Equalization plan calls for all Sullivan County high schools to lose teachers-updated with staffing comparison document

Rick Wagner • May 7, 2013 at 10:51 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s four high schools would see a reduction of from three to about seven teachers each, under a Monday night school board vote to equalize pupil-teacher ratios.

See the Staffing Comparisons document here

And the school board voted to have the central office staff consider a proposed “scenario 4” that would leave the Sullivan North High School zone as is but close and merge schools in the other three high school zones.

Under the new ratio settings, North would be hit the hardest with a loss of 6.5 teaching positions, while Sullivan South would be hit the least with a reduction of 2.51.

Sullivan Central and Sullivan East, meanwhile, would be in line to lose 4.06 and 4.01 respectively.

The Board of Education voted 5-1, with one absent, to adopt Director of Schools Jubal Yennie’s recommendation to try to get the four schools as close to a pupil-teacher ratio of 17.5:1 as possible.

Although the BOE faces a tough budget year with revenues down at least $4 million compared to this school year, Yennie said the proposal was to have more equitable resources among the four schools, not an effort to balance the budget on the backs of the high schools.

“We are not trying to balance the budget on the high schools,” Yennie said, emphasizing the need and BOE policy for resource optimization and equity. “If we went to 18:1, we’re talking significant cuts.”

Yennie said the vote was needed to give his staff direction in coming up with proposed 2013-14 budget expenditures for a Saturday budget work session in the upstairs large conference room of the health and education building.

Current ratios are 18.81:1 at Central, with a projected enrollment of 1,016; 15.95:1 at East, with a projected enrollment of 901; 14.55:1 at North, with a projected enrollment of 560; and 16.71:1 at South with a projected enrollment of 936.

BOE member Randall Jones before the vote pointed out the ratio was a funding formula, not an actual measure of students per classroom, since at any give time a fourth of the teachers would have planning time and that the maximum class sizes for vocational classes is 20 compared to the maximum of 35 in high school otherwise.

In addition, Yennie said Tennessee only pays the system about 70 percent of the funding for a ratio of 22:1.

BOE member Todd Broughton of Bloomingale, whose district includes North High, voted no, while member Jerry Greene of Bristol was absent. Voting for the change were Chairman Dan Wells of Lynn Garden, who also represents the North zone, Vice Chairman Jack Bales of Sullivan Gardens, Betty Combs of Bluff City, Susan Ivester of Piney Flats and Jones of Indian Springs.

In other action, the board voted 6-0, with one absent, for the office staff to consider scenario 4 submitted by Chance Minnick and others from the North zone as an option to Yennie-recommended scenario 3, which would merge North and South high schools into one high school building, with the other high school becoming a middle school. That proposal, which the board delayed until no earlier than an October vote, would mean the closure of Colonial Heights Middle School and the middle school portion of Sullivan Gardens K-8.

During public comments, Cassandra Kerney read a letter from a Colonial Heights optometrist, Dr. William McMillin, saying his children in the medical field are rethinking their plans to return to Colonial Heights if the school closes.

Also a letter from Phyllis Willis of Jackie’s Shivershack said the loss of school athletic events would hurt her business.

Dan Page read a letter from the owner of Raffaele’s Italian Restaurant asking the school be rebuilt rather than closed, with opposition to the closing also from the owner of The Shack, Fisherman’s Dock and Total Look Salon.

Vicki Carter read a letter from Alan Smith, general manager and relocations director for Century 21, saying that a school closure would lead to a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in residential property values because parents with school children would move closer to schools.

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