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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Cocke schools talk safety
The Cocke County School Board spent time Thursday evening talking about school safety in the wake of the recent shooting in Florida which claimed the lives of 17. Assistant Director Casey Kelly said he personally goes over safety precautions with all new faculty and state law mandates an annual "active intruder" drill at all schools within 30 days of the new term. "What we have to implore our facilty, staff and students to do is, if they see or hear something, to say something." He pointed out that the Florida shooter had earlier been reported to law enforcement. " We cannot control Washington or Nashville, but what we can control is Cocke County. And what we do is everytime an incident is reported, we take it seriously and it is investigated. Kelly said if a student makes a gun threat, a home visit is made to insure the individual making the threats does not have access to a firearm. And then the student is disciplined. Kelley added that it is most difficult to protect the school from those who have a reason to be in the facility. Director Manny Moore said he expects there will be action by governmental agencies to better address the gun violence issue. The board then voted to require all schools to address the "active shooter" issue on a monthly basis. Kathy Holt brought the board up to date on the program funded by Save the Children. She said the organization sponsors activities at eight local elementary schools. The organization pays the salaries of about a dozen employees and contributes about $900,000 annually in salaries and programs. More than 400 students are served in the county. The board considered bids from two firms for Phase 1 of the plan to upgrade the auditorium of the Cocke County High School, as part of the 100th, anniversary of the school. Member Dr. Ken Johnson made a motion to accept the $159,672 bid from Brockwell Construction of Newport, although the bid was nearly $11,000 more than the bid of Trademark Construction of Bristol. He argued that Brockwell is a local firm, employees lots of Cocke County residents and that the school system has had a good experience with the firm in the past. As a result, the board voted unanimously to accept the Brockwell bid. The entire project is expected to cost upwards of $2 million, and the school board has contributed $50,000 for the first phase with contributions from the community supplying the rest of the cost. Director Moore pointed out that the system recently paid off one of it's loans. Because there are lots of education needs around the county, the board is expected to meet to prioritize the projects. Members agreed to a plan to install lighting at the Cosby softball field if the project comes in under $25,000. Banks of lights have been donated by Heritage High School, and Newport Utilities and TVA also are making contributions. Kelly reported that a school/industry summit is planned for February 27 at 11 am at the Cocke County CTE center. Participants will discuss ways the school can assist the employment needs of area industry.

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