On Monday, Jonesborough and our advisors met with Mayor Grandy and his team to develop a winning lease agreement for our joint community and school project. I left more encouraged an agreement was imminent but concerned how Johnson City’s disruptive late entrance into the equation could impact the project.

Unfortunately the divisive comments made by the Johnson City School Board chair Monday night risks alienating the commissioners whose support they need.

Last week, I had communicated to Johnson City leaders the following message in hopes it could guide them to a positive relationship and outcomes with the Washington County Commission:

“Good afternoon, Dr. Barnett and Mayor Brock. With all the recent turmoil created by the talk of lawsuits, I want it to be clear that I support every capital task you are planning for the Johnson City school system. As I stated recently, I love the city of Johnson City and admire what you have done with the schools.

I do think much of the dissension between city versus county is not helpful nor warranted, but it’s what we face due to the way schools are funded. Our singular goal for our town is to improve educational outcomes and facilities while providing enhanced community activities.

The inclusion of discussions about the county matching — or as those in education call it, ‘sharing’ — funds for construction of a replacement school in Johnson City has certainly ignited passions within the community. We all represent wonderful areas and it bothers me to see our community at odds. I even find myself struggling to not get swept up in it.

My desire, as I’ve stated, is to resolve the unsafe conditions in the current Jonesborough schools and improve the economic strength of Jonesborough. Considering the stable and safe school you have at Town Acres, but certainly with valid reasons to replace, I respectfully ask you guide the school board to practice patience and trust that the county commission can resolve the Town Acres project separately. Linking Johnson City’s needs to the Jonesborough project endangers these kids to those schools longer than good people should allow — and creates animosity within our community. I’ll certainly be supportive of your efforts after Jonesborough is resolved.”

Our community should be proud of the new county commissioners and their professionalism. Johnson City leaders can develop a fruitful relationship with them, but they must reverse the divisive tone expressed by the Johnson City School Board chair and approach with respect. If so, they too can participate in bonding productive relationships within our community.  It’s the right thing to do.