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Kilgore moves to repeal Pound charter

POUND — “Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia: 1. That Chapter 109, as amended, of the Acts of Assembly of 1984 is repealed.”

That language — the text of Virginia General Assembly House Bill 904 — would dissolve the town of Pound if passed by the General Assembly in the 2022 session.

House of Delegates Majority Leader Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, filed the bill Wednesday after a year of controversy in which Pound Town Council asked for Wise County government officials’ help with resolving conflict among council members.

Since that request, the town:

• Endured lawsuits by its former town attorney and part-time police investigator

• Saw Mayor Stacey Carson subjected to a petition to remove her from office

• Disbanded its police department

• Hired an interim police chief under court order to secure and inventory a police evidence room in disarray

• Surrendered its water and sewer system amid state accusations that the town failed to maintain them

• Saw three council members resign in a year

Carson and council member Leabern Kennedy attended Thursday’s county Board of Supervisors meeting, where the bill was not discussed by the board.

“When I spoke with him on Oct. 31 at his annual family barbecue, he advised me that he would give me a year,” Kennedy said during a break. “They want to see everybody get along. I’m very disappointed that Delegate Kilgore filed the bill.”

“I said I would wait to see what happens,” Kilgore said Thursday when asked about the conversation with Kennedy.

Kilgore said the bill had to be filed by Wednesday, the opening day of the legislative session.

“I was hoping everyone would get together and work for the town,” Kilgore said. “They don’t provide water, they don’t provide sewer service, they don’t provide police protection and I’m not sure what service they provide.”

Kennedy, who was elected to council in a special election in November to fill the unexpired term of Phil Cantrell, Jr. — the first of three council members to resign — brought the council membership back to a quorum after the departure of council member Marley Green in August and the absence of council member Clifton Cauthorne until Kennedy took office in November.

Cauthorne resigned in December after council member Danny Stanley resigned and Glenn Cantrell walked out of two meetings to prevent a quorum to do any action.

Cauthorne called his resignation a “kamikaze option” to force the 30th Judicial Circuit to appoint persons to fill the resulting three open council seats.

Kilgore said that moment was “the final straw” leading him to draft the charter bill.

“There’s always a possibility this bill could be withdrawn, but all we’re seeing as legislators is a waste of effort,” Kilgore said. “I’m hoping this is a wakeup call. Is this something I want to do? No. I don’t, but this is something where every time you pick up the paper something else has happened.”

Kennedy and Carson said they will call the regular January council meeting on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. to see if Cantrell attends after not coming to the December meeting.

If Cantrell does not attend the meeting, Carson said the public will be welcome to comment on the situation.


Church and civic leaders gather with members of the community for Kingsport’s annual MLK Community Unity candlelight vigil in this file photo. This year’s vigil is set for Monday evening at Shiloh Baptist Church.


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Choices abound as region marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Updated

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day across the nation, and numerous local events are scheduled over the long weekend to celebrate and honor the slain civil rights leader.

Here is a list of some events:

KINGSPORT

Friday — MLK Youth Bingo at 4:30 p.m. in the Riverview Community Room at V.O. Dobbins at the Wheatley Street entrance beside the basketball court. For more information, contact Johnnie Mae Swagerty at (423) 429-7553.

Saturday — The MLK 2022 Youth Summit, for students grades 6-12, at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education downtown on Market Street. The theme of the event is “Achieving Your Dream through Education, Leadership and Service” and it is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event aims to engage students in positively changing their community. Contact: Tongai Maodzwa, tlmaodzwa@northeaststate.edu or (423) 354-2503.

Saturday — Senior Bingo event in the Riverview Community Room at V.O. Dobbins on Wheatley Street. The time is 7 p.m., and players are asked to please bring a door prize.

Monday — The 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade, from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Unlike last year’s virtual parade, this year’s event will be in person. Participants are required to wear a mask, practice social distancing and provide proof of vaccinations. Marchers are asked to assemble at East Center Street and East Sevier Avenue in the parking lot of the former Rikki Rhoten Insurance Company.

