEM Innovation Schools in Tennessee and was the only one in Northeast Tennessee.

He said the ultimate goal is to have CTE education on a level with the same emphasis and prestige as disciplines geared toward those bound for four-year colleges, as well as the overlap of the two in areas such as health sciences, including nursing.


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