Teachers want 'bad apples' (problem students) out of classrooms

April 22, 2004


Update: as of 2015 nothing has come to this other than Sullivan County schools are being closed and consolidated due to a shrinking student population.

BLOUNTVILLE - Teachers say Sullivan County will need to spend at least $1.17 million in new money on salaries next year - and they want habitually disruptive students out of the classroom.

Negotiating teams for the Sullivan County Education Association (SCEA) and Sullivan County Department of Education agreed Wednesday to ask Superintendent John O'Dell to appoint a task force to formulate a plan to establish a separate school for consistent offenders in grades K-12.

"Because of the pressure being put on (teachers) now for the test scores, it's very important to be able to have control of your class at all times," said SCEA representative Mark Wedel.

"It just takes one, day in and day out, to ruin a class. You have to spend time taking care of that situation, and it's taking you away from what you need to be doing in your classroom."

Current disciplinary measures do little - if anything - to change the behavior of these "consistent offenders," SCEA representatives said. Sullivan County Schools currently have behavior modification programs for special education students at the elementary school level and alternative schools for dealing with disciplinary problems at the middle and high school levels. But teachers say it's not enough.

"I think there is a faction of students that are always going to be that way, and they need a place where they can be separated from the population,'' said Wedel, who has taught for 25 years.

Jim Jordan, a Tennessee Education Association (TEA) adviser to the SCEA negotiating team, said the problems cited in Sullivan County are echoed by teachers throughout the state.

"Teachers are feeling a lot more pressure to have time to teach. The consistent offender is one of the major problems in many of our classrooms and limits severely the time to teach not only that child but every child in that classroom," Jordan said.

Jack Barnes, chief negotiator for the school system, said O'Dell and the central office staff share the teachers' concerns and have explored various options.

"It has been looked at, and we have discussed it. We've just not come up with a way we could afford it and feasibly do it," Barnes said.

Creating a separate school in the Gunnings building for "alternate placement" of consistent offenders is one option the negotiating teams suggested the task force consider.

"There is such a program in Sevier County, and several of us went there to look at that for the purpose of seeing what we could do,'' school board attorney Pat Hull told the negotiating teams.

The K-12 program in a separate facility is one way of removing disruptive students from the classroom and addressing the needs of those students in a smaller classroom setting. It also prevents consistent offenders from returning to the classroom without having addressed the behavior issue.

"If you look at the model of the separate school in Sevier County, they stay there until they are able to go back," Hull said. "If you go to alternative school, you go for two weeks. You're back - whether you're ready to go back or not - because of limited space. That's a huge difference," he explained.

Recognizing that funding could be an issue, the two sides agreed to recommend that the task force utilize current resources and move other resources as necessary to a central location when formulating the plan for a separate school.

They suggested the task force include curriculum supervisors, a special education supervisor, a vocational/technical supervisor, a school board member, an administrator and a teacher appointed by the SCEA.

The memorandum of understanding drafted Wednesday asks that O'Dell present the recommendation to the Board of Education at its May 10 meeting. Teachers would like to see the task force in place by the end of the school year.

During the bargaining session, SCEA member Steve Thompson told the two negotiating teams that, based on SCEA and TEA research, the $1.17 million in new money is the minimum amount needed to meet the new state salary schedule and local maintenance of effort requirements.

How the two sides use the information, Thompson said, will be up to the negotiating teams when they resume contract talks in May. In addition to salary and benefits, the two teams will continue negotiations over layoff and recall procedures outlined in the contract.

In initial discussions about it, SCEA representatives said job security is a major concern for teachers due to the county's financial situation and talk about closing schools or cutting programs.

Copyright 2004 Kingsport Times-News.

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