For more information, contact Bishop Ronnie Collins at (423) 956-0675.

The parade is sponsored by the Tennessee/Virginia Fellowship Against Racism (TVFAR) and the East Tennessee Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. The theme for this year is “The Answer to Racism is the Love of Christ.”

Monday — The annual MLK Luncheon will be held right after the parade at 1 p.m. Due to COVID, the luncheon will be a drive-thru event outside the Douglass Community Room at V.O. Dobbins, 301 Louis St. Box lunches from Wheeler’s Bagels are sponsored by the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, and drinks and desserts are provided by Eastman. For more information, contact Johnnie Mae Swagerty at (423) 429-7553.

Monday — Wrap up the day at the annual MLK Candlelight Vigil, at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 712 East Sevier Ave. The event will begin at 6 p.m. and will be livestreamed on the church's Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/Shiloh-Baptist-Church-115686861830439/. If you have questions about the vigil, contact Rev. Kenneth Calvert at (423) 534-7626.

REGIONAL

Monday — Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee is hosting a day of service in honor of MLK and his vision of a world without hunger. The MLK Day of Service provides community members with an opportunity to volunteer and honor King’s legacy by serving the community or participating in a virtual food drive. More information on volunteer opportunities can be found on Second Harvest Food Bank’s website, www.netfoodbank.org.

One dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to achieve a world free from hunger and he spoke extensively on the importance of meeting this basic need, according to a press release promoting the event, and at the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, Dr. King declared, “Let us march on poverty until no American parent has to skip a meal so that their children may eat.” Donations can be made and information on volunteer opportunities can be found at www.netfoodbank.org on the MLK Campaign tab.

WISE, VIRGINIA

Monday — UVA Wise’s 26th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Program returns as an in-person event with the theme “Coming Home … Rejoining the Ranks.”

The traditional indoor dinner will not be held this year, but the candlelight march starts at Wise Baptist Church at 6:30 p.m. Participants should be at the church by 6:25 p.m. and, for participants’ safety, face coverings are required.

The march follows along Main Street to the Church of God, where Elder Carolyn Smith, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Appalachia, will give the keynote address at 7 p.m. Smith, the church’s first woman pastor, has served there for more than 20 years.

“Our theme … is a reminder from King’s 1958 Montgomery speech that despite adversity we cannot forget our fight for equality and justice,” said Debbie Vanover, chair of the UVA Wise Black History Month Committee. “Despite the challenges we face today, we are happy to come back together to celebrate King’s legacy at our remembrance program this year.”

Other speakers and presenters include Town of Wise Mayor Teresa Adkins, UVA Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry and UVA Wise Director of Alumni Engagement Corey Sanders. Reverend Justin Preston will recite King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The Macedonia Baptist Church choir, Praise UP, accompanist and UVA Wise assistant music professor Peter Ryan and musical groups The Wise Guys and The Fatty Livers will perform.

BRISTOL

Monday — The 2 p.m. Bristol virtual community celebration will be livestreamed at Facebook.com/ywcatnva. The YWCA of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia will be participating in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service by honoring early childhood education instructors.

Monday — An in-person candlelight gathering is set for 6:30 p.m. outside Lee Street Baptist Church in Bristol, Virginia. As part of its annual honoring of the late civil rights leader, the MLK committee’s program will include prayers, reading and music.

Monday — At 7 p.m, King University’s Institute for Faith & Culture (IFC) welcomes Natasha Sistrunk Robinson as the 2021-2022 speaking series, “Listen to Your Life,” observes the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A former officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, Robinson is the founder and chairperson of Leadership LINKS Inc., an organization that encourages spiritual development, character and impactful living, and enriches communities through leadership, mentoring, and education. She is also the president of T3 Leadership Solutions Inc., an organization that consults, coaches, and mentors individuals and organizations. The event, to be held at Lee Street Baptist Church, is free and open to the public, and masks will be required.

