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City schools add staff to address TAD growth

The Elizabethton School System is proving to be “the popular kid.”
That means more students – and more positions.
The Elizabethton Board of Education approved three new positions during a called meeting Thursday night in preparation for the upcoming school year and to help address growth at T.A. Dugger Junior High.
The board unanimously approved the hiring of a system-wide licensed practical nurse as well as a part-time physical education teacher and a language arts/math teacher for TAD.
“Students want to come to our schools,” Director of Special Education, RTI and Related Services Corey Gardenhour told the board. “These are students who are coming up from the elementary schools, and they are tuition students.”
Gardenhour said TAD’s enrollment will increase over last year’s number; the projected enrollment for the coming school year is 610 students, up from 558 students last year.
He explained that by adding the teachers, the school could accept an additional 52 students, which would leave nine students on a waiting list. TAD is expected to have 208 sixth-grade students, 205 seventh-grade students and 197 eighth-grade students for the 2014-2015 school year.
He explained that tuition students were coming in from Carter County and from Johnson City.
Gardenhour said the LPN position would be used mainly by the special education program dealing with the medical needs of those students, such as feeding problems that might occur.
After the board meeting, the school board held a policy workshop to review changes to school policy as recommended by the Tennessee School Board Association or as suggested by review by board members or administration.
Only one policy review was asked for by the Elizabethton City School team administration, which covered sick leave.
Superintendent Ed Alexander recommended the school board change the policy to require an employee who misses five consecutive days to present a doctor’s note explaining the problem. The policy change would also require that the administration be updated if the absence will be an extended one.
Alexander said there have been issues with employees missing multiple days on sick leave and not notifying their supervisor or letting their supervisor know when they would be out or when they would be back. He said providing this information would help principals and administrators plan for substitutes or other coverage.
Board member Catherine Armstrong said she did not agree with this policy, because medical issues were private for an employee.
Assistant Superintendent Richard VanHuss said the policy was not about what was wrong with the employee but more about how long they would be out from work and if it was a justifiable illness.
Board member Grover May, who is also a physician, said he was familiar with the documentation that would be submitted. He said most physicians filled in those forms in general terms, such as “Patient is suffering from an illness” instead of going into all the details of what is wrong with the person.
Administrative assistant Clara Perkins added that a sick leave day or a personal day was still a paid day and that employers had a right to know why the employee was missing work and using those days.
The TSBA recommended changes to several other policies. The tobacco-free schools policy was changed to include electronic cigarettes and the use of personal communication devices was changed to include wearable technology, such as Google Glass and smart watches.
A proposed change to the student equal access and recognition of religious beliefs, customs and holidays would allow students the right to speak about their religious beliefs in a school-sponsored event without fear of discrimination or retaliation. Students are also allowed to express their religious beliefs in assignments without being penalized or rewarded for its inclusion.
Several policies governing negotiations with teacher’s unions and school systems were recommended for deletion because the law has changed and those groups are no longer in place.
The policy changes will be presented for a vote during the August school board meeting.