KINGSPORT — Sullivan County’s and Kingsport’s boards of education have agreed on “guiding principles” for a school facilities team, which is to report back to school officials in February.
The two boards are working “to obtain an agreement of the Boards of Education (BOE) of the City of Kingsport and Sullivan County (and others as appropriate) that will outline how to best utilize Sullivan County and Kingsport City school facilities affected by the Kingsport Urban Growth Boundary,” according to the written objective of the boards’ joint efforts.
The urban growth boundary is a defined area in which the city can annex without much chance for effective legal challenge.
During a three-hour joint meeting Tuesday night — the second such joint meeting this year — the boards worked with facilitator David McClaskey through guiding principles attributed to key stakeholders, amending and re-amending the draft document put together last week by Kingsport Superintendent Richard Kitzmiller, Kingsport BOE President Susan Lodal, Sullivan County Director of Schools Jack Barnes and McClaskey, with input from Sullivan County BOE Chairman Ron Smith.
By Friday, Kitzmiller and Lodal, with input from the other four Kingsport BOE members, will appoint a city system facilities person and instructional person to the committee. Smith and Barnes will choose the two county system representatives.
The committee then has a week — until Nov. 20 or longer if requested — to recommend a fifth outside representative for its ranks.
The five-member group then will have until Feb. 9 to formulate and present its recommendations to the two school boards and system heads. The plan, if tentatively approved by those four, will go before both boards at a joint Feb. 16 meeting.
Information about the ongoing study is to come only from the two school system head administrators. Kingsport BOE Vice President Wally Boyd said that means the Feb. 9 meeting will be private, not open to the public.
“Then, if it passes that, bring it to a joint meeting,” Boyd said.
The original timetable was for it to go before a joint BOE meeting Jan. 19 and the school system leaders and BOE heads a week before, but Kingsport BOE member Randy Montgomery said realistically another month or so was needed.
Most of the discussion and disagreements Tuesday night centered on provisions that would “protect jobs to the extent possible” and to add employers and/or businesses to the list of stakeholders. The first proposal was removed by a vote of 5-4 with the other three abstaining.
“We will be impacting jobs whether we want to or not,” Sullivan County BOE member Jerry Greene said.
Board members said they would try to keep jobs, but a shrinking county school enrollment would make that difficult.
On the other hand, projections show the city will need additional schools because of annexation and enrollment growth.
Options the committee could recommend include the city taking over some Sullivan County schools, buying some rural bonds-funded county schools, or jointly operating some schools with the county.