Positions still available at STEM school

Rick Wagner • Aug 21, 2013 at 9:34 AM

KINGSPORT — Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee is off to a great start for the 2013-14 school year, school officials said Tuesday.

However, positions remained Tuesday afternoon for both Kingsport and Sullivan County students in all but one Kingsport grade level, with the largest numbers of vacancies available for eighth-grade students from the county. All told, the school has room for almost 50 more students.

“It’s going swimmingly well,” Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said of engagement by students, teachers and parents of IA, which is in its second year of operation.

IA is a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) school jointly operated by the two systems, funded jointly by those two systems and a federal Race to the Top grant won by Tennessee and administered through the Battelle Foundation.

From Sullivan County, IA as of Tuesday afternoon had 41 sixth-graders (more than the 40 maximum because siblings of pre-existing students receive priority enrollment); 37 seventh-graders and 19 eighth-graders for a total of 97.

“From our standpoint, it’s still an issue of geography,” Yennie said of difficulties in students from the middle and especially eastern areas of the county to IA, housed on the outskirts of Kingsport in the former Brookside Elementary building in Bloomingdale.

From Kingsport, IA had 32 sixth-graders, 34 seventh-graders and 31 eighth-graders for a total of 97.

That means the school overall has 194 students, 46 short of the 240 slots.

Andy True, Kingsport City Schools spokesman, urged students and parents with an interest in IA to contact the school.

“We keep getting students. We had two to enroll this morning and two the day before,” Principal Sandy Watkins said. “You’ve got to come out and see our related arts program.”

Related arts classes are being offered at IA this year instead of students going back to their base schools in the city or county.

Project Lead the Way, an engineering class, a multimedia class covering art and music and a band program make up the related arts offerings.

Watkins said that Carla Bowman is the IA band director, hired with the help and assistance of Dobyns-Bennett High School band director Lafe Cook. Bowman is there five days a week and instructs band in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

“They’re trying to build a seamless 6-12 (band) program,” True said of both county and city students.

Those with an interest in enrolling at IA can call the school at 354-1730 or go to the IA website, www.ianetn.org/, to send a message by clicking on “Contact Us” on the right upper corner of the main page.

“I’ve had more calls than emails,” Watkins said on her way to Nashville.

Watkins, former STEM coordinator for the county school system, and some other STEM school principals across Tennessee are to present a program Thursday at a State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) Leadership Summit in Nashville about how the STEM schools have imbedded technology in curriculum.

Also Thursday, Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshie is presenting on technology, while Assistant Superintendent Dory Creech is presenting on feedback processes for parents and teachers.

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