Johnson City Schools superintendent adamantly opposed to charter school

Tony Casey • Updated Oct 10, 2016 at 10:43 PM

It appears an uphill battle is in front of the person set to speak about a proposed charter school in front of the Johnson City Schools’ Board of Education at next month’s meeting.

System director Richard Bales let the board know that he’s been contacted to allow a presentation about the Insight STEM School that would be housed in the downtown Johnson City location of Northeast State Community College.

But just because Bales is giving proponents of the STEM school equal time doesn’t mean he’s in support of the charter school — which is an educational institution that receives government funding but operates independently of the established public school system.

“I will say, too, that I read that (STEM school proposed dean) Mrs. (Teresa) Battle was quoted in the paper that she didn’t know my feelings on it, and I’m publicly and adamantly opposed to any charter school in Johnson City,” Bales said at the board’s monthly meeting Monday night.

And he wasn’t the only one on the board who seemed to be in opposition to the school project that Battle is heading. Battle announced in August that the goal would be to start off as a private school for one year, then seek designation as a charter school.

The first year, which would be 2017, would start with 20 ninth-graders who would start their STEM educational careers.  

Board members Richard Manahan and Kathy Hall were among those who raised questions about the charter school, but came to the conclusion that their concerns might be voiced prematurely, and that they would wait for the presentation at the November meeting. 

Joe Crabtree, a teacher at Indian Trail Middle School and president of the Johnson City Education Association, said in talking with other teachers, he’s learning that they’re worried about funding going away from public schools to a private entity like this proposed charter school. 

Crabtree said he will listen to this November meeting presentation with an open mind, but he doesn’t see any need or fit for a charter school in Johnson City at this time.

“We do really well in investing in the needs of our system, and we’re high-performing, so at this time, I’m just not seeing that need,” Crabtree said.

The board also moved forward with plans to enlist the help of the Tennessee School Board Association in helping find Bales’ replacement after his retirement comes at the end of the 2016-17 school year. 

They are tentatively looking to make the announcement of Bales’ successor on April 10.

Email Tony Casey at [email protected]. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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