Innovation Academy board decides to back fill slots

Rick Wagner • Mar 26, 2013 at 9:11 AM

KINGSPORT — Plans are for Northeast Tennessee’s platform STEM school to move into its second year with a full contingency of 80 students per grade.

At least 15 seventh grade and 16 eighth grade positions, which were vacant in late February, will be filled in addition to all 80 sixth grade slots.

A tentative plan school officials reviewed Tuesday calls for publicizing 2013-14 school programming and registration details — including plans to have related arts at the school instead of at base or home schools — April 15.

That leads to an April 22 release of applications and an application deadline of May 24.

That also is the “intent to enroll” deadline for existing IA students, who will receive that form April 19.

The first lottery drawing for all sixth grade slots and available slots in the seventh and eighth grades would be May 25, the second on June 25, both at IA Governing Board meetings.

That means Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, a science, technology, engineering and math effort of the Sullivan County and Kingsport school systems, will strive to have 240 students in grades six, seven and eight when it opens in August.

This year the school was grades six and seven. Next year, it is to move to high school offering and accept students from surrounding Tennessee systems.

As per the first year, half will be from the city and half the county.

The IA Governing Board at its monthly meeting Tuesday afternoon by consensus decided to “back fill” positions left open throughout the school year when students left and when rising seventh- and eighth-graders choose not to return.

Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshie, city school board member Betsy Cooper, Alderman Tom Segelhorst and Jack Rhoton of East Tennessee State University said it makes sense to get the school as close to full as possible.

Yennie said possibly a few more slots could be opened beyond the 80 per grade level.

In addition to serving city and county students, it is a model for best practices for 15 Northeast Tennessee public school systems promoted by a hub at ETSU.

As for staffing in year two, Ailshie said the city system plans to increase the part-time nurse to a full-time position since the county provides the secretary.

Reading and language arts teacher Vanessa Greenlee asked for consideration of counseling at the school. Dory Creech of the city central office said that in most cases things like special education services, vision services and transportation are the responsibility of the respective school systems.

The plan is to add four more teachers, two paid by each system, and two or three related arts teachers, with the cost also split by the systems. Because Principal Sandy Watkins was absent due to sickness, Ailshie suggested moving the detailed discussion of 2013-14 personnel and related arts plan to the April 23 IA meeting.

The board did not discuss how athletics, band and other extra-curricular activities would be handled. However, Ailshie said the school would have no state number, meaning students still could, if practical, participate in those programs at a home or base school in either the city or county system.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

• The board declined to attempt to change the 2013-14 IA school calendar. The two systems’ calendars are almost identical, with one exception the city and IA will be in session on Good Friday of 2014, right before standardized testing begins, but the county will be out of session.

• Seventh grade math teacher Scott Reis presented the school’s use of the free Moodle software system and other online learning, grading, testing and feedback uses on the Internet.

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