News of my High School Leaves More Questions Than Answers

I attended high school like pretty much any other kid in this country, though this high school was a little different. Founded as a private school by Tennessee’s WWI hero, Alvin York, it was later handed over to the State of Tennessee as the only general, state run high school in Tennessee1. York felt strongly that the rural children of Fentress County needed the opportunity for a sound education and this is how he chose to spend his good will earned fighting overseas. And so, the school was expanded and managed all on state funds since 1934.

At least, until last month. Apparently, with no warning, the state informed Fentress County – a rural county which has historically had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country – that they would need to begin paying for over $2 million of the school’s $5.5 million budget. Today, it seems, the picture has gotten even more grim for the children of Jamestown, Allardt, and surrounding areas in Fentress. The State Dept. of Education is handing out termination notices to all faculty and staff which are likely to go effective at the end of the term (May 2010). So, there are so many questions I have but no would appear to make the situation much better:

  • Who will own the school property and grounds? Will Fentress Co. be allowed to continue using this regardless of funding capabilities?
  • Is the termination of employees part of the $2 million cuts or is this in addition to those? That is, are the salaries what Fentress County Schools will need to find money for?
  • Why has this been done with no warning or plan? Can’t this be graduated over some period of time?

I’m sure there are many more questions, but right now it appears that either no one knows or they aren’t making it public. I urge anyone who gets credible information to inform the local and state news as soon as possible.

Here’s a quick calculation just to put some perspective, based on Wikipedia’s demographic data for the county:

  • The population of Fentress Co. is under 18,000, with 6,693 households (of which 4,818 are families) residing there.
  • If each household has to take the additional cost, that is $344 annually.
  • The average income level is $23,238 ($28,856 for families), which puts the school funds needed at 1.5% of the average income.
  • It’s also important to note that nearly one quarter of Fentress County lives below the poverty level (23.1%) and the unemployment rate is historically much higher than the national average.
  • It actually gets worse when you compare the median household income to the rest of the state. Fentress has a median family income of just $27,8742 where the state median family income is over one-and-half times as much ($43,614).
  1. Other state run high schools are for special needs children such as the blind or deaf. []
  2. In the county seat of Jamestown, where the high school is located, the median family income is a sickeningly low $15,149. []

One thought on “News of my High School Leaves More Questions Than Answers”

  1. Jason,
    Excellent job of explaining the situation and the state has not answered any of these questions. They say it will all be worked out..I know all the issues this raises can not possibility be taken care of by August… If YAI is dumped in the county’s lap it will be an economic disaster for for Fentress County and a negative effect on the whole county school system…well there is my two cents worth.

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