Second round of applications set for Innovation Academy

Rick Wagner • Jun 26, 2013 at 1:44 PM

KINGSPORT — At least 12 eighth-grade slots for Sullivan County students remain unfilled at Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, a joint venture of Kingsport City Schools and the county school system.The IA Governing Board this week held a computerized lottery for those who put in applications for grades 6, 7 and 8 at the science, technology, engineering and math school.The board then decided to have a second round of applications for those who did not apply by the May 24 deadline, both for the 12 county eighth-grade slots and for all other grade level slots, although students who met the May deadline would have priority over the second round of applications. The deadline to accept or decline a lottery position is also in two weeks, and July 10 students on the additional list will be notified of their status.Applications can be made through July 9 online at http://ianetn.org/.Other questions about IA — funded locally and with a $1 million Race to the Top federal grant funneled through the Battelle Memorial Foundation — remain unanswered. Those include whether IA will get the proposed Project Lead the Way engineering related arts teaching position for 2012-13 and if Kingsport school officials’ proposal to “streamline” IA operations by taking over day-to-day operations and oversight of the school.Jamie Whittinger, who oversees communications and virtual learning for the county, and Andy True, administrative coordinator and in communications for KCS, did the IA lotteries for each system on a spreadsheet. Unlike last year, where random drawings were held multiple times when those chosen in the first one declined, this year’s process assigned a random number to applicants in each grade level and system.True and Whittinger Tuesday evening e-mailed all students who applied with news they had won a slot in the lottery or what level they were, while students with no e-mail were to be called.Whittinger said the county had 54 applicants for 40 open sixth grade slots, 22 applicants for eight open seventh grade slots and six applicants for 18 open eighth grade slots.True said the city had 73 applicants for 40 open sixth grade slots, 25 applicants for 21 open seventh grade slots and 34 applicants for 20 open eighth grade slots.After the drawing, the board reaffirmed that priority would be given to siblings of existing IA students. The school is to have 40 city and county students in each grade. It began as grades 6-7 and eventually is to become a grades 6-12 program.The board did not discuss Kingsport taking operational control of IA, something the city BOE discussed last week.Wesley Hall, director of client engagement for the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, said he had expected that discussion. He observed the meeting and also met with officials of the two school systems.Hall said more funding may be available through Battelle but that long-term viability is more of a question for IA than other platform STEM schools that got the grant because no others are funded by two systems.Jack Rhoton, who heads the hub at East Tennessee State University supporting IA and disseminating IA’s best practices throughout Northeast Tennessee, echoed Principal Sandy Watkins’ plea for a PLTW teacher for related arts. A multimedia music/art related arts position also is to be county-provided, and a physical education/wellness position to be provided by a mix of county and city teachers coming from other schools.Watkins and Yennie said work is not finalized on plans to bring an existing county band director to IA part of the school day for a band program.The city school budget initially included money for a PLTW teacher, but that position was cut during a paring down of the city school budget request. The county BOE has not yet finalized a 2013-14 budget.In its first year, IA students returned to base or home schools in the afternoon for related arts. But for 2013-14, students will spend the entire school day, 7:25 p.m. to 2:25 p.m, at IA.

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