Barnes: Most Cedar Grove teachers would follow students to new schools

Rick Wagner • Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — If Cedar Grove Elementary School closes at the end of this school year, all but four of its 13 teachers would follow former Cedar Grove students to Kingsley and Brookside elementary schools.

And those four should be able to get jobs somewhere in the system, said Sullivan County Director of Schools Jack Barnes.

In addition, Barnes said that if the Sullivan County Board of Education decides to approve the proposal to close Cedar Grove, he believes the intersection of John B. Dennis Highway, Bloomingdale Pike and Wadlow Gap Road should be able to handle the 120 or so additional cars and two additional buses each morning and afternoon.

Those are two of the answers to questions Cedar Grove parents posed to the school board and Barnes during a community meeting held at Sullivan North High School Tuesday night.

Cedar Grove PTA President Dee Williams presented the board with 1,262 signatures on a petition opposing the closure.

“No one likes to do what is proposed here,” Barnes told the group.

“Due to times the way they are, this has sort of been thrust upon us,” Barnes said.

Each year professional staff retire or resign, and Barnes said he is confident all existing teachers could be absorbed if all three proposed school closings — Cedar Grove, Akard Elementary and Valley Pike Elementary— occurred.

The school closings and some student rezonings are expected to save more than $900,000 from the 2009-10 school budget.

Savings, after offsetting some expenses, from the Cedar Grove closing would be an estimated $455,638 including $212,000 for four teachers, $75,000 for one principal, $64,000 for one intermediate school principal and $49,000 for 1.5 custodians. Money from the sale of the closed schools, if not prohibited by deed reversion clauses, would go to the county’s general fund.

Operational savings from Cedar Grove would be $31,338 a year.

Barnes said 23 positions were cut last year, but all employees found jobs before the school year began except for one, who was placed shortly after school began. Barnes said the same generally goes for support staff.

Cedar Grove parents have complained about traffic congestion and the Wadlow Gap/Bloomingdale/John B. Dennis intersection. Evelyn Rafalowski, who oversees technology and transportation for the system, said she spent a few days observing the intersection during peak morning and afternoon times and found morning traffic peaked after the 7:30 a.m. opening of North and that the intersection could handle the additional school traffic.

Asked to explain the criteria for choosing Cedar Grove for possible closure, Barnes cited its location near the two other schools and away from the core of residents, a physical condition report that rated it a 60 on a scale of 0 to 100 — although Kingsley, built in 1940, rated a 59 score — and problems with special needs access to a downstairs cafeteria.

Cedar Grove was built in 1928 and had its last addition 33 years ago.

As for academic performance, Barnes said all three elementary schools perform “very well,” with Cedar Grove a little better in value-added scores and the other two better in raw academic achievement.

Asked about cuts in the Central Office, Barnes said he cut from 13 to 12 employees, but the “lean” staff still must do mandated state and federal reports.

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