Sullivan commission could vote on joint education committee this month

J. H. Osborne • Jul 2, 2013 at 11:51 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Commissioner Pat Shull predicts the full County Commission will vote later this month in favor of creation of a joint committee with the cities of Kingsport and Bristol to study use of educational resources.

Shull is co-sponsor of a resolution to do so and spoke to two of the commission’s primary committees in the past two days to offer an update on the proposal’s status.

Shull said he spoke to the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen about the plan to create a joint study committee last week, and addressed the Sullivan County Board of Education about the matter on Monday.

On Monday night, the commission’s Administrative Committee endorsed the resolution. The commission’s Executive Committee did likewise last month.

The commission’s Budget Committee deferred action on the issue last month.

Commissioner Baxter Hood, lead sponsor of the resolution, said on Monday that Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie has expressed support for creation of the study committee — and Sullivan County BOE Vice Chairman Jack Bales has as well.

Hood said he doesn’t have a specific agenda and his primary objective in proposing the committee is simply to bring people together to get a conversation started.

Commissioner Ed Marsh said he has heard feedback from people in the community expressing concerns that the joint study committee’s membership needs to include some new voices — and not simply repeat the lineup of similar study groups from the past.

Commissioner Dennis Houser suggested it would be best if the study committee — should it in fact be created — be split between people with years of experience looking at school-related issues and people that would bring fresh ideas to the process.

Marsh agreed that sounded like a good plan.

If approved by the full commission, the resolution will direct Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey to invite city officials from Bristol, Tenn., and Kingsport to look at “educational resources” through creation of a joint education committee “to study and evaluate ways to maximize the utilization of county educational resources and provide quality education to Sullivan County students.”

Last month, Shull said, “I am not putting forth an idea of countywide consolidation.”

But he went on to say that could be the recommendation of the joint study committee if it is created.

Shull said he would probably like to see three special school districts: one encompassing today’s Kingsport City Schools system, with the addition of Sullivan North and Sullivan South and the feeder schools for North and South; another encompassing today’s Bristol, Tenn., City Schools system, with the addition of Sullivan East and its feeder schools; and a third that would be Sullivan Central High School and its feeder schools.

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