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Sullivan merger could take many forms, parents continue to worry

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Mar 15 2013 05:02:06 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 14 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

A recommendation has been made on how to fix a cash-strapped school system.

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

A recommendation has been made on how to fix a cash-strapped school system.

Sullivan County's director of schools supports a plan that would close two middle schools and consolidate two high schools, saving just under $3 million.

For three weeks, parents have been fighting to keep schools in Sullivan County as they are.

After a recommendation was given to school board members Thursday night by Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, some like Angie Stanley feel the fight just got harder. "I was sick," said Angie as she described her emotions after hearing the recommendation.

Yennie supports consolidating Sullivan North and Sullivan South, and closing Colonial Heights and Sullivan Middle School, making the leftover building a middle school.

But Yennie said he wouldn't recommend the changes for at least a year. "Scenario three is not an option whether it's happening this year, a year or two years from now, because it will affect my kids either way," said Stanley, who has two children at Miller Perry Elementary School.

Yennie admitted his recommendation may never fully come to fruition 'as is' by the school board. "[It may be] a vote to say okay, yes we can consider this, let's study it a little further and revisit it in another timeline," said Yennie.

We learned any possible closures or consolidation will include further public input to hash out details. That will likely come with the guidance from either an independent consultant or a local task force. "It would be folks there that are affected by the community; the principals, teachers, students, parents, community members," explained Yennie.

But with major changes likely at least a year away, there’s still the matter of a $3 million budget shortfall for the coming school year, meaning some jobs are still on the line. "We're looking at staff at a system level," said Yennie. "We're taking a look at the maintenance department, taking a look at the nutrition department."

It may be enough to buy time, but even parents realize change could be inevitable. "Everybody would like to see it stay the way it is, but I don't think that's going to happen," said Charles Lewis, a parent of a Colonial Heights Middle School student.

The school board is expected to make a vote on Yennie's recommendation on March 28. 

Public comment is still encouraged. You can do that by sending an email to rezoning@sullivank12.net.