KINGSPORT — It was mostly business as usual at Innovation Academy Friday morning, following Kingsport’s Thursday night vote to end the joint agreement operating the STEM program with Sullivan County.
Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee Principal Sandy Watkins Friday said teachers there are concerned, especially the city teachers, but that she is confident despite the city school board’s decision the school will remain open and expand from grades 6-8 to grades 6-9 in 2014-15.
The school office reported receiving one call Friday morning, and Watkins said she hadn’t received any calls as of midmorning.
The school had been in celebratory mode much of the week after receiving high marks from a recent Tennessee STEM Innovation Network visit, and school officials learned Thursday the school is an Apple Distinguished Program winner, joining L&N Academy, another platform STEM school in Knoxville. It is in its third year, while IA is in the middle of its second year, having started in 2011-12 as a grades 6-7 school.
Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie Thursday night indicated IA would continue to operate next year as a county school.
The $1 million in start-up funding from federal Race to the Top funds, funneled by the Tennessee Department of Education through the Battelle Foundation, was for the two years ending in this year, as is the $500,000 that went to East Tennessee State University to be the hub for IA, supporting teachers through professional development and spreading best practices for STEM throughout Northeast Tennessee public schools.
Watkins said a school committee is looking at grants and other funding options beyond the support of partners Eastman Chemical Co., Wellmont Health System and the Domtar paper mill.
“He’s (Yennie) always had a vision of STEM,” Watkins said. “I think he would be very open to Kingsport city students staying and following the guidelines of the original grant application.”
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