By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Board of Education has chosen its representatives for the Jonesborough school design committee.
In addition to Todd Ganger, Mary Beth Dellinger and Phillip McLain — the three board members who will serve on the committee and represent the Jonesborough district — the board opted to appoint Jonesborough Elementary School art teacher Jan Allen to the committee as the schools’ representative.
“My opinion was it would be good to get somebody from the trenches to have some input,” McLain said after nominating Allen. “I think it would good of us to put a teacher in there. I really do.”
Board members David Hammond, Dellinger, Annette Buchanan, McLain and Keith Ervin voted for Allen while Jason Day, Chad Fleenor, Ganger and Mitch Meredith voted for Jonesborough Elementary Principal Matt Combs.
“I don’t doubt that Mrs. Allen would be a great asset to that design committee,” Fleenor, who nominated Combs, said, “but I do think we have two outstanding principals at both of those schools. I would like to nominate Mr. Combs. I know (Combs and Jonesborough Middle School Principal Brandon McKee) work really well together, I know they do a great job together and I know they could lean on each other. But I was thinking that if the meetings were in the day, they would be more apt to be able to leave where Mrs. Allen has a class and other obligations she has to keep up with.”
There was some confusion regarding the committee, though. Hammond said he thought the Jonesborough principals were expected to be involved in the design of the new school. To ensure that a principal’s input was part of the committee, Ganger said he felt the board should consider voting in an administrator.
“I think that’s how we assure they’re a part of it, by having one on the committee,” Ganger said. “We’re not sure they’re going to be involved or not. My point is we’d be sure if we put them on this committee.
“I believe having someone in the trenches is a good idea. And Mr. Combs and Mr. McKee have both been there and now they run the whole school, so they have a very good insight to what needs to be done and maybe what they would like to see in a new school.”
The inter-local agreement between the Town of Jonesborough, Washington County Commission and the county school board to build a new Jonesborough School includes the provision that the board will include three school board members from the Jonesborough district, a teacher or administrator from one of the Jonesborough schools and a facilities maintenance staff member.
Scott Bennett, the school board’s attorney, added at the BOE meeting that the facilities maintenance staff member will have input in the Jonesborough School design plans but will not serve as a member of the committee. The board later unanimously voted for Phillip Patrick, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, as the facilities maintenance representative for the committee.
“It is mission critical for us to have someone from facilities staff provide input on this design,” Meredith said. “We’re the body that’s going to have to pay for the operation of the facilities, but we can build it and design it one way and it can cost a lot more in operations, or you can save money in operations. I think our maintenance staff is critical to that.”
In addition to the school system’s representatives, the design committee will include Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy and Washington County Commissioner Jodi Jones, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest and Town Administrator Bob Browning and two citizens of Jonesborough (one of whom with a child who is a current student at one of the Jonesborough schools).
Bennett said the design plans will have to be brought back to the board twice before the town gives its final approval of the project design. However, some board members wondered how much of a voice the BOE will have in the design discussion.
“The way this thing is coming together, I have no idea how much the design committee is really going to get to be effective on this anyway because the majority of things are going to be coming from the architect,” McLain said. “Any of us who have been through this with Ridgeview, Grandview, David Crockett, Daniel Boone, we know the majority of these things are going to come from the architect.”
The initial design for the project was drawn up by Ken Ross Architects Inc. That plan was unveiled in August when the town proposed its new Jonesborough School building with community athletic facilities on North Cherokee Street in Jonesborough.
Director of Schools Bill Flanary said the architect has already talked with various staff members within the school system. Hammond said he felt there were numerous voices in the school system that he hopes will be consulted throughout the collaborative design process.
“I think the mayor of Jonesborough and the aldermen brought all the groups together,” Hammond said. “I do know there’s a design committee, but I would hope there are times they’d have to go to Dr. (Mindy) Meyers for special ed or they might have to go to Dr. (Karla) Kyte for the elementary part or they would go to teachers and that the principals would automatically get an input. I hope we can continue that working together and not get caught up in who’s serving on that committee.
“At the end of the day, we have all these committees for the school board, but the committee is only as good as the school board vote when the board is together. I don’t want us to get caught up in details. Let’s keep the united approach going.”
The design committee is yet to schedule a meeting. Those meetings, per the inter-local agreement, will be kept open to the public.