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Let the wooing begin for Jonesborough’s school

Johnson City Press • Sep 9, 2018 at 8:15 AM

We doubt anyone seriously expected a new Washington County Board of Education to resolve the never-ending Jonesborough school building debate in its first meeting.

With three newly elected members attending their first session Thursday night, the nine-member board dodged the ball better than any fifth-grader in gym shorts.

When Jonesborough parent Kerrie Aistrop, who made an unsuccessful bid for a school board seat last month, raised the issue, longtime member and newly elected Chairman Keith Ervin simply said the school board would discuss it an upcoming called meeting.

No date was attached, but a tentative plan has it set for Sept. 25. You can bet on a packed house.

The former board was locked in a 5-4 stalemate, voting down various “schemes” for renovating/expanding or fully replacing the two schools in town as presented by architect Tony Street. When a majority did pass a plan, it was shot down in committee at the County Commission level.

New school board members Chad Fleenor and Jason Day are the wild cards in the debate, as the other newcomer, Mitch Meredith sat on the County Commission when the original plan for the K-8 project was passed. As the county’s finance director, Meredith also was among the architects of former Mayor Dan Eldridge’s funding recipe for school projects that resulted from a 40-cent tax increase, which has drawn fire from both Jonesborough parents looking for full-replacement funding and Johnson City officials who say it robs city students of their fair share of the proceeds.

Time will tell whether Meredith veers from that course.

Meanwhile, the five-member majority who voted down the most recent schemes — Ervin, David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger, Annette Buchanan and Philip McLain — still have their seats.

All year, we’ve been calling on the school board and the County Commission to end this mess with a joint session that only results in a firm plan. That seems more manageable now that the Commission’s ranks have been reduced from 25 to 15, and the Commission, too, has five new members.

If the school board manages to agree on a plan and expects to see it through, members will have to woo at least eight commissioners. You can bet that this month’s called meeting will just be another beginning.

Popcorn anyone?

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