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Downtown Johnson City Insight STEM charter school taking student applications

Tony Casey • Dec 1, 2016 at 8:38 AM

To be a school, you need to have students.

That’s the part of the process in which Teresa Battle finds herself as the dean of the proposed Insight STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) School, located at the Northeast State Community College campus in downtown Johnson City.

Battle recently rolled out an application for 2017-18 freshmen who might attend the school.

The Insight STEM School, which would be the first of its kind in the city, is awaiting charter school recognition. If approved by the state, it would initially open as a private school teaching two cohorts of 30-student classes lessons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s a career-driven program,” Battle said.

The top of the school’s flier asks, “Does your child need a different learning environment?”

That’s what Battle said the school will offer: something different. It’s advertised as providing “project-based, problem-based, real-world applications” courses that allow students to achieve their highest potential.

Battle and her fellow administrators’ goal for the school is to provide Johnson City girls, minorities, economically disadvantaged and first-generation college attendees with engaging, real-world, application-based technology and experiences that provide pathways for student success in the world of business, industry, education, armed services and global competitiveness.

The Insight STEM school has already been in contact with Johnson City-headquartered NN Inc., a global industrial company that employs engineers and industrial-trained workers.

Battle said her talks with NN Inc. executives — President and CEO Rich Holder is on the charter school’s board and donated heavily to the effort — shows they’d much rather hire employees locally than having to recruit from outside the area. If they have a pool of trained people, specifically women and minorities, Battle said she believes NN Inc. would step up to hire the students with a STEM education and provide them with a proper salary.

The Insight curriculum includes partnerships with STEM professionals in the community, enrollment in dual-credit college courses, job-shadowing, internships, dual degrees and certificates and STEM-focused courses.

Milligan College and East Tennessee State University have already expressed interest in the students who would come through Battle’s school, she said.

Applications for the Insight STEM School can be picked up at Northeast State, 101 E. Market St., in room J1046. Applicants will have until approximately Jan. 6 to submit their paperwork.

Over the course of the next month, Battle and co-founder Michael Cummings will be making presentations and handing out fliers about their school to area churches, community groups and businesses.

Paul Montgomery, Northeast State’s vice president of access and development, said they were approached by the Insight group earlier this year, and because of the central location and the schools’ shared educational goals, it was a great match.

“We’re always going to do something to enhance the learning experience of our students,” Montgomery said.

As they work through the application process, Battle faces pushback from local public school administrators and school board members who’ve said this emphasis on charter and private schools will come at a cost to public education. Dr. Richard Bales, Johnson City Schools superintendent, recently said focus and funds should be placed with public schools and not be allowed to drift to charters, which he said could create funding disparities.

Battle said she hasn’t been contacted by anyone with negative feedback about the proposed school, as much as parents who are interested in it. Homeschooling parents, specifically, she said, have contacted her with inquiries, and she’s willing to talk with anyone who’s seeking information.

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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