The staff of Rock Creek Elementary gather at last week’s Unicoi County School Board meeting to receive recognition for being designated a Tennessee Reward School. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Unicoi County Board of Education voted unanimously to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with Unicoi County for a capital projects bond during a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Sept. 12.

“The board of education has committed to funding these projects with our sales tax that we receive,” Director of School John English said.

During a meeting of the Unicoi County Commission in April, the panel voted to approve a resolution for capital projects for the Unicoi County Board of Education for up to $5 million.

During a Unicoi County Budget and Finance Committee meeting in April, Stephens Inc. Senior Vice President of Public Finance Ashley McAnulty laid out a number of scenarios for the capital improvements plan, which includes work at Gentry Stadium and the Unicoi County High School track.

According to McAnulty’s report, the county could accept roughly $5 million without a property tax increase. Repayment would be funded through sales tax and would be paid back in 20 years. Other projects that will be addressed in future phases include upgrades to the UCHS track, installing tennis courts at UCHS, an HVAC replacement and electrical and plumbing updates to Rock Creek Elementary.

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Also last week, the Unicoi County Board of Education recognized Rock Creek Elementary for being designated by the state as a Reward School.

According to English, Reward Schools are those that are improving overall student academic achievement and student growth for all students and for student groups, and they are identified annually.

“The designation is awfully special,” English said. “There are only a certain number of schools in the state that receive that designation. So on behalf of the board, we want to say how proud we are of you and your dedication to the children of Rock Creek.”

Staff from Rock Creek were on hand to be recognized and Rock Creek Elementary Principal Dr. Kevin Graham addressed those in attendance.

“We are very excited about how our school year has started,” Graham said. “Right now we have around 190 students, 20 full-time teachers, nine support staff members, one administrator and one school resource officer.”

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Also during last week’s meeting, the board nominated officers for the 2019-20 school year. Board member Tyler Engle was again selected as chairman of the board after being nominated by board member Glenn Fisher.

“Thank you all. It’s an honor to continue to serve,” Engle said.

Board member Steve Willis was named vice chairman and Steve Scott was named athletic council representative.

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Supervisor of Elementary Curriculum Jennifer Lingerfelt gave the board an update on the Aspire Book Bus and its outreach last week.

“We have just completed a literacy walk, and every time we do one, the representatives are so impressed with our staff,” Lingerfelt said. “During summer camp we had a total of 46 students that attended and 15 of those are rising first graders, 18 are rising second graders and 13 are rising third graders, and attendance was 89 percent.”

In a final order of business, the board heard an update from Unicoi County student Zach Thompson and his trip to Governor’s School for future teachers.

“I had the opportunity to attend the Governor’s School for prospective teachers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and it was fully paid for,” Thompson said. “I was fortunate enough to be one of 24 students to attend and I received three hours of college credit for attending.”

According to English, if Thompson keeps it up, he will be on the board of education before long.

“Zach will be up here and I’m afraid it will be up here in my spot, so I am seeing how many more years I have before he takes my spot,” English said with a smile.