Sullivan BOE approved two universal free meal schools, one more year of final exam exemptions

Rick Wagner • Updated Jul 11, 2017 at 12:54 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school board has approved downsizing the school system’s universal free meals program from seven schools to two.

It also has decided to allow comprehensive final exam exemptions to continue in its four high schools, but only for one more school year, and Chairman Michael Hughes has canceled the board retreat that had been set for Tuesday.

The Board of Education voted 4-0 with three absent on all business items Monday night in an unusually short meeting that lasted less than 15 minutes. Absent were Vice Chairman Randall Jones, whose father died Sunday; member Matthew Spivey, who had back surgery; and member Mark Ireson, who was attending a receiving of friends before a funeral and arrived after the meeting was complete.

Hughes said he decided to cancel the annual retreat, which he said may be rescheduled in September, because Spivey and Jones would be absent and Ireson had to leave for a work obligation by 1:30 p.m. Spivey and Ireson are the two newest board members.

The board, as it had discussed in Thursday’s work session and as Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski recommended, voted to continue allowing an exemption from final exams for students with at least a 3.5 grade point average or no more than two absences per semester for 2017-18. A committee of teachers and principals proposed leaving the exemption intact in the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook although other things were tweaked.

“Beginning in 2018-19, we will no longer have exam exemptions,” Rafalowski said.

The board also voted to have the Community Eligibility Provision or CEP program at only Ketron and Emmett elementary schools because of a change in federal guidelines. It also had been at Blountville Elementary, Blountville Middle, Central Heights Elementary and North Middle schools. Some could be added back if the percentage of economically challenged students increases during the school year at those schools.

Hughes said he hopes the board can have another work session with the architects for the new high school and new middle school before the end of August. Rafalowski said central office staff will meet with the architects later this week. Hughes said he hopes the retreat can be set sometime in September. Plans are for an online survey on potential names for the new middle school to begin around when school starts, Aug. 7, Rafalowski said.

Also, Rafalowski said the raw or “cut” scores for the grades 3-8 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program or TCAPs came Friday, more than a month too late to be used for a percentage of student grades. The system also is not using them as part of teacher evaluations. This marks the second straight year scores have been late. High school end-of-course scores also arrived late but earlier than the 3-8 test scores.