Innovation parent Academy open | Latest Headlines

A local parent leading an 11th-hour effort to prevent and close a school closure in Sullivan County.

This spring, Heather Imburgia’s son Declan finished sixth at the Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, and sixth- to eighth-grade science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) school in Blountville.

This August, Declan will have to approve the funding for the academy, as passed by the school board this month.

Imburgia says that it was not enough time for the school to close, and that it could be more open to funding.

“I just have the complexities of budgeting and focusing on budgeting,” Imburgia said. “We would have had community support – we are having community support.”

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Last Saturday, Imburgia launched an online petition calling on the Sullivan County Board of Education to reverse its decision to close the academy, although she admits it’s a longshot.

“What we need for the board is that it is technically open, so that we can apply for grants and funding,” Imburgia said. “I know that’s difficult and probably not, but that’s what we’re asking for.”

So far, the petition has more than 400 signatures and two dozen comments from signees.

“Cutting IA only hurts our children,” wrote Catherine Ellis on the Change.org page about why she signed the petition. “We need to focus our investments on them, not strip them of these opportunities.”

“I should be supported,” remarked Nancy Pierce. “It should be the crown of the school system, not shut down.”

What the Innovation Academy also does for the kids is that it provides students with the benefit of parents like Imburgia;

“A traditional classroom setting for these types of students hasn’t always been successful,” Imburgia said. “(The academy) is a real gem and could be an incredibly successful program.”

The budget for the academy, which was located at Sullivan Central Middle, was about $ 425,000, according to Imburgia, who said it enrolled 75 kids.

One school board member – Paul Robinson – voted against approving the budget.

School Board Chairman

“The Innovation Academy Program closed when the BOE (board of education) approved the GP (general purpose) budget on June 6, 2022. The closure was one of several cost saving cuts made,” Jones wrote in an email. “The 2022-2023 budget is about $ 4 million less than the 2021-2022 budget. Without increased revenues, there is no money available to reinstitute any reductions in the GP budget approved by the BOE. “

The budget has not yet been approved by the Sullivan County Commission, but Mayor Richard Venable said Thursday that it is likely to be approved sometime in early July at a full commission meeting. Venable noted cutting the grant funding was not a decision made by the commission.

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