Knox Education Station News | March – May 2022

November 20, 2023

Issue 4: June 2022 – August 2022

This newsletter highlights the work of Knox Ed over the past three months. We have celebrated the success of many students and partners, along with initiatives that support success for all students.

March 2022

03/08 Partner Appreciation Breakfast

On March 8th, Knox Education Foundation held a Partner Appreciation Breakfast to honor all the community stakeholders that support the Community Schools initiative. The impact that the partners have contributed to the Community Schools initiative has allowed students, schools, families, and communities to continue to receive the support they need, even through a pandemic.

During the 2020-2021 school year, the Community Schools initiative has invested over $11 million into seventeen Community Schools in Knox County. Over 270 partners have supported 6,679 students to become engaged, supported, and empowered through over 1 million aftercare hours, 23,959 extended enrichment supports, and 22,484 integrated student supports. Knox Ed is grateful for Mayor Kincannon, Mayor Jacobs, board members Scott Broyles and Dr. Wise, Principal Desiree Jones and Principal Brandon Pratt, Coordinators Lizzie Gaver and Olivier Muhire, and Director of Community Schools Adam Fritts for expressing to the partners that without them, this impact would not exist.

See more about the Community Schools initiative, including a “thank you” video from our schools :

April 2022

04/10 Project GRAD 20th Anniversary Scholars Celebration Dinner & Telethon

On April 10th, Knox Ed held the 20th Anniversary Project GRAD Scholars Celebration Dinner. This was the celebration of 130 Austin-East and Fulton High School Project GRAD Scholars who fulfilled their scholarship requirements during their four years in high school.

It was also a celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Project GRAD initiative and 20 years of service from Ms. Ronni Chandler, Executive Director of Project GRAD. Ms. Chandler has given her love and dedication to the students of Knox County, and her devotion to the mission is appreciated by every staff, student, and parent that is involved with Project GRAD. In honor of her, the “Caught Doing Right for Kids Award” that is traditionally given has now been renamed the “Vrondelia “Ronni” Chandler Award” and was presented to her at the dinner.

In addition, the Telethon raised $80,100 during #GRADWeekKnox to help “Fulfill Our Promise” to the class of 2025. Thank you to everyone in the community who supports this event each year!

May 2022

05/02 One Book Read City Kick Off

May 2nd was the official kick off for One Book Read City, an initiative in collaboration with the Knox County government, Knox County Schools, and supported by the Knox County Public Library. The goal of One Book Read City was to bring the community together through literacy and to get kids excited about reading through a community-wide reading initiative.

All 33,000 kindergarten through fifth grade students in KCS schools received a copy of “The Chocolate Touch” and participated in reading the book as a Knox County community. All throughout the month of May, schools planned activities, students could participate in a city-wide scavenger hunt, and the library celebrated the initiative at their Celebration of Reading event on May 21st. The entire community was invested in this initiative and made it a great experience for all students. The inaugural year for One Book Read City was a big hit, and next year will be even bigger and better.

05/04 Designation Day

On May 4th, Knox County Schools celebrated the district’s designation as a Ford Next Generation Learning (Ford NGL) community, an important step in the ongoing effort to transform the high school experience for students. Career-themed academies will be created in seven pilot high schools, known as The 865 Academies. The 865 Academies will change the experience for students by giving them stronger connections between classroom knowledge and workplace success through authentic, work-based learning; job shadowing and other career exploration activities; and close experience with professionals in their field of interest

“As we focus on student-centered learning, one of our district’s top priorities is to ensure that KCS graduates are prepared for success in a career or in college,” said incoming superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk. “By launching The 865 Academies in our high schools, we will equip students with the relevant support and structures they need, while also leveraging the expertise and resources of area employers.”

“We believe in collaboration to overcome barriers, advance opportunities, and empower all students,” said Chris Letsos, CEO of Knox Education Foundation. “The reimagination of high schools through The 865 Academies will provide every student in Knox County the opportunity to be successful in college, career, and life.”

Throughout the past year, Knox Ed has convened together Knox County Schools staff, the Knox County Government, the City of Knoxville, and multiple other stakeholders to work with Ford NGL to reimagine the high school experience for students in Knox County. Ford NGL evaluated the strengths and needs of KCS high schools, and now these stakeholders have developed a master plan that will move the 865 Academies forward.

05/14 TEC Fellowship Graduation

Knox Ed funded the first Knox County specific cohort of Tennessee Educators of Color (TEC) Fellows during the 2021-2022 school year.

The TEC Fellowship is a year-long leadership development program for educators of color looking to grow in advocacy, policy, and community engagement. For the duration of the Fellowship, participants design and implement an intervention based on an issue they’ve identified. They are supported through this process with mentorship, strategic programming, and curriculum.

Dr. Diarese George, the executive director for the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance, said at the start of this partnership, “We are excited to partner with Knox Education Foundation to support local change agents and advocates in Knox County. We know the value of what an increased diverse educator workforce can mean to school systems and the students being served in them, and we are honored to support this work in the district.”

Twelve Knox County educators graduated from the TEC Fellowship on Saturday, May 14th. The graduates are Nikki Baker, Nicole Black, Verónica Calderón-Speed, Chris Douglass, Derek Griffin, Kristin Lane-Burrows, Christina Leeth, Victoria Peña, Cindy Sanford, Tia Shack, Skikila Smith, and Bixiao Zhao.

The inaugural program will continue for future years.