BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school board got an earful of public comments Monday night from the Sullivan South High School zone. Topics ranged from an alleged lack of school maintenance to side effects of a nonsubsidized pre-kindergarten program in three county schools.
The Board of Education also let a pioneering proposal die, at least for now, that estimates indicate would generate $500,000 to $700,000 a year in TennCare revenues for the school system from speech and other medical services the system already provides for special education students.
Todd Carter said mowing was not kept up on Rock Springs Elementary and Sullivan South High schools this summer, making them “look vacant” and that the PTA, not the school system, put in shrubs at Rock Springs Elementary.
“It just looks like we’d take a little bit more pride in the school,” he told the board.
Tina Bowery said volunteer landscaping and painting at Colonial Heights Middle was supported with community time and donations and that Kingsport school officials — who have publicly proposed taking over the school if the county would agree — approached the group with that idea a month before Superintendent Lyle Ailshie mentioned it at a city BOE meeting.
“They’re listening to us, are you?” Bowery said.
Angie Stanley said her husband mowed grass “two and a half feet” tall during the cleanup and she added that dead trees had caused roof damage. However, she said county school officials should tell Kingsport school leaders the county has no intention of giving up Colonial Heights.
Christy Frazier said the county system has not maintained Colonial Heights Middle because of the perception it would be closed or turned over to Kingsport. She said it is time for the county commission to issue “rural” bonds to improve county schools. Those bonds would be repaid from tax revenue from only non-city areas of the county, and the last ones were repaid with a higher non-city property tax rate.
Vicki Carter raised concerns about the pre-K program, for which the board is to consider a $354,000 budget at a called meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 15. The pre-K program is to be held at Rock Springs, Miller Perry and Central Heights elementary schools. She said fifth-graders at Rock Springs are cramped and have less than ideal bathroom access because of the program for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Dan Page called for the school board to take a pay cut, said the system’s central office needs to put its office reorganization on the website and central office staff should put more thought into statements and scenarios saying something “willy-nilly” that gets “a lot of things get stirred up.”
He also questioned fired Hawkins County schools finance director Myron Dale being hired as an interim employee in Sullivan County’s school system. While employed by Hawkins County, Dale in two different months failed to pay IRS withholdings, resulting in fines of $166,000.
The board also heard a presentation from Beacon Analytics President Lynn Davenport, who laid out the proposal to begin billing TennCare for services provided to special education students with IEPs or individualized education programs that include the system providing services reimburseable by Tenn-Care, Tennessee’s version of Medicaid.
Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said BOE attorney Pat Hull, County Attorney Dan Street and Purchasing Agent Chris Davis had already reviewed the contract and suggested changes that were made
Later in the meeting, however, when the item came up for a vote, no one made a motion for about 20 seconds until BOE Vice Chairman Jack Bales made a motion to get the matter on the table for discussion.
After no one seconded the motion, the proposal in effect died, although Yennie and BOE Chairman Dan Wells, who sought the motion and second, said the matter could re-emerge at a later meeting.
BOE member Todd Broughton said he believed he and the other members were overwhelmed by the information from Beacon and wanted time to digest it.