BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school system may move toward more specialized and centralized career technical programs, according to Director of Schools Jubal Yennie.
Yennie said the proposed change would allow the system to offer a varied set of programs without trying to offer all or most programs at all four of the county’s high schools: South, North, Central and East.
However, Yennie said things like cosmetology and culinary arts probably will remain at all four schools because of their popularity.
His comments came after a Tuesday session by Gov. Bill Haslam on work force development, which highlighted what Haslam called a need for higher education, the business community and K-12 education to work together to prepare students for the work force.
Yennie said the general idea is to offer some career technical education (CTE) programs only at selected centralized locations, not at all four schools, and consider offering in-demand programs.
“K-12 can be very responsive,” Yennie said during the meeting, referring to tailoring CTE offerings with what business and industries need.
For instance, he said that at the behest of students at Sullivan Central High School, the system added health occupations and criminal justice classes. Yennie said students are often savvy about what courses they need.
Yennie said Friday he plans to speak to the Board of Education Monday about increasing articulation agreements with higher education. Articulation is where students take a course in high school and take a test at the end, which if passed gives them college credit.
In addition, Yennie said the system will pursue more dual enrollment, in which students take one class but receive both high school and college credit for it. Such offerings already are done with Northeast State Community College and Tennessee Tech and are planned with East Tennessee State University, he said.
“A lot of these ideas have been floated for a number of years,” Yennie said.
The CTE aspect will be part of a broader focus on high school credit and programs in general. The idea, he said, is to look forward to the next three or four years.
Also, Yennie said he hopes to develop articulation and/or dual enrollment with Northeast State utilizing its new automotive center downtown.
Also at the Tuesday meeting, Greene County Director of Schools Vicki Kirk said her system has a systemwide vocational center used by Walters State Community College and the schools, but because of regulations can’t offer dual enrollment for high school students through the Tennessee Technology Center in Hamblen County.
Greene said the distance involved to that center after graduation from high school also hinders students from using it. Of 174 graduates at one of Greene’s high schools, she said only seven, or 4 percent, went on to vocational education at TTC in Hamblen County.
Northeast State President Janice Gilliam said Kingsport has proven putting programs and facilities closer to students works through the Kingsport Center for Higher Education, part of the Academic Village downtown for which the city spent more than $20 million.
“Kingsport has been a wonderful example of if you build it they will come,” Gilliam said of the village, which serves about 1,600 students but hasn’t resulted in a decrease in students enrolled at the main campus in Blountville.
Northeast State is locating another campus in Johnson City and is looking at putting one in Bristol.
Kirk cited another problem, especially in math education: losing teachers just as they hit their stride to higher-paying systems.
She said the Greene system recently lost a math teacher with phenomenal improvement scores to a higher-paid position in another Tennessee system.
She said new math teachers are often fresh out of college.
“We’re trying to get those novice teachers better faster,” Kirk said.
Yennie also decried the way that systems that pay more — mostly city systems — can lure high-performing or veteran teachers, principals and other school employees away with higher pay.
The group discussed no potential fix for that issue. Because of the way education is funded in Tennessee, any increases in county system funding are passed along, proportional to enrollment, to city systems if they exist.
Under state law, counties are required to have a public school system, but cities are not.
Options discussed over the past decades include consolidating county, Kingsport and Bristol schools into one system, as well as the state providing funding for only one system, not three.
But neither of those has gotten enough traction with lawmakers or voters to become reality.