Tuesday — At 10 a.m., Robinson will present “Beauty from the Ashes: A Purpose and a Call” in King’s Memorial Chapel. The presentation is free and open to the public, and masks will be required.

“We are delighted to continue our partnership with the Bristol MLK Committee as we honor the life and legacy of Dr. King,” said Martin Dotterweich, Ph.D., director of the IFC. “Natasha Sistrunk Robinson brilliantly represents his ideals of the beloved community, the importance of mentoring, and listening intently to our lives. This is evident in her daily life, as well as in the work of her memoir, and we look forward to learning from her and sharing in her experiences.”

Robinson is the author of “A Sojourner’s Truth: Choosing Freedom and Courage in a Divided World,” the “Hope for Us” Nicene Creed Bible study, and “Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship.” She is also the host of the “A Sojourner’s Truth: Conversations for a Changing Culture” podcast.

For more information on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. events in Bristol, Abingdon, and throughout the region, visit www.ywcatnva.org/mlk2022/.

JONESBOROUGH

Monday — At 2 p.m., join the McKinney Center online at facebook.com/mckinneycenter to see a livestream about local Black history and enjoy powerful song from the civil rights era, celebrating King’s life and legacy through songs lead by Ubunibi-Afia Agbenyaga Short, as well as MLK speech readings from Dr. Daryl Carter, Michelle Treece and others.

To celebrate and remember MLK, the McKinney Center invites the community to join them in a month-long service project. Food donations to the JAMA (Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association) Food Pantry are already being accepted.

The JAMA Food Pantry serves residents holding Jonesborough, Telford or Limestone addresses. In particular, the food pantry needs canned pasta (SpaghettiOs, ravioli), evaporated milk, brownie or cake mix, syrup, beef stew, chili and baked beans.

For more information about this event, please contact McKinney Center’s Community Program Specialist Skye McFarland at skyem@jonesboroughtn.org or call (423) 753-0562.

EMORY, VIRGINIA

Monday — Emory & Henry College invites the community to participate in its Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation in The McGlothlin Center for the Arts with keynote speakers Lydia X. Z. Brown, a disability justice advocate, organizer, educator, attorney, strategist, and writer; Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair Jr.) the last surviving member of the Greensboro Four and graduate of Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts University in Dartmouth; and Jenna Lyn, M.D., MHA Ballad Health. The day is dedicated to honor the values and impact of a great visionary, MLK, while envisioning a bold future filled with inclusion and acceptance. The ongoing week-long celebration of DEI awareness — Civil Rights: Oppression to Progression from Shadows into the Light — will take place, with numerous events set for the Emory & Henry campus.

“We are honored to bring forth such a great line-up of talent this year to celebrate the paths that have been forged and dreams that have been achieved, but know there is much work to do now and for future generations,” noted Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion John Holloway. “From our keynote speakers to our faculty and staff panel of color, we are excited to challenge minds, empathize, learn and grow in our awareness.”

Featured Events Include:

10 a.m. — Morning Keynote Speaker Lydia X.Z. Brown at the McGlothlin Center for the Arts

11:15 a.m. — Breakout sessions on the Emory campus

— Dr. Kellie Sawyer, clinical assistant professor, occupational therapy, “Shifting from Cultural Competency to Cultural Humility,” Wiley Hall Room 201

The concept of cultural competence expanded in the 1980s in response to the United States Civil Rights movement, which demanded respect for cultural diversity and attention to inequalities in society. While providing an initial framework for addressing racial disparities and fostering cross-cultural communication, cultural competency can lend to increased stereotyping and stigmatization of underrepresented and marginalized groups. Cultural humility provides a progressive framework for engagement that allows for more meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships. At the end of this session, participants will be able to define theoretical differences between cultural competency and cultural humility and identify strategies to incorporate cultural humility into daily life.

— Professor Patrice Foster, assistant professor, theatre, “Who Tells Your Story?,” Elm Studio.

