Aug. 3 ribbon cutting set for new Innovation Academy

Rick Wagner • Jul 24, 2012 at 8:33 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — A ribbon cutting and meet-and-greet event at the new Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee is set for 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3.

That was one of the details the school’s governing board discussed during its meeting Tuesday at the Sullivan County school system’s central office.

Kingsport and the county schools Aug. 6 are to begin jointly operating the grades 6-7 facility in the former Brookside Elementary building in the Bloomingdale community of the county.

It is to grow, eventually, into a grades 6-12 school. It is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) platform school, which will be an incubator for all public school systems in Northeast Tennessee.

Sullivan County Assistant Director of Schools Gene Johnson said the facility is coming along well, although he said furniture deliveries may occur the afternoon of the 1 p.m. ribbon cutting and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. open house.

Project manager Brenda Barnicki said the main signs for the school should arrive at the end of this week or early next week and be installed before the ribbon cutting.

The board decided by consensus, with no formal vote, to have Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshie, and the human resource managers of the two school systems address the pay of Principal Sandy Watkins, the county’s former STEM coordinator.

Her pay as a county principal with her education and experience would be about $70,000, although the original budget for the school had $85,000 set aside for principal pay.

However, officials overlooked a secretarial position for the school, which has since been filled, and Yennie said the two combined would cost more than $85,000.

In addition, he and Ailshie agreed that $70,000 probably was too low in pay considering the task of starting up the school.

Each system has put a little more than $500,000 into operations of the school. In addition, federal Race to the Top (RTTT) money funneled through Tennessee and administered by the Battelle Memorial Foundation will provide $1 million in start-up funds for the school, while East Tennessee State University is to receive $500,000 to be the innovation hub for it, providing professional development and disseminating best practices to systems through the region.

Yennie said that based on conversations with the principal of a Knox County STEM platform school, it could take up to eight months for the city and county to get reimbursed for incremental expenditures of the $1 million.

In its third school year, the school is to have no more RTTT funding and is to open itself up to enrollment from the region, not just the 160 city and 160 county slots in grades 6 and 7 to attend for 2012-13.

The governing board also:

•Gave the go-ahead to Yennie and Ailshie to hire Barnicki, whose contract expires at month’s end, on an as-needed consultant basis afterward.

•Heard Ailshie say that Kingsport Board of Education President Randy Montgomery soon would appoint or suggest a replacement on the governing board for Cheryl Harvey, who resigned her city BOE seat so her husband could move from the county system and become principal of the city’s Sevier Middle School, held by the retiring Cookie Greer.

•Decided to leave the appointments of members of the governing body as is with no specified terms, although Yennie said that Tonya Foreman of Eastman Chemical Co., where Harvey works, and Northeast State Community College’s Stan Delozier might be added as voting members to the nine-member board.

•Decided to pay the four county and four city teachers working at the school a daily stipend for professional development sessions they attended in June at ETSU but not to pay them stipends starting July 1 since they are on an 11-month contract that started then. Ten months of that contract are paid by the two systems, while the 11th month is being paid in the federal start-up money.

•Decided to leave the amount of that stipend up to the county and city human resource officials. City system spokesman Andy True said $100 was the standard stipend, but Yennie and Ailshie said that sounded too low and $150 was discussed. The range is to be from $100 to $150.

The next governing board meeting is set for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, at the school. Yennie said the group’s next major focus will be planning for the addition of eighth grade for the 2013-14 year.

Yennie said the building’s physical limitation without expansion would be grades 6-8, but he said many options are available, including working with Northeast State through an Early College program or using Northeast State facilities.

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