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Board recognizes teachers, students

Recognizing students and teachers was at the top of the agenda for the regularly scheduled meeting of the Unicoi County Board of Education on Thursday, April 9.
The board first recognized students Carter Powers, Laura Rogers and Emily Williams and chaperones Renea Jones Rogers, Ruth Gaines and Bill Gaines for participating in the recent 2015 Student Congress on Policies in Education (SCOPE) conference hosted by the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) in Nashville during March.
According to the TSBA website, SCOPE “brings together 9th-12th grade students from across the state to discuss current topics in education. Participants will explore education issues through mock school board meetings, group discussions, and debates with their peers. These events are designed to give students an understanding of how school boards operate.”
Jones Rogers said the opinions expressed by the students during the conference are compiled into a report which is shared with members of the Tennessee Legislature and school boards across the state.
“They get to weigh in on issues that affect education,” Jones Rogers also said.
Ruth Gaines praised Unicoi County’s representatives for their participation.
“I was very blessed to get to go with three wonderful representatives,” she added. “I was enthralled with their intelligence, their maturity and their friendliness to people.”
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Recognized next were the members of the Unicoi County High School mock trial team for finishing seventh out of 16 teams during their recent state competition. Being recognized by the board were team members Chandra Edwards, Jacob Ingram, Ethan Kistler, Alex Lamie, Adam Larkey, Rachel Lynch, Dara Carney-Nedelman, Carter Powers, Jared Sanchez, Osiris Vazquez and Aurora Whitson, teacher sponsor Donna Seagroves and coaches Sarah Shults and Lois Shults Davis.
“This is a fabulous group of students representing Unicoi County,” Shults said. “They were assigned a mock case to learn and worked from November through our first competition in late February.”
Prior to the state competition, Shults said the team won the region competition for the first time in more than a decade. She said the seventh place state finish was an achievement.
“We went against schools with more than 1,000 students,” Shults continued. “We went against private academies. We had an unlucky draw in that we faced last years second-place and third-place teams. … We were the only team east of Chattanooga to finish in the top 10.”
Shults said that Carney-Nedelman was awarded third place for best witness at the state competition. Powers was chosen as the team’s MVP.
Shults Davis said the highest finish by a UCHS team was fourth in 1998. This was the second consecutive year the UCHS team finished seventh.
“There is a tremendous amount of talent on this team,” she added. “… These are fine young people and they did a tremendous job. We are so proud of them.”
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Interim Director of Schools Tommy Clouse then recognized the school system’s teachers of the year.
“This is a tremendous thing to be nominated by your peers,” he said.
Winning for grades Pre-K through fourth was intermediate school instructional coach Misty Bright. Winning for grades five through eight was fifth grade teacher Natalie Bishop. Donna Seagroves, English and French teacher at Unicoi County High School, won for grades nine through 12.
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Following the recognitions, the board also unanimously voted to adopt textbooks for the 2015-2016 school year. According to information shared by Clouse during the meeting, textbooks for grades Kindergarten through three will cost the system $97,674. These are consumable, paper textbooks because these grades do not use iPads.
Grades four through eight use iPads for digital textbooks. Because of this, the cost of the textbooks in these grades is less than the Kindergarten through third grade textbooks.
Clouse said the textbooks for fourth and fifth grades will cost $15,830; digital textbooks for sixth, seventh and eighth grades will cost $69,342.
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The board also unanimously approved the Community Eligibility Provision.
Prior to the vote, Clouse said this is a pilot program for Unicoi Elementary. This school is eligible, he added, because of its free and reduced lunch rate and will allow the school to serve lunch free to all students, beginning on May 1 of this school year and all of the 2015-2016 school year.
“We have the ability, if this doesn’t go well, to back out of it,” Clouse added, “but, I don’t see how it could keep from going well. … Having free breakfast and free lunch at this school for everyone, nobody knows anything about anyone else’s economics now – they all eat free. It is a great step for us.”
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In other business:
The board approved a trip to Chattanooga from April 19-22 for Skills USA students to participate in a competition.
The board also approved auto services students traveling to Nashville on May 6-7.
A resolution was passed for the system to adopt the Look Back Measurement Safe Harbor under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.