This will be a hands-on breakout session using Anna Deavere Smith’s Ted Talk: Four American Characters as a jumping off point to exploring empathy and telling our own stories. Attendee’s should be willing to participate in a writing and performance activity. Content Warning: child abuse, racial stereo typing and strong language.

— Dr. Oleski Navarro, visiting assistant professor, world languages, “The Magazine Minerva, Modernity and the Representation of Women of Color in Cuba,” Wiley Hall Room 202.

In 1888 and 1889 in colonial Cuba, the journal Minerva was penned and printed exclusively by women of color and provided a unique perspective of society from the viewpoint of black women. The magazine presented frames of reference on gender and race through poems, notes on education and morals, as well as reflections on society. Slavery in Cuba had only been abolished two years prior to the creation of the magazine, and its publication represents an exceptional case of female textual production in the Hispanic world, especially in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which was a period dominated by white colonial male intellectuals.

Sodexo “MLK Meal” Served for Lunch

— Sodexo Dining Services will be hosting a special meal of recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. called “The King Special” for lunch from a list of his favorite foods. The menu will include, rotisserie baked chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, pasta with blush sauce, cornbread, pecan pie and peach cobbler.

1:30 p.m. — Breakout Sessions II

— Dean of Students Tracey L. Wright, “Songs that Helped Inspire Movement from Oppression to Progression,” Wiley Hall Room 218.

Music plays a central role in everyday life. Perhaps there is no stronger example of how music impacted lives than the use of music during periods of oppression and efforts to break free. In this session participants will discuss and explore the role of music during slavery, the Civil Rights movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. Musical examples will be played and participants will be encouraged to join along in singing these songs that helped move us out of the shadow and into the light.

— Professor Matthew B. Kelley, assistant professor, English, “The Life of Love, The Politics of Love,” Wiley Hall Room 201.

Love as feeling has existed for as long as humanity has, with some believing it even predating all of life itself. Many people will say they have felt love, have experienced love. But is this the sole life of love? What about love as action? Love as motive? Love as a way of being? Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke extensively about the transcendence of love beyond the singularity of one’s feelings. In this session, we will use writings and teachings from Martin Luther King, Jr. and bell hooks to discuss the expansive life of love. Participants should be prepared to engage with art, each other, and their own prejudices and experiences in order to leave with a more intimate understanding of love.

— Dr. Marcellina Hamilton, “Powering Diversity Ideals,” Wiley Hall Room 202.

Gen Z accounts for about 25% of the U.S. Population, you are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in history! This discussion will focus on your formidable generations’ influence, what you can do to avoid the errors of the past becoming the mistake of our future. As the struggle continues, we will discuss the pressures and powers that impact noble intentions and mitigation strategies.

3:30 p.m. — Breakout Sessions III

— Fred George, director of new student experience; Henrie Fitzgerald, Emory & Henry Board of Trustee member; and Lamar Thomas, “Achieving Financial Freedom,” Board of Visitors at Van Dyke Center.

For as far back as we can remember, there have been inequities in several areas between caucasian Americans and black and brown Americans. As time has passed, policies have evolved, and life for black and brown Americans have improved, or have they? Among other things that have seemed to improve but continue to face inevitable roadblocks, the financial wealth gap is at the top of the list. While some families experience generational wealth, other families experience generational debt. What is the way out; what practical things can we do now to break generational curses?

— 7:30 p.m. — evening keynote speaker, Dr. Jibreel Khazan, join Zoom meeting or The McGlothin Center for the Arts, https://ehcmeeting.zoom.us/j/83008148437.

Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair, Jr.) was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. He graduated from Dudley High School and attended A&T with an A&T College Alumni Association Scholarship. His freshman roommate was Joseph McNeil. On February 1, 1960, he, his roommate McNeil and fellow A&T college freshmen David Richmond and Franklin McCain sat down at the whites only lunch counter in Woolworth’s in Greensboro, NC and refused to leave. This act of civil disobedience would launch other sit-ins. By July 25, Woolwooth agreed to integrate its Greensboro store. The company had lost $200,000 in business during the sit-ins. He earned a B.S. degree in sociology from A&T in 1963. He studied law at Howard University Law School in Washington, DC, education at Massachusetts University in Dartmouth and voice at the New England Conservatory of Music. He married Lorraine France George of New Bedford, Massachusetts and had 3 children. In 2002, a bronze statue featuring him and the others of the A&T Four was unveiled on A&T’s campus. Also that year, the movie February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four aired on PBS.+ North Carolina A&T Four.

