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Applicants for STEM school top 200

May 15th, 2012 10:25 pm by Rick Wagner

KINGSPORT — Applicants for the Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, a joint Sullivan County and Kingsport STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) platform school, have surpassed 200.

And that counts only those applications turned in through the first of six information sessions on the school.

In the applications submitted so far for the new school — to have 160 grades 6-7 students split evenly between the city and county systems this fall — males outnumber females and city students outnumber county ones, although school officials said they believe more girls and county students will apply.

The school will incorporate STEM subjects throughout math, science, English and social studies courses taught in the soon-to-be-former Brookside Elementary School building, a county facility in Bloomingdale.

At least for the first year, students will return to their base city or county school for related arts — including band, chorus and orchestra — and after-school activities including sports.

Kingsport Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said at Monday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session that as of Friday, the systems had 180 applicants for the STEM school. Applicants were 2-to-1 city versus county and 2-to-1 boys versus girls. Ailshie said he was pleased to know the school has that much interest and hoped more girls would apply.

Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie in an interview Tuesday evening said the latest numbers as of then — not counting applications turned in at an informational meeting at the city’s Sevier Middle School and others in transit or not yet tabulated — showed 125 city applicants and 85 county for a total of 210.

The Sevier meeting drew about 60 people, while one held at Ketron Intermediate School Monday drew about 55. Parents and students asked varied questions at both meetings, and those Innovation Academy project manager Brenda Barnicki couldn’t answer at the sessions she said she’d later address on the school’s Web site.

“We are on course to probably have some sort of lottery to do it,” Yennie said, an opinion shared by Barnicki during the Sevier meeting.

Yennie said he didn’t have a breakdown of the gender split among the 210 applicants, but he said he believed as more information sessions are held county applicants and female applicants would increase. He said the early numbers were a city-county split of about 60 to 30 but got closer as more applications were submitted.

Applications can be submitted through 5 p.m. June 1, and the decision on which students are chosen should be made by mid-June. Nothing but an interest in science and math and a willingness to work in collaborative teams is required.

The application forms will be available at the remaining information sessions, scheduled for Thursday at Colonial Heights Middle School; May 21 at Holston Middle School; May 22 at Robinson Middle School; and May 31 at the Eastman Employee Center. All meetings will be held from 6 to 7 p.m.

Applications can also be submitted online at — which also has a PowerPoint presentation and video from the informational sessions — or faxed or mailed to Andy True of the city system or Jamie Whitinger of the county system.

Parents will receive e-mail confirmation that an application was received.

Kingsport Board of Education member Cheryl Harvey, who serves on the platform school governing board, said after the Sevier meeting she believed a lot of female county students would apply at the Thursday meeting at Colonial Heights.

Of the 160 students at the Innovation Academy this fall, 80 will be city and 80 county. Of those, 40 each will be in sixth grade and 40 each in seventh grade. For 2013-14, the school will add at least the eighth grade, with the eventual plan to have a grades 6-12 facility that is freestanding, with related arts and possibly band and athletics.

The city and county systems won a two-year, $1 million state grant funded by federal Race to the Top money and administered by Battelle, while East Tennessee State University received a $500,000 two-year grant to be the hub for the platform school, providing professional development tailored to it and sharing best practices from it with other Northeast Tennessee systems.

In year three, the school is to be opened up to students from across Northeast Tennessee, not just Kingsport and Sullivan County.

The grant funding is mostly for start-up costs, with each system budgeting more than $500,000 each to pay for joint expenses, including the principal’s pay and four teachers each.

The principal and teachers are to be hired around the end of May or early June.

School day start times will be earlier than other schools, to allow for the bus transfer from the STEM school to the base schools, but have not been set. The 185-day school year will start Aug. 6 and end May 29, with fall break Nov. 19-23, Christmas break Dec. 24 through Jan. 4, and spring break April 1-5.

Times-News staff writer Matthew Lane contributed to this report.

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