Archive for: December 2015

Giving Pets As Gifts: Naughty Or Nice

By Jeff Ashin, CEO, Young-Williams Animal Center. Photo by: Young-Williams Animal Center



Your child has been asking for a new puppy for months. Now Christmas is coming and ‘new puppy’ is at the top of her wish list for Santa. Images of your child squealing with delight upon discovering a cute, cuddly puppy under the tree dance through your head. As a parent you’d love nothing more than to make her Christmas wish come true, but is it a good idea? Read more →

Holiday Calculations

By Mike O’Hern, Center Director of Mathnasium of West Knoxville



With the holidays coming soon, I naturally start thinking about math.  No, not really.  I start thinking about the birth of Christ, love and charity, family and friends, and Santa Claus, just like you.  But in this space I’m all about the math, so let’s get to it. Read more →

Conversing with Jack Neely

By Michael K. Smith, Ph.D.



“I think the Knoxville Mercury is the model for journalism in the 21st century,” Jack Neely told me over drinks one evening at Union Jacks. The Knoxville Mercury is a weekly independent newspaper started by Jack and his associates. “The Knoxville Mercury is an example of long-form journalism,” he continued, explaining that the articles can examine topics in much more depth that features usually found in most city newspapers. Recent issues, for instance, have explored in-depth candidate positions for the Knoxville City elections. Read more →

Reading Knoxville: The Tennessee Theatre

By Michael K. Smith, Ph.D.



“I grew up with the Tennessee Theatre,” writes Jack Neely in his magnificent book The Tennessee Theatre: A Grand Entertainment Palace. Covering not only his fifty years of experiences, this book also discusses the origins of the theatre in the 1920s, its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s, and the many declines and then subsequent renovations since the 1950s. The Tennessee Theatre is an entertaining exploration of Knoxville’s history. Read more →

Has Social Media Replaced The “Gift” Of Time

By Tracey Matthews Wynter, Supervisor of the Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department

Tweets, posts, tags, likes, pins, chats, PMs and snaps…just a few terms that describe how connected we have become in the 21st Century, but do we know how to disconnect in order to spend quality time with others?  Is social media actually making us more anti-social?  Is it time for a “digital detox?”

Social media and networking sites are playing an increasingly important role in our lives, especially with young people.  The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that children age 13-17 spend at least two hours a day on social networking sites, and more than 60 percent of these teenagers have at least one “profile” on social media.  Additionally, according to a recent Pew Research Center report, 57 percent of teenagers have met a new friend online.  Social media and online gameplay are the most common digital venues for meeting friends.

What happened to the good old days of sharing the “gift” of time with those with whom we are closest?  I know, I know…everyone is incredibly busy these days. Considering how technology has made our lives more automated and fast, we should actually have more time today than we’ve ever had in the past. Take, for example, the concept of a “drive-thru.”  Now, there are not only drive-thru restaurants, but drive-thru car washes, drive-thru markets, and even drive-thru zoos and wedding chapels. In Los Angeles, the Robert L. Adams Mortuary offers “drive-thru viewing” and displays the deceased in a glass window where loved ones can pay their respects from the street.  The Kocian Law Group in Connecticut offers drive-thru legal advice, and in Houston, Texas the Succeed in Life Center offers advice and prayers from a drive-thru window! This phenomenon is happening in many places so clearly, time is not the issue.  Making quality time for others, is.

Personally Reconnecting With Those We Love

Step 1:  List all optional activities in which you make time to enjoy (e.g., going to a movie theater, watching television, going out to dinner, surfing your social media pages or the Internet, reading for pleasure, listening to music, going shopping for fun, etc.).

Step 2:  Next to that list, list the virtual “friends” with whom you would like to more personally connect or reconnect.

Step 3: Once a week, perhaps, intentionally plan to exchange one of your optional activities for personally connecting with a significant friend or loved one with whom you have primarily relied on social media to maintain your relationship.

Alternatives to Social Media

Send an actual letter or card (rather than an e-card), and include phrases such as, “I made time for you. You are very important to me.” Send a few, and maybe start with those serving in the military.

Phone a friend – texting is great because we can go back and read messages as many times as we wish.  However, hearing someone’s voice can be even more special.

Surprise friends by planning a personal visit or make arrangements to spend quality time together.

When friends are ill or in the hospital, actually go and visit them and take a card, flowers or crossword puzzles to show your concern.

Take a small batch of baked good to your friends and neighbors who are not users of social media

Take Inventory

QualityTime is a relatively new app for Android smartphones that helps manage your “digital diet.”  It allows the user to monitor and get real time reports on how much time is spent on your smartphone, whether it be social media or other favorite apps.  It tracks total usage, screen unlocks and individual apps with hourly, daily and weekly summary reporting options.  Users will have the ability to curb habits by setting up time restrictions such as alerts, the “take-a-break” function and scheduled breaks.

Am I bashing social media networks?  Not at all!  Social media is one of the best connection tools we have on the planet.  We should use social media to enhance the personal relationships we already have…not replace them.

Please share your success stories, related tips, and/or topic suggestions for future articles by contacting Mrs. Tracey Matthews Wynter, Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department Supervisor, 865-594-9525, For more information and resources available to Knox County Schools’ students and families, please visit us online at



Coats for The Cold

Coats for the Cold is an annual community drive to collect thousands of coats for those in need in our communities. The 2015 distribution date is Saturday, December 5 at Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) Stores Clearance Center, 4302 Asheville Highway (in the Holston Shopping Center). If you would like to “give back” after receiving a coat, KARM will need volunteers to help pack up the remaining coats on December 7th and 8th.  Visit , select “Get Involved,” and then “Events,” for more details!

For additional local resources, contact Mrs. Tamekia Jackson, Knox County Schools Family Resource Center Director,, 865-594-1192.

Happy Holidays!

Tracey Matthews currently serves as Knox County Schools’ District-wide Family and Community Engagement Supervisor. In this position, Tracey has been entrusted with the responsibility to facilitate the district’s course toward building stronger and lasting partnerships between families, schools, and the community. For more information, please visit the Family and Community Engagement at

Dear Knox County Schools’ Families

By Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools

Gifts during the holiday season come in many shapes and sizes—some are expensive, some are priceless; some are store-bought, some are handmade—but the most important thing to focus on is giving meaningful, powerful gifts that will instill joy and positive memories for a lifetime. It makes me so proud and excited to think about the gifts we give students in the Knox County Schools every day in the form of time and education—these gifts help foster a life full of hope and opportunity. Read more →