Knox Education Station News | Sep – December 2022

November 20, 2023

Issue 5: September 2022 – December 2022

The mission of the Knox Education Foundation is to be a catalyst for the transformation of public education by investing in and advocating for innovative programs, partnerships, and initiatives to achieve excellent outcomes for all students.

Knox Education Foundation continues to support collaborative efforts to overcome barriers, advance opportunities and empower all students. We hope you enjoy the updates highlighted in this issue of Knox Education Station.

Welcome Home to our New CEO – Mike Taylor

Michael Taylor's Headshot

On October 27, Knox Ed Board Chair Larsen Jay announced that Michael W. Taylor has agreed to serve as KEF’s Chief Executive Officer, effective January 2, 2023. Mike is a Knoxville native who grew up in Oak Ridge and is a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville from which he received a BS in Business Administration. Mike joins the Knox Education Foundation team after an extensive leadership role at the Henrico Education Foundation in Richmond, Virginia where he has served as CEO since 2014. Prior to that assignment, he served for six years as Executive Director of the Mountain Education Foundation in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Mike is both a Certified Education Foundation Leader (CEFL) and Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), and serves on the board of the National Association of Education Foundations.

Mike is a dynamic, results oriented champion for public schools and advocate for education reform, with an emphasis on innovation, opportunity and equity, especially for students from under- resourced communities. He is an exceptional relationship builder, with a long record of forging effective partnerships with school administrators, concerned citizens, parents, business leaders and elected officials to create initiatives aimed at transforming public education.

The KEF team welcomes home Mike, his wife Julie, a native of Chattanooga, and their three children: Mills, a senior at UT Knoxville and member of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band; Madeline, a senior in high school and Luke, a junior in high school.

Mike is excited to start on January 2nd and shared, “ am excited about working with the talented team at Knox Education Foundation (KEF) and returning to Knoxville. I have a passion for helping students reach their fullest potential and building partnerships that create impactful change. This is at the core of KEF’s mission and I look forward to partnering with the community to strengthen our public schools and ignite student learning.”

Project GRAD – Celebrando Nuestra Herencia

This fall, Fulton High School hosted its first ever Hispanic Heritage Assembly. Students, staff, and community members met throughout August and September to plan the event, with student input being the primary focus. Our theme was “Celebrando Nuestra Herencia,” which means “celebrating our inheritance”. The month kicked off with a Mini Latino College and Career Fair in the library, which featured Maryville College, Carson Newman University, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, UT Martin, UT Knoxville, and Pellissippi State Community College. We also had organizations such as Centro Hispano and Emerald Youth Foundation, to help students explore their future opportunities.

The next week was our school wide assembly, where our Fulton band played Latin music as students entered. Next, students proudly marched waving flags from countries that represent the student population at Fulton High School. The program featured guest speaker Patricia Robledo, who shared her involvement in the 1982 World’s Fair and her move to Knoxville all the way from Columbia. We also had inspiring remarks from returning Falcon, Ana Gutierrez, graduate of Berea College and current Project GRAD Advisory Board Member. Ana talked about her journey through college and the Golden Eagle scholarship titled after a poem she wrote when she was at Fulton High School. Lastly, Alexa Maqueo talked about here journey through college at Maryville College and the Equal Chance for Education Scholarship, and how students can apply. Alexa has since joined the Fulton GRAD team as a College and Career Coach. Sophomore Merly Jorge Diego read her Poem titled “Imigrantes” which she wrote this past summer during Project GRAD’s Pellissippi Summer Institute. The program also featured traditional and contemporary dance performances from Fulton students led by teacher Carmen Esparza and Fulton/GRAD Alum Luci Diego. We also had special singing performance of a song, “Preciosa,” by Naely Ortiz Lozada and her mom Kayra Lozada, who is a teacher at Northwest Middle School.

The month-long celebrations ended with an after-school fiesta conducted only in Spanish, featuring Loteria (Bingo), traditional food, drinks and candies, and a handmade piñata, by staff member Nancy Gonzalez Rodriguez’ mother, Olga Rodriguez!


Community Schools – Using Data to Guide the Strategy

One of the key components of the Community Schools strategy is our site-based need & asset assessment and the Community Schools team has spent this fall semester doing our first initiative wide assessment since before the pandemic. The team also conducted a parent access survey, seeking parent and guardian opinions on everything from their preferred methods of communication and school participation to the expanded enrichment opportunities and integrated student supports they would like for their students to be able to access. Currently 970 parents and guardians have participated from across 14 Community Schools. We look forward to conducting similar assessment with students, staff, partners, and community -at-large and are excited to be able to share and utilize this information going forward to better serve our families and communities in a more equitable, targeted way.

On November 14th, Cedars Springs Presbyterian Church worked with Food City to supply 500 Thanksgiving baskets across 15 Knox Ed schools, including 14 community schools. These baskets were delivered to each school through a helping hand from Knox County Parks & Rec, who supplied trucks and workers to deliver all 500 baskets. This initiative-wide effort, combined with local support from 13 faith-based and community organizations, served 872 families with a food basket for Thanksgiving.