Tuesday — 7:30 p.m., “Hate and Discrimination has no place at E&H: An Overview of Title VI,” Vice President John Holloway, DEI House, 12150 Linden St. Emory, 24327 (In back of the Merc), Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Wednesday — 7:30 p.m., The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution, join Zoom meeting, https://ehcmeeting.zoom.us/j/7195269017

Bryan Shih is a photojournalist and former contributor to the Financial Times and National Public Radio in Japan. He has a masters degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and was a Fulbright Scholar in Japan. His work on the Black Panthers led to his selection for the New York Times inaugural portfolio review in 2013 and garnered one of the highest rankings among entries in the LensCulture 2015 Portrait Awards competition.

His book, The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution (co-authored with Dr. Yohuru Williams) was published this year by Nation Books, and work from the series will be shown at the Oakland Museum of California, the Queens Museum, and the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party. (Read more at www.ehc.edu/diversity-equity-inclusion/news-events/)

Sunday, Jan. 23 — Gospel Sensation Singing Performance is set for 3 p.m. at the McGlothlin Center for the Arts. Admission is free.

Please call the box office for ticket reservation at (276) 944-6333.


Business
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Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for US businesses

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job.

At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court’s orders Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant.

The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.

In dissent, the court’s three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgment for that of health experts. “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.

President Joe Biden said he was “disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law.”

Biden called on businesses to institute their own vaccination requirements, noting that a third of Fortune 100 companies already have done so.

When crafting the OSHA rule, White House officials always anticipated legal challenges — and privately some harbored doubts that it could withstand them. The administration nonetheless still views the rule as a success at already driving millions of people to get vaccinated and encouraging private businesses to implement their own requirements that are unaffected by the legal challenge.

The OSHA regulation had initially been blocked by a federal appeals court in New Orleans, then allowed to take effect by a federal appellate panel in Cincinnati.

Both rules had been challenged by Republican-led states. In addition, business groups attacked the OSHA emergency regulation as too expensive and likely to cause workers to leave their jobs at a time when finding new employees already is difficult.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, called the Supreme Court’s decision “a significant victory for employers.”

The vaccine mandate that the court will allow to be enforced nationwide scraped by on a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the liberals to form a majority. The mandate covers virtually all health care workers in the country, applying to providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It affects 10.4 million workers at 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.

Biden said that decision by the court “will save lives.”

In an unsigned opinion, the court wrote: “The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.” It said the “latter principle governs” in the health care arena.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent that the case was about whether the administration has the authority “to force healthcare workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo.” He said the administration hadn’t shown convincingly that Congress gave it that authority.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett signed onto Thomas’ opinion. Alito wrote a separate dissent that the other three conservatives also joined.

Decisions by federal appeals courts in New Orleans and St. Louis had blocked the mandate in about half the states. The administration already was taking steps to enforce it elsewhere.

More than 208 million Americans, 62.7% of the population, are fully vaccinated, and more than a third of those have received booster shots, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All nine justices have gotten booster shots.

The courthouse remains closed to the public, and lawyers and reporters are asked for negative test results before being allowed inside the courtroom for arguments, though vaccinations are not required.

The justices heard arguments on the challenges last week. Their questions then hinted at the split verdict they issued Thursday. A separate vaccine mandate for federal contractors, on hold after lower courts blocked it, has not been considered by the Supreme Court.

———

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

——

This story corrects that four justices noted dissents in the health care vaccine case, not just Alito and Thomas.


