Kingsport BOE made painful cuts to balance budget

Rick Wagner • Jun 9, 2013 at 1:04 AM

KINGSPORT — A proposed Chinese language program for the city school system is gone.

So are six instructional technology specialists, known as academic coaches before they were cut for the 2012-13 school year after federal funding ended; and so is what would have been a new related arts position at Innovation Academy.

Balancing the 2013-14 school budget at $65.7 million — almost $2 million more than the 2012-13 budget — meant making some cuts in proposed expenditures for both new initiatives as well as keeping up with increased enrollment and maintaining programs, school officials said.

The extra funding includes $450,000 in additional city funding, including $200,000 contingent on expected higher property tax collections, and a $139,000 increase in sales tax revenue, while cuts of about $1.38 million got the budget to balance.

The Chinese program originally was proposed to have four instructors from the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis at a cost of $98,000, plus a place for the instructors to live and transportation for them.

That was later cut to two instructors, but Thursday night that $53,000 was cut completely from the budget for 2013-14.

The Chinese classes were to have been taught by native speakers and possibly shared with Sullivan County and other local systems, Board of Education President Randy Montgomery told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at a Monday BMA work session. Other plans included possibly making the instruction available to the public in evening classes.

Jamie Whitinger, who heads communications and virtual learning for the county school system, said the county system has seven students enrolled in virtual Chinese through a contracted service provider, Edison Learning. Greeneville city schools offer Chinese with a partnership with

the institute in Memphis.

“I would not be opposed to working with Kingsport or Greeneville to provide our students with a distance learning opportunity for Chinese,” Whitinger said. “Efforts to arrange this in the past were unsuccessful due to misaligned schedules and full classes — through (the) Niswonger (Foundation) with Greeneville. I would be happy to work with Kingsport (school officials) if they are interested. I haven’t heard from them.”

Another line item disappeared from the budget — $30,000 for Dobyns-Bennett High School band uniforms. Frye Friday said city leaders have said the city will take care of that one-time expense.

As for Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, a joint program of the city and Sullivan County school systems, the BOE voted on a recommendation to cut the related arts teacher — a Project Lead the Way engineering instructor — the city was supposed to provide to IA.

That cuts $62,500 but leaves in money for two eighth-grade teachers. The nurse was left at half time, saving $14,150.

“We just need Project Lead the Way at our school,” Principal Sandy Watkins said Friday. “As a STEM school, we need an engineering related arts class.”

For the first year in operations, IA related arts was taught at home or base schools, but this fall related arts will be at IA. In addition, the school is to expand from grades 6-7 to grades 6-8.

To handle the physical education requirement, the county is to provide one instructor half time and the city another for two days a week.

In addition, the county is to provide a band director two or three periods a day, and orchestra may be handled by that person or by a city orchestra person.

Finance Director David Frye Friday said although the related arts position is out of the general purpose school budget, Superintendent Lyle Ailshie is working closely with Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie on the IA budget and related arts positions. Watkins said she believes something will be worked out.

The next IA Governing Board meeting may not be until the regular one scheduled June 25. The May meeting was canceled, and Watkins and Ailshie said budget uncertainties, vacations and conferences may make the June 25 meeting the best option.

The county school budget is $4.5 million short on revenue to date, although using $2 million in fund balance would bring that shortfall down to $2.5 million.

For more information on expenditures and revenues in the 2013-14 school budget, including other line item reductions, go to www.k12k.com/.

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