Have a strategic plan but be prepared to update it, school officials say

Rick Wagner • Jan 3, 2020 at 3:30 PM

GREENEVILLE — When Sullivan County Board of Education members made the trip to Greeneville last month for a school board retreat, they took some different routes thanks to the GPS programs in their cellphones.

BOE Vice Chairman Randall Jones said his program told him to take the Fall Branch exit off Interstate 81, but he went another route, while others at the meeting said suggested routes varied from the traditional trip down I-81 and taking the Baileyton exit to Greeneville.

Likewise, when Sullivan County Director of Schools David Cox was returning from Maryland after Thanksgiving, he said he deviated from the normal route, but his GPS had him detour around three wrecks on I-81 through Virginia that he couldn’t even see.

Tennessee School Boards Association Executive Director Tammy Grissom said both instances show the importance of forming a strategic plan but updating it annually to reflect new information.


The Sullivan County school system’s trip into the future includes a five-year capital plan that, among other things, has plumbing pipe replacement at Sullivan East High School, a new heating and cooling system at what will become Central Middle, various roof replacements and repairs and athletic facilities updates and upgrades.

One of those may be an upgrade from grass to artificial turf at the new West Ridge High football field, to open in August 2021 just off Exit 63 of I-81.

“We can’t keep living by the seat of our pants,” BOE Chairman Michael Hughes said, adding that he didn’t really understand all the moving parts in facilities plans until he joined the board.

“This board has more information than Joe Citizens out there,” Grissom said.

However, BOE member Mark Ireson said that over the last few years the board didn’t spend renovation and maintenance money as planned, and did so without a specific board vote.

“Who made the decision to change what we all voted on?” Ireson asked.

Hughes said the renovation and maintenance budget is “dynamic” and changing. For instance, he said the Central HVAC has been on the list for many years but got bumped down for more immediate roofing and other projects. He also said the projects on the list were never to be in a particular order, but when something happens like a windstorm blowing the roof off Ketron Elementary, it must be addressed.

Other items, such as generic roofs or athletic facilities improvements, are not tagged for specific facilities.

Hughes said because the Sullivan County Commission cut $1.6 million in annual appropriations to fund the renovation and maintenance budget, the system no longer has to put out a list of specific projects, but that such a list has to be maintained to give a road map of what projects the board wants to fund as money is available.

Ireson said that should be a group decision, but Hughes said the system relies on the expertise and wisdom of Maintenance Supervisor Charlie Hubbard to juggle the lists. Hughes also said the board shouldn’t micromanage maintenance.


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