Parents upset over possible loss of Ketron co-principal

Rick Wagner • Jun 5, 2013 at 7:39 PM

KINGSPORT — Some residents in Sullivan County’s Bloomingdale community are upset that veteran educator Sandra Ramsey may no longer help head Ketron Elementary School.

The possibility of Ramsey, who has worked in the county system for more than four decades, no longer being co-principal of Ketron would join two other certain administrative changes coming to the North High School zone.

Some residents of the Bloomingdale area are talking about protests, pickets and petitions to support Ramsey.

“I’ve received a bunch of calls. A lot of folks in the community are upset,” Board of Education member Todd Broughton, of Bloomingdale, said Tuesday.

“People see that as retribution for North not wanting to be consolidated with South,” Broughton said of a proposal — delayed for consideration until this fall — to merge the two high schools into one and make the other a middle school. “That’s what I’m hearing.”

Elsewhere in the North zone, North Middle Principal Tom Bowers has retired and Assistant Principal Jacksunia Wolfe, who came from Hawkins County, is among non-tenured personnel let go because of “budget constraints,” according to a report Director of Schools Jubal Yennie gave the BOE in a work session Monday. Yennie said Monday that North Middle would have an assistant principal.

The county’s North zone has only three county schools and two school buildings in operation: Ketron Elementary and North Middle and North High on the same campus.

In the most recent school year, Ramsey was lead principal in grades K-2, while Wendell Smith was lead principal in grades 3-5. Ramsey could not be reached for comment Tuesday or Wednesday.

“We have not completed personnel assignments for Sullivan County for the 2013-2014 school year. I hope to have decisions made by the end of the month,” Yennie said Wednesday by email in response to questions about Ramsey’s position and when administrators would be named.

Smith said Tuesday that he and other administrators have not received assignments for the 2013-14 school year and declined any other comment.

The question of Ramsey’s status at Ketron first emerged publicly during a BOE work session Monday afternoon when Broughton asked about her no longer being at Ketron.

Yennie responded that this was a personnel matter. He did the same when questioned by a reporter after Monday’s regular board meeting. He offered no other comments in response to emailed questions Wednesday.

Board Chairman Dan Wells of Lynn Garden, also part of the North zone, could not be reached for comment.

“That was the first indication anything was going on when Mr. Broughton brought it up,” Vice Chairman Jack Bales of Sullivan Gardens said Tuesday. “The board has one employee it’s responsible for, and that’s Dr. Yennie. Every other employee in the system is an employee of Dr. Yennie. ... The budget situation is more uncertain at this point than we’ve had in a long, long time.”

Ramsey was principal of Kingsley Elementary for 14 years and has served the county school system for 42 years.

Ketron opened in the fall of 2012 as an elementary school after a more than $15 million renovation, funded with low-interest bonds. The school, once Ketron High, was most recently Ketron Intermediate but closed for a year for the remodeling and expansion.

During the closure, for 2011-12, Kingsley, Cedar Grove and Brookside elementary schools became K-6 facilities and grade 7 joined grade 8 already at North High.

In the fall of 2012, all elementary students in the North zone went to Ketron Elementary and the grades 6-8 North Middle opened inside North High, with the other elementary schools closing.

“If it wasn’t for Wendell and Ramsey at that school, there wouldn’t have been a transition,” Chance Minnick of Bloomingdale said. Minnick and Tiffany Walker, another Bloomingdale resident, said the talk in the community is of pickets, petitions and other protests.

“We all know Dr. Ramsey,” Walker said Tuesday. “She’s torn up about it. She wants to stay.”

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