Knox Education Station News | August – November 2021

November 20, 2023

Over 150 Community Members Join Together to Reimagine the High School Experience Knox Education Foundation convened over 150 students, parents, community partners, business members, post-secondary institutions, and Knox County Schools employees on October 20th to start a conversation to reimagine the high school experience for all KCS students. For the first five months of 2021, Ford Next Generation Learning, in partnership with Knox Ed, held virtual focus groups with KCS staff, students, and parents to evaluate the strengths and needs of our high schools.

The Knox County Board of Education then voted to move forward with Phase 2 and Phase 3 of this work through funding from Knox Education Foundation. At the October 20th Visioning Session at the Change Center, Ford NGL consultants led the district and community through Phase 2, a day-long process to learn what this reimagining has looked like in other districts, and what it might look like with KCS. The various stakeholders provided input on the “why” for this work for Knoxville and also compiled qualities they would like to see considered in the portrait of a KCS graduate. Phase 3 of this work is to have three Master Planning Sessions. On November 9th, at the first Master Planning Session at the Boys and Girls Club, stakeholders learned more about the Ford NGL academy model and the benefits to students. Sixteen tactical teams were formed to work on the implementation plan for KCS. Stay tuned for updates on the official “Why Statement,” Portrait of a Graduate, and the implementation plan, which will be finalized through the last two Master Planning Sessions on December 7th and January 11th.

The Boyd Foundation announced a donation of $650,000 on September 21st to improve Green Magnet Academy’s outdoor space. This announcement was supported by Knox Education Foundation. Students and staff were able to provide ideas and suggestions for this space, which included an outdoor classroom, a performance space, and an area for athletics. The new design will allow several upgrades to the schools existing .75 acre outdoor space to help create authentic learning experiences with STEM integration. “Reimagining our outdoor space will be a huge blessing to our students, and I am very thankful to the Boyd family’s willingness to invest in the GMA school community,” says Jessica Holman, principal of GMA. Knox Ed will help facilitate the completion of this project, and it is estimated to be completed by the fall of 2022.

Knox Education Foundation is piloting the use of Talking Points, the only two-way communication app, at 17 Knox County Schools school sites. This app automatically translates messages between families and teachers and has had great success in helping schools communicate with all families, including ESL families, since Knox Ed helped launch it in August 2021. One teacher from Whittle Springs Middle School writes, “Talking points has been indispensable this year.” At Lonsdale Elementary, teachers have seen the benefits of Talking Points through dramatically improved communication with their non-English speaking families, particularly through voice-to-text, surveys, and the ability to send last-minute updates and changes. Some families that the staff have never met before have come in to ask for help in downloading the app because of its success with other families. Since August, families and staff have sent over 343,000 messages.

Knox Education Foundation is currently supporting Knox County Schools in the final phase of the interview process for the Youth Educator Program Teacher Liaison. This position will support the First Horizon Grow-Your-Own Teacher Pipeline with $120,000 over three years, given to Knox Ed by the First Horizon Foundation. Through the First Horizon Grow-Your-Own Teacher Pipeline, KCS and Knox Ed aim to support, recruit, and increase the number of Teachers of Color (TOC) in our schools. The Teacher Liaison will organize workshops, training sessions, and collaborative initiatives featuring guest speakers for Austin-East, Central, and Fulton High Schools. The hope through this partnership is to provide students who are interested and invested in education with experiences and opportunities in Knoxville so these students will become future educators in our district.