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School board gives itself perfect score on willingness to make unpopular decisions for children's best interest

Rick Wagner • Jan 2, 2019 at 3:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Board of Education members gave themselves relatively high marks in the self-evaluation.

Those included a perfect score on a willingness to make unpopular decisions for children’s best interest, in contrast to the lowest mark for communicating financial needs of the school system to the community.

The board performs the self-evaluation annually, as it did last year, with 46 rankings: five on Relationship with the Superintendent; three on Relationship with the Community; 13 on Relationship During Meetings; four on Relationship with Staff & Personnel; three for Support of Instruction Program; three on Fiscal Responsibility; and 15 on Personal Work Habits.

Members of the seven-member board ranked themselves the lowest in keeping constituents informed about the financial needs of the district, part of the Fiscal Responsibility section, and second lowest in trying to become acquainted with district employees, part of the Relationship with Staff & Personnel Section. 

On a scale of 1 to 5, the board member ranked themselves an average of 3.86 on the financial needs question and 4.0 on trying get to know employees. In comparison, board members indicated they wished they were at 5.0 on both questions. Individual member rankings were not released.

On the other end of the spectrum, on keeping the education and welfare of children as the primary concern and being willing to make unpopular decisions in the best interest of children, the board ranked itself a perfect 5.0.

The board in a split 5-2 vote on Aug. 1 last year awarded the main building construction contract for West Ridge High School, which is tentatively slated to open in the fall of 2021, replacing Sullivan North, South and much or all of Sullivan Central high schools, with the rest of the students going to the existing Sullivan East High. The vote to approve the outdoor athletic facilities bid was 4-2 with one abstaining.

On the scale, 1 means never, 2 rarely, 3 about half the time, four almost always and 5 always.

School board attorney Pat Hull presented the results of the self-evaluation at a called meeting Nov. 29, held for that sole purpose, before a daylong retreat and then a work session.

Near the end of the retreat, the BOE received cost-savings options it had requested earlier in the year: Close Blountville Middle and the middle school portion of Sullivan Gardens K-8 next school year instead of when the new high school opens and also close Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, which had not been scheduled for closure but was to be relocated to a school within a school at what will become Sullivan Central Middle School. It is now a school within a school at Holston Middle, which along with Blountville is to move to the new Central Middle.

Closing Blountville and IA got pushback from students, teachers and community members at the Dec. 3 school board meeting.

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