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Ousted members bid farewell to Sullivan County school board

August 7th, 2012 1:54 am by Rick Wagner

BLOUNTVILLE -- The Sullivan County Board of Education meeting Monday night was all about the future.

And it was all about the past, too.

The school board got an update on facilities projects done or under way for the 2012-13 school year, which starts Aug. 13, including a new elementary STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school and another grades 6-7 STEM school operated jointly with Kingsport that opened Monday.

And the BOE learned Sullivan North High School has received $148,890.70 in money earmarked for scholarships from the estate of longtime benefactor William D. Neil, who died in 2003.

But the board also heard parting remarks from 28-year BOE member Jim Kiss of Bloomingdale and Chairman Ron Smith, both of whom were defeated in last week's election and won't be in office for the next regular BOE meeting Sept. 4.

"For the most part, it's been an enjoyable ride, although not all of it," Kiss said.

Kiss, who was defeated by challenger Todd Broughton in the nonpartisan election for a four-year term in District 3, received a standing ovation as Smith handed Kiss a plaque and Broughton and his wife looked on from the audience.

Kiss said he's served under six superintendents or directors, going back to Jim Fleming, then Wallace Ketron, John O'Dell -- the last elected superintendent and first board-appointed director -- Glenn Arwood, Jack Barnes and current Director Jubal Yennie.

BOE Vice Chairwoman Betty Combs, a retired teacher who won her re-election bid against challenger Michael Hughes, presented Smith a plaque honoring his eight years on the board and four years as chairman.

BOE attorney Pat Hull called Kiss and Smith "good men and good board members."

Combs, looking back at District 5 BOE member-elect Randall Jones in the audience, said Smith will have to train Jones "because you've always taken care of me."

Smith said that included driving Combs to some board events and on trips.

"They don't say driving Miss Betty for nothing," Smith quipped.

In a three-way race with Jones and Anissa Lyttle, both of Indian Springs, Smith of the Piney Flats/Blountville area came in last.

"As we came into contact with each other, we became more friends than adversaries," Smith said of Jones, a retired Bristol, Tenn., school system assistant director.

Smith thanked board members, Yennie, the central office staff and school system employees for helping him.

"I will miss it," Smith said, lauding the board for its unanimous choice to hire Yennie as director because of his "vision and high energy."

Since Smith is leaving the board, BOE member Jack Bales was appointed to Smith's seat on the board of Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, a STEM school jointly operated by the county and Kingsport school systems with help from East Tennessee State University, Eastman Chemical Co., the Domtar paper mill and Wellmont Health System.

That school had its first day in the old Brookside Elementary building in Bloomingdale Monday.

The other STEM school in the county, Ketron Elementary also in Bloomingdale, is to open Aug. 13 after a more than $15 million expansion and renovation funded by low-interest federal Qualified School Construction Bonds.

Assistant Director Gene Johnson said co-principals Sandra Ramsey and Wendell Smith were allowed in their offices Monday, and teachers will be allowed in their grades pre-K-5 classrooms Wednesday.

"We do plan to have teachers in the classrooms Wednesday so they can do their nesting," Johnson said. "I suspect the principals are doing their nesting tonight."

Johnson said he expected state fire marshal approval for student use of the building to come today.

Among a laundry list of other facilities improvements, Maintenance Supervisor Joe Davenport said the first day at Innovation Academy went well, while North Middle, inside North High, has some stripping and waxing of floors pending, likely this afternoon. Fire alarms are being replaced and must have fire marshal approval, he said, while some new rooftop heating and cooling units are started up.

At Central Heights Elementary, he said classroom HVAC units are installed and rooftop ones pending, while rooftop units at South High have not yet arrived.

At East High, projects being finished include kitchen air conditioning and insulation, while a new bus road is complete.

The Weaver Elementary boiler replacement has been ordered, and the Mary Hughes School boiler is to be ordered.

Central High has newly repaved and striped parking areas, while elementary STEM classrooms are going in at Rock Springs, Miller Perry, Indian Springs and Bluff City Elementary. Rock Springs also is getting a new cooling tower and Bluff City four new classroom tile floors.

"We continue to improve buildings as best as we can," Yennie said.

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