Charter school sponsor pulls application for downtown Johnson City location

Tony Casey • Updated Apr 3, 2017 at 6:42 PM

A proposed charter school in Johnson City passed an application deadline Monday and will not move forward this year, according to school officials.

The dean of the proposed Insight STEM School, which would have been housed in downtown Johnson City’s Northeast State Community College campus, said the sponsor of the school will not pursue the application process at this time.

The school’s application needed to be submitted to the Johnson City Schools Monday for approval.

“The sponsor (Michael Cummings), Insight Training & Educational Center, made the decision not to submit the application for a charter school with Johnson City Schools,” Teresa Battle, the charter school’s dean, said.

Cummings is also the pastor of the Greater Love International Church in Johnson City. The organizers hoped to teach underserved area students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs to prepare them for higher-paying area jobs. NN Inc., a global manufacturer headquartered in Johnson City, was a partner in the education project.

Johnson City Board of Education Chairman Tim Belisle was caught by surprise Monday when told the charter school would not submit an application.

School board members have opposed charter and private schools. Some members feared the proposed school and others in the future would take funds away from the city schools. If submitted, the board would have had 90 days to vote on allowing the charter school to form.

“It’s going to be business as usual for us,” Belisle said after hearing the news.

The board discussed the school system’s five-year strategic plan Monday night at its monthly meeting. Both Belisle and Superintendent Dr. Richard Bales said the plan, and all plans in the future, will focus efforts on more STEM and “STEAM” — STEM with the addition of “arts” — offerings within Johnson City’s schools.

Bales said he adamantly opposes charter schools, but thinks every conversation about educating the area’s children should be considered.

Since “school choice” — which includes funding charter and private schools with public dollars — advocate Betsy DeVos was named Department of Education secretary by President Donald Trump, this conversation has been on the forefront of the minds of school board members across the country.

Bales said he doesn’t expect this conversation to go away, but his goal in the remaining three months he has before retirement remains the same. He wants to make the Johnson City Schools system the strongest it can be.

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