BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s public school system last week was honored with five Reward School designations by Tennessee, more than any other system in Northeast Tennessee.
And with Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., each getting a Reward School designation, the countywide total was seven Reward Schools.
Sullivan County had Sullivan North High School on the list. It was one of two high schools in the region on the list, the other being South Greene High School in Greene County.
“I just think the progress stems from commitment both by our students and staff to do better,” North High Principal Richard Carroll said Thursday. “Hopefully as time goes on we will see more improvement.”
He said the students, faculty and staff are buying into what Tennessee expects in academic progress. He said attitude is important at North, considering the unrest and uncertainty over the past decade about everything from the school’s very continued existence as a county high school, because of speculation it could become a city school or middle school, to changes and reshuffling that put North Middle under the same roof this year, and school closings that made the renovated Ketron Elementary the only elementary in the North zone.
“We’ve come a long way from where we were at one time,” Carroll said.
To make the list of 169 schools statewide, the winners had to be in the top 5 percent in progress or performance, also known as value-added scores or raw test data. In addition, they could not have performance gaps for subgroups that were higher than the state median or increased from the prior year’s scores.
North made the list for progress.
The list of schools was made public during a Web conference from Brentwood featuring Gov. Jim Haslam, first lady Crissy Haslam, state Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman and U.S. Commissioner of Education Arne Duncan.
Also in Sullivan County:
•Blountville Elementary made the list for progress.
•Central Heights made the list for performance.
•Indian Springs Elementary made the list for performance and progress.
•And Mary Hughes made the list for performance and progress.
In Kingsport, Jackson Elementary won for progress, while in Bristol Avoca Elementary won for progress and performance.
Central Heights Principal Jeff Hickam said he is especially proud of Central Heights since it has 70 percent of students on free or reduced-price lunch and has a high turnover rate.
“It’s an extremely transient student population, with kids in an out continually,” Hickam said Thursday.
He said the new teacher evaluation model, which gives people a common language and has not been used at the school to bludgeon teachers, has helped, as has “looping,” in which the fifth-graders have had the same teachers two years in a row.
He also cited intervention and enrichment programs in math and reading being held directly after the math and reading classes, not at other times of the day.
Because Indian Springs won in both categories, fourth-grade teacher Teresa Calhoun said the school faculty, staff and Principal Karen Nave quickly put together a Friday trip to the nearby Tri-Cities Cinema, where the students got to see a free movie provided by the theater, ate reduced-cost popcorn from the theater paid for by teachers and some PTA members, and rode to and from the theater on buses provided at no charge by C&S Transportation.
Nave on Thursday cited strong relationships between the students and teachers, a dedicated staff, data conferences where teachers talk with students three times a year “trying to make the kids a partner in their own education,” a daily spiral review in classes of what was supposed to be learned that day, and a partnership with parents and teachers who “don’t make excuses” about teaching kids.
Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie will acknowledge and honor the five schools during today’s Tuesday 6:30 p.m. Board of Education meeting in the first floor meeting room of the Health and Education Building.
“Sullivan County has a lot to be proud of with five Reward Schools,” Yennie said.
In addition, he said three others were close but fell slightly below the 5 percent threshold.
Among other greater Northeast Tennessee schools, those getting Reward School designations included:
•Carter County’s Happy Valley Elementary for progress.
•Elizabethton’s East Side Elementary for progress and performance and West Side Elementary for progress.
•Grainger County’s Rutledge Middle School and Washburn School, both for progress.
•Greene County’s South Greene High School for performance and progress.
•Greeneville’s Tusculum View Elementary for performance.
•Hawkins County’s Mount Carmel Elementary School for performance and progress.
•Johnson City’s Southside Elementary for performance.
•Rogersville’s Rogersville City School for performance and progress.
•Unicoi County’s Unicoi Elementary for performance.
Washington County had no schools on the list.
For a link to all 169 schools that made the list go to www.tn.gov/education/accountability/.