School boards: Blount County redraws districts, looks at absentees; City awards tenure

By Ashe Smith

Blount Today

Blount County high school students may soon be able to make up missed schoolwork no matter the excuse. The Blount County School Board Meeting met March 6 to discuss altering the attendance policy at Heritage High School and William Blount High School for the next school year.

Jane Morton, Blount County supervisor of grades six through 12, said there would only be one change in the attendance policy. It would alter Policy 5, which states students are only allowed to make up schoolwork if the absence is “excused.” The new policy would allow students to make up work anytime they have absences.

“We talked about it for weeks and weeks with discussion on both sides,” said Morton. “Academically (students) would be better off to make up the work.”

Steve Lafon, William Blount’s principal, said 80 percent of his faculty felt the need to do away with the unexcused absence policy. “It is harder to get students to make up work if they are not getting credit,” he said. But he said he sees both sides of the argument.

Board member Mike Treadway spoke out against the change in the policy. He said if it changes, he could not see why students even bother going to school. Board member John Davis, Jr., agreed with Treadway. “If I was a high school student, I would be absent anytime I wanted to,” Davis said “I would play this like an old piano.”

Grant Allard, board student representative from William Blount High School, spoke in favor for the change, saying it would allow students a better chance to finish school. “Having an incentive will allow (students) to reach where they never knew they could,” he said.

The other board student representative, Zack Pickett from Heritage High School, said sometimes there are unexcused absences that should be counted as excused, particularly deaths in the family. He said he knew people who had to travel long distances for a funeral forcing them to miss more than the allotted three excused absences.

Treadway said approval would be a bad move for the system. “We’ve got to set standards, and quit lowering ours just to make sure we remain off lists,” he said.

Director of Schools Alvin Hord said that other rules would not be affected if the policy is changed. Lines 29, 30 and 31 state that if a student incurs more than 10 absences, they do not receive credit.

If a student misses more than 11 days, the student is allowed to appeal the “no credit,” but the appeal may be denied. Lafon said there are reasons for students not to miss. He said the student’s parents would receive letters and possible court calls for truancy and students’ drivers license could be revoked.

William Blount High School’s attendance record for last year was 92 to 93 percent, according to Lafon.

The motion was tabled for next month’s meeting

Another motion that affects students was also on the agenda. District lines for Friendsville Elementary and Mary Blount Elementary were redrawn and approved in preparation for Union Grove Elementary. Brian Bell, supervisor of technology, said the target number of students at Union Grove will be 369 on opening day in August.

The students will come from Friendsville Elementary (around 230), Mary Blount Elementary (around 120) and from the preschool program at Mary Blount. However, he said these are projected numbers and may vary depending on new families moving into the area.

The motion will also allow fifth grade students at Carpenters Elementary to have the option to attend Union Grove. A complete map of the new lines can be found on Blount County School Board’s Web site, http://www.blountk12.org/

The next board meeting is April 3 at Blount County’s Central Office.

Maryville City Schools

While Maryville Schools plans to open its new intermediate school Fall 2010, the name and its colors have not been decided. But two teachers hope that it will be full of green.

Green energy that is.

At Monday’s Maryville City School Board’s meeting Jinny Boles, fourth grade teacher from John Sevier Elementary, and Tracy Luttrell, technology teacher from Maryville Intermediate School, gave a presentation regarding green technology and energy conservation for the new school.

“The benefits of having a green school is better student health, greater teacher performance and higher retention rates for teachers,” Luttrell said. A majority of the health benefits would come from the maximization of natural light into the school, according to the teachers.

Neither teacher claims to be an expert on architecture and energy conservation, but said the data they collected would primarily help “create a healthy environment conducive to learning, saving energy, resources and money.” Most of their information came from the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System’s Web site developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and EnergySmart Schools’ Web site.

Boles said conversion of a school would come in either small or large commitments. The smaller commitments could include low flow toilets or exchanging incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient ones. Larger commitments include certification with LEED, and improving certain construction and design specifications. These include constructing schools to face the east and west axis to maximize daylight, increase building insulation, erect sky-lighting and use geothermal heating and cooling.

Luttrell said while the costs may be higher initially, the payoffs for education, health and money are greater in the long run. “Over a lifetime, the savings will just keep adding up,” she said.

While it was still just a presentation Luttrell said the goal is to give a “talking point to start with” for the board and the community.

Board member Mark Cate said that the board discussed certification with LEED but decided against it in January. He also said people do not see the long-term benefit, just the starting costs.

The night was also shared with the guests of honor. Twenty-five teachers were awarded tenure. Tenure is awarded through a review process with the school board once a year.

The motion was seconded and approved anonymously by the board. Carolyn McAmis, chairman of Maryville City School, and Stephanie Thompson, director of Maryville City Schools, handed out the certificates. “It is a great evening when we honor our tenure teachers,” McAmis said.

From Maryville High School, David Allen, Leslie Capozzoli and Letitia Rich received tenure. From Maryville Middle School, Chris Dunkel, Julie Hilborn, Beth Anne Koons, David Pope, Brian Waters and Michael Wortman. From Maryville Intermediate School, Kyra Kauffman, Jeremy Miller, John Riddle and Jeremy Russell received tenure. From Foothills Elementary School, Teresa Fields, Jessica King and Melissa Sonner received tenure. From John Sevier Elementary School, Penny Garrett, Sylvia Kite, Pamela Pyron and Jenny Rimmer received tenure. And from Sam Houston Elementary School, Elisabeth Bellah, Stephanie Collins, Ashley Hammonds, Joyce Spence and Mary Grace Taylor received tenure.

“This is the best night of the year for the school board -- to grant teachers tenure,” Cate said.

The next meeting will be April 14 at Maryville High School.

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