By Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools
Welcome back to school! I am thrilled that our schools are bustling again with effective teaching and high-level learning. As I visit the schools, I’m impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism demonstrated by our teachers and principals and the bright optimism shared by students and parents.
Each year, we have multiple and daily reasons to celebrate, and this year is already proving to be the same. On August 3, the Knox County Schools made history when it was named an Exemplary District by the Tennessee Department of Education. We are the first large metropolitan school district to ever earn this distinction from the state.
I was honored to be joined by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen and other special guests to make this announcement during a festive celebration held in the new Carter Middle School gymnasium. To earn the Exemplary distinction, the Knox County Schools significantly improved student performance and narrowed achievement gaps for students in the 2014-2015 school year. More details about those achievements are at knoxschools.org.
Gov. Haslam, Dr. McQueen and I also shared the honor of naming the 2014-2015 Reward Schools, which are in the top five percent for annual growth or the top five percent for academic achievement under Tennessee’s accountability system.
Six schools in the Knox County Schools earned the Reward School designation:
Carter High School (Reward School for Progress)
Carter Middle School (Reward School for Progress)
Copper Ridge Elementary School (Reward School for Progress)
Gap Creek Elementary School (Reward School for Performance)
Farragut High School (Reward School for Performance)
Sequoyah Elementary School (Reward School for Performance)
And just to celebrate a little more: Farragut High School has earned the Reward School distinction for three consecutive years, and Sequoyah Elementary School has earned the honor for four years in a row! These are outstanding educational outcomes, and our continued academic progress is a testament to the exceptional teaching and learning that are taking place within our schools.
On August 3, the Knox County Schools made history when it was named an Exemplary District by the Tennessee Department of Education.
I want to express my appreciation to the Carter High School Marching Band and the Carter High and Carter Middle schools cheerleaders for elevating the excitement during the celebration on Aug. 3. This is the level of enthusiasm with which we enter the 2015-2016 school year, and I believe it will only become stronger as we work toward Excellence for Every Child.
To reach that level of excellence for each of our students, we continually seek ways to personalize education, and one way to do that is through technology. I was thrilled earlier this month to announce that two of our middle schools, Bearden and Carter, have been selected to participate in the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program directed by Digital Promise. Through this program, each student in these schools receives an Apple iPad Air 2 tablet and a free data plan for two years to ensure connectivity when students are using their devices at home. I’m thankful to Verizon and Digital Promise for their support of education.
While celebrating our enthusiastic start of school, it’s important to share a reminder about safety. Along with our law enforcement partners, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Knoxville Police Department, we urge our parents and others to drive slowly and responsibly in school zones and neighborhoods and watch for pedestrians and school buses.
Safety on our school buses is of utmost importance. Earlier this month, I announced enhancements we will begin implementing this fall to increase the safety of our school buses. These enhancements include additional annual training for bus drivers; a safety check ride system; two-camera video systems on all buses; and a review of our transportation program. These measures along with our established stringent safety protocols will help ensure every child is safe in transport to and from school each day.
As students return to classrooms, let’s make it a point to celebrate the numerous achievements we experience each day in the Knox County Schools. Have a wonderful school year!