Parents in North, South zones push for community meetings on school proposals

Rick Wagner • May 3, 2013 at 11:11 AM

KINGSPORT — Parents from the Sullivan North High School zone and County Commissioner Moe Brotherton of Colonial Heights are calling for Bloomingdale and Colonial Heights community meetings on potential rezonings and school closings.

However, school officials so far have not scheduled such a meeting, and Director of Schools Jubal Yennie Tuesday said there are no plans for such meetings following two recent input meetings at Sullivan Central High School.

“Most people are glad I’ve finally addressed the question (of school capacity versus enrollment,” Yennie said Wednesday. “We may consider something like that (community meetings).”

The next work session on the subject is one set for 7 p.m. March 14 for Yennie to recommend a scenario to the board, which is to meet 7 p.m. March 28 in called session to make a decision. But Yennie said it is looking more and more likely those will be pushed into the future by the board.

Notification for the March 14 meeting went out Thursday as a public input meeting.

Yennie said he would like more budget information available before the process goes forward and pointed out the policy and its time lines — which call for a final decision no later than March 30 — are being used for the first time since being set in April of 2012.

Both meetings are set for the central office near downtown Blountville but could be moved about eight miles away to Central High to accommodate larger crowds. Two meetings on the rezonings and closures so far have drawn about 300 people each.

At issue with the call for Colonial Heights and Bloomingdale meetings is a scenario to merge North and South into a single high school, with the other school becoming a middle school. Also, another scenario would close the middle schools in the South zone and put the sixth-graders in elementary schools and the seventh- and eighth-graders in a school within a school at South High.

“I don’t know how else to go about it,” Bloomingdale’s Chance Minnick, whose daughter attends Ketron Elementary, said Wednesday of contacting Yennie and requesting a North community meeting. “We’re trying to get a meeting.”

At a Monday public input session at Sullivan Central High, Minnick spoke against the North-South proposal and said meetings should be scheduled in the North and South zones. So did Brotherton, an outspoken foe of Kingsport annexation. A majority of the speakers and those in attendance, based on applause and comments, were from the North zone.

“You’ve got the best school system in the state of Tennessee in Sullivan County and you’re fixing to destroy it,” Brotherton said.

Brian Haynes, a 1994 North High graduate, said he stood before the then-BOE in 1993 decrying the “first step in the destruction of our schools” when Kingsport annexed into the North zone.

“The city will kill South as it killed North,” Haynes said, adding that he sends his child to a private school because of the instability in the North zone, including the decision to close Gravely Elementary at a meeting in 2005 where Cedar Grove was supposed to be the school under discussion.

And Victoria Brummitt of the North zone said the closings of elementary schools in the North zone have made the community rightfully fear instability.

She said the offerings of a larger high school, including cosmetology, engineering and girls soccer, would be good but that it would break up the community.

“We can’t handle another move now,” Brummitt said.

“Look somewhere else to fix your budget problems,” she said. “Don’t mess with our kids any more.”

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