Sunday, August 24 2014 12:56 AM EDT2014-08-24 04:56:42 GMT
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JAMESTOWN (WATE) - All staff members at the Alvin C. York Institute in Jamestown got pink slips Thursday, according to school Superintendent Phil Brannon.
The issue is over who's funding the school. The state of Tennessee, not Fentress County, provides the funding.
However, in the classroom, York Institute operates like other public high schools.
To help trim the state's budget, Gov. Phil Bredesen proposed in February transferring funding responsibility to Fentress County.
Brannon said when he learned that, he was optimistic the funding would return with the help of state lawmakers.
The superintendent was in Nashville Wednesday when he first learned about the terminations. "I was not expecting it at all, and I said okay, how do you want to do this?"
Superintendent Brannon said it was hard telling his staff they were going to be terminated.
"Some of them cried. Some of them said it's going to be okay. Some of them are preparing resumes. What choice do they have?" Brannon says. "We are dealing with the unknown."
York Institute employees 94 faculty and staff members. Several of them belong to the teacher's union.
The institute is the largest high school in Fentress County. If it closes, students wouldn't have anywhere else to go. There's only one other high school in the county, and it's already full.
"We feel very strongly. We are a living memorial to all veterans. That is what this school is about, and the promise was made and we think the promise ought to be honored," Brannon says.
Brannon has been on the phone several times with the Fentress County director of schools, but there's no money to pay the $2.3 million needed to keep York Institute open.
There's always the possibility the governor could give the institute a new budget. The staff will continue to work until the end of this fiscal year on June 30.
Six hundred students attend the institute.
Along with the standard curriculum, York Institute offers a JROTC program and a career and technical program including classes in automotive work, agriculture, construction, nursing and digital design.
World War I hero Sgt. Alvin C. York established the school in 1926 to provide education he felt was denied to Fentress County students.
York raised part of the funds from private sources and solicited the state legislature for the rest. Classes started in 1929.
From 1926 to 1937, the school operated privately.
In 1937, the state legislature placed the school under the control of the state Board of Education and assumed the responsibility for its funding.