Sullivan schools eye plan to 'grow' principals from ranks of teachers

Rick Wagner • Jul 23, 2012 at 10:51 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s public school system plans to start growing future principals more directly from the ranks of teachers.

Using an assistant to the principal program, Director of Schools Jubal Yennie told the Sullivan County Board of Education at a called budget meeting Monday night, is one of the ways he hopes to help the system become more efficient and effective in the next five years as the system continues to lose student population.

Instead of being a full-blown assistant principal or simply a teacher in charge when a principal is outside the building, the assistants to the principal — what Yennie called “quasi assistant principals” already used in the Kingsport and other area systems — are teachers who continue to teach some but also help with administrative duties on a daily basis. They receive their regular teacher’s pay plus a $1,000-a-year stipend, Yennie said.

“We need to have, we need to grow our own people,” Yennie said. “We’re never going to be able to catch up with salaries.”

Yennie was referring to Kingsport and other area city systems luring away veteran teachers and administrators with higher pay. He said future administrators need to be trained over time on the job.

Most recently, Rock Springs Elementary Principal Kim Harvey — a more than 30-year employee of the county school system — took the job as principal of Kingsport’s Sevier Middle School after the retirement of Cookie Greer. The Rock Springs principalship has yet to be filled but will be soon, Yennie said.

Yennie said he plans to implement the assistant to the principal program, which BOE members supported but did not formally vote to do, within the existing proposed 2012-13 budget of $89.4 million.

The budget has $314,000 less than last year in expenditures and about $1 million less in revenues. It will be balanced by a combination of about $1.5 million (the county school system’s share of a 20 cent increase in the countywide property tax rate) and more than $2.58 million from the fund balance.

Yennie said getting more efficient is key because fund balance money is a one-time source. Once it is gone, it is gone unless the school system puts money back into the fund balance at the end of the year.

If projections hold true, the fund balance will end up about $3 million after the $2.58 million is spent.

Yennie said the positions, which would add no more than one part-time position to the more than 1,200 working in the schools this fall, should be particularly helpful in some of the larger elementary schools — Blountville, Indian Springs, Miller Perry and Rock Springs.

Other cost-saving measures include the merger of Sullivan Elementary and Sullivan Middle into a single school, to be overseen by existing middle school Principal Zeda Church and a yet-to-be-named assistant principal.

The merged school, which already shares a cafeteria, has yet to be named. Former elementary Principal Tom Bowers has been assigned as principal of Sullivan North Middle School.

The discussion about cost savings was part of a larger, long-term budget discussion.

Yennie provided the board with a packet of information showing how the system has grown more efficient and smaller as it has lost students over the past decade, information to be shared with the Sullivan County Commission’s Education Committee Wednesday and, if requested, with the full County Commission at a called meeting July 30 for first reading of the budget.

From the end of 2000-01, when the system had 1,631 employees that grew to 1,646 the next year, the system has fallen to 1,337 at the end of 2011-12 and a projected 1,237 for 2012-13.

The board let stand as is the proposed school budget.

Yennie said about 15 federally funded aides likely will be switched from full-time to part-time status and informed of that in the next week or so, a notification BOE member Dan Wells asked be made as soon as possible.

Otherwise, aside from one secretarial layoff in the central office, Yennie said other position cuts were handled through attrition by retirements or resignations, not layoffs.

The budget includes a 2.5 percent raise for all teachers and support staff and money for the county’s share of a 9.2 percent increase in health insurance costs to kick in Jan. 1. Those on the insurance plan also will see a 9.2 percent increase in what they pay for insurance, Budget Director Leslie Bonner told the BOE.

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