Foreign exchange students not admitted in Hawkins County due to confusion over paperwork

Jeff Bobo • Sep 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Five of the seven foreign exchange students staying in Hawkins County this year will begin school this week, but the other two will have to wait at least until Oct. 1 while a paperwork snafu is cleared up.

The Hawkins County Board of Education has a policy requiring foreign exchange students to be approved before they are brought into the United States.

For some reason that wasn’t done with this year’s students, and they weren’t permitted to begin classes last month with the rest of the Hawkins County student body.

County Attorney Jim Phillips explained to the board during Thursday’s regular monthly meeting that it does have the authority to wave the policy by a board vote, but it must have paperwork for each student signed by the principal of the school they will attend acknowledging their admittance.

Foreign Exchange Program coordinator Patisa Kielau attended Thursday’s board meeting with the seven students and their host families.

Although Kielau presented the board with paperwork signed by Cherokee High School principal Daffin Anderson for the five students attending that school this year, there was a misunderstanding with the two Volunteer High School students.

Their host parents told the board that VHS principal James Dykes informed them the board must vote before he could sign the papers. The board told those parents Dykes must sign the papers before they could vote.

Those two sets of host parents clearly weren’t pleased when Board Chairman Robert Stidham told them their students would not be admitted to school until they returned with signed paperwork and presented it to the board at its next scheduled meeting on Oct. 11.

Later in Thursday’s meeting, however, the board scheduled a workshop meeting for Oct. 1 to discuss the phase three building project. Director of Schools Charlotte Britton then suggested that Thursday’s meeting be recessed and reconvened on Oct. 1 to take care of any pending business.

Kielau told the board she intends to be present at the Oct. 1 meeting with the signed paperwork in hopes of getting the two remaining students in class as soon as possible.

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