PIE Center deed, classroom project updates discussed

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 11/17/19

Updates on ongoing Bradley County Schools projects were presented Wednesday to the Bradley County Commission’s Education Committee.

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PIE Center deed, classroom project updates discussed

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Updates on ongoing Bradley County Schools projects were presented recently to the Bradley County Commission’s Education Committee.

Opening the meeting, Chairman Thomas Crye suggested postponing discussion on the PIE Center deed and updates on the classroom addition projects at Black Fox and North Lee elementary schools, until Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash could be there; she was absent due to illness.

However, Todd Shoemaker, supervisor of secondary education for Bradley County Schools, and Susan Willcutt, finance director for Bradley County Schools, were present to answer questions.

Speaking on the PIE Center deed, Crye said ownership of the PIE Center needs to be transferred from Bradley County to the school system because of insurance and liability issues.

Commissioner Louie Alford asked if attorneys are working on the deed. Crye said they are.

The committee approved a motion to send the deed to the full county commission, subject to finalization by the attorneys.

“There’s no use delaying it,” Alford said.

In spite of Cash's absence, the committee did hear updates on the classroom addition projects at Black Fox and North Lee.

“I’ve been told they’re going to kick dirt in January,” Crye said, noting “activity is ongoing” toward the projects.

Crye added they will have students in classrooms, and out of closets and storerooms, by the next school year.

Commissioner Bill Winters asked if the school system is hearing from parents about the expansion plans. Shoemaker said he believes there is excitement about the improvements.

“I’ve not heard any complaining,” he said.

Alford asked what will be done with the portable classrooms at the schools once the new additions are built. Willcutt said she believes another school system has asked for them, and she understands they will be donated and moved at that school system’s expense.

Crye said because the county commission funds the school system, the Education Committee has to have meetings at least quarterly to check on projects. He said Wednesday’s meeting for updates is not a sign the commissioners believe the school system is “mismanaging in any way, shape or form.”

In other business, the committee:

• Heard from Alford, who asked if the school system has a five-year plan that could be shared with the county commission. Willcutt said Cash has one that she believes was sent to commissioners.

County Commission Chairman Johnny Mull, who works for Bradley County Schools, said he spoke with Cash about the plan.

“She said they are reviewing that in January,” Mull said, adding Cash assured him that information would be shared with the county commission.

Alford asked if the school system ever conducts a census of the school system, noting he asked for a copy “several months ago.”

Willcutt said the school system has surveys of the individual schools that can provide information.

Winters noted, for context, that the county commission has been approached to approve the city of Cleveland annexing 27 acres that will be used for a housing development near both a city school and a county school. Winters said commissioners are concerned about the impact of new construction on the county’s school system.

Alford said the school system’s information will help in addressing overcrowding at schools. Crye agreed, noting a few developments could heavily impact the schools.

• Heard an update on the purchase of property near Hopewell Elementary School, to be used to help solve traffic issues during parent pick-up. Willcutt said the cost of property purchased from Volunteer Energy Cooperative was $74,750, less than the $100,000 anticipated price. She said the price reduction is partly because the acreage of the property was smaller than expected, and there were no closing costs.

“We actually have closed on it (the property purchase),” she said.

• Heard an update on ACT scores for Bradley County Schools students.

Crye said he believes the school system needs to “pat ourselves on the back more often” for student successes. He said Bradley County Schools has a 20.2 average composite ACT score, with 100% participation of all high school students allowed to take the test.

“One of only 34 districts across the state to have 100% participation and also the only one in the Southeast Core Region,” Crye said.

In addition, Crye noted 47.2% of recent graduates were considered “Ready Grads,” meaning they either had a 21 on the ACT or they had achieved a certain number of Early Post-Secondary Opportunities.

Other highlights presented by Crye included:

• The graduation rate for 2018-19 was 97.7%, while the state average was 89.7%.

“We have the highest graduation rate in the Southeast Core Region,” Crye said.

• Bradley County Schools was recognized with a Tennessee Department of Education District Designation of “Advancing,” which means “we are meeting our growth expectations,” Crye said.

“This is the next to the highest designation,” he added.

• The school system maintains around 95% attendance and the chronic absenteeism rate has dropped from 14.3% to 11.2% of students being chronically absent.

• Both Bradley Central and Walker Valley high schools received the Certified Pathways highest level from the Tennessee Department of Education: Mechatronics and Nursing Pathways Excelling Level.

• Bradley County Schools Career and Technical Education increased the percentage of CTE students completing early work readiness/preparation credentials as defined by the existing Graduation Plus program (dual credit, dual enrollment, industry certifications, internships, portfolios and CTE student organizations competitive event winners) over the last three years.

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