Health-care
featured
Area Tennessee schools not to point of closing for adult or student COVID absences

KINGSPORT — The spike in COVID-19 cases so far has not prompted Northeast Tennessee school systems to call off in-person instructional days.

However, local education officials in four public school systems say they are monitoring the situation.

As a backdrop, across the nation schools have closed as the omicron variant of COVID-19 has surged, including more than a dozen in North Texas, as well as schools in Kansas, California, New Hampshire and in Colonial Heights, Virginia — just outside Richmond.

Also, a teacher walkout over COVID issues occurred recently in Chicago but ended after government assurances of faster COVID test responses.

KINGSPORT CITY SCHOOLS

Rick / CONTRIBUTED BY KINGSPORT CITY SCHOOLS/ALLEN GREEN PHOTOGRAPHY 

Dr. Andy True, Kingsport City Schools assistant superintendent of administration

As always, Kingsport City Schools Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True said, KCS is monitoring absences of employees and contract workers because of illness. However, True said it is too early to say if or when the school system might take a holiday because of a lack of adults, an outbreak among students or both.

In the past, he said flu outbreaks have been the reason for calling off school, but the new omicron variant of COVID-19 is an issue now. Area Tennessee systems will be out of school on Monday for Martin Luther King Day.

“There has been no decision of if or when that might occur,” True said Wednesday. “Right now we are monitoring an analyzing.”

True said that while all employees are important to Kingsport City Schools, some are more critical in the decision of whether to call off school, including school bus drivers and school cafeteria workers, especially in smaller schools where multiple cases among four or five employees would require shifting employees from other schools or shutting down.

He said bus drivers are another group where absences are a problem, especially considering the issues in getting enough drivers in recent years.

“We obviously are paying attention to all categories,” True said of a group including teachers, aides, custodial workers, bus drivers, school nutrition workers and maintenance workers.

As for substitute teachers, True said ESS, which also supplies subs to neighboring Sullivan County, has had success in filling teacher vacancies. For Thursday, he said of all teacher vacancies, substitutes staffed 64%.

He didn’t have the total number of vacancies but said the 64% fill rate is probably lower than the average over time before the COVID pandemic but not unheard of during past flu outbreaks.

“We are always looking and will continue to look at day over day staffing,” True said.

And in case you were wondering about the COVID-19 protocols update the Kingsport school system put on its website last week, True said the only difference is the Centers for Disease Control announced the new isolation protocol is to isolate people who test positive for COVID for five days instead of 10 days, unless they are still showing symptoms at the end of the five days.

The board at its Tuesday meeting voted to extend up to five paid COVID sick days to employees. However, any days missed after five would require using regular sick leave.

SULLIVAN COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but Board of Education Chairman Randall Jones said he knew of no plans to close individual schools or the whole system because of COVID absences of adults and/or students.

CONTRIBUTED BY SULLIVAN COUNTY SCHOOLS 

Randall Jones, Sullivan County Board of Education chairman

 

“It (closing the whole system) would be something we could vote on,” Jones said Thursday. “Evelyn has the authority to close individual schools.”

HAWKINS COUNTY SCHOOLS

In Hawkins County, Director of Schools Matt Hixson said that system also has been able to operate despite some faculty and staff absences.

Rick / CONTRIBUTED BY HAWKINS COUNTY SCHOOLS 

Matt Hixon, Hawkins County director of schools

“We are not (considering a shutdown) at this point,” he said Thursday. “We have seen an increase in staff absences, but so far we have been able to weather the storm and cover with our substitutes.”

ROGERSVILLE CITY SCHOOL

At Rogersville City School, which operates a pre-K through 8 school, Director of Schools Edwin Jarnagin on Thursday said the school has not seen a large number of cases among faculty and staff but did close a daycare at the school because of COVID.

Jeff / KINGSPORT TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO 

Edwin Jarnagin, director of Rogersville City School

“We are able to work with subs and teaching assistants” to fill gaps, Jarnigan said. The system utilizes Hawkins County school bus transportation.

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