‘Region 5 Way’ Sets Goals For Historic Schools In Knoxville

‘Region 5 Way’ Sets Goals For Historic Schools In Knoxville

Angel Bowman, a KCS Region 5 parent, stands in front of the new Lonsdale Elementary building. She has been an active member in the Lonsdale community for 21 years.

Angel Bowman, a KCS parent for 21 years and an active member of the Lonsdale community, received a phone call several months ago inviting her to give feedback about KCS Region 5.

“I have never been asked at the region level what I thought about anything,” Bowman said. “For the region to be asking makes me feel like they want to hear from the parents.”

Located in and around downtown Knoxville, Region 5 includes many historic schools with a strong educational legacy, but many students in this region also face unique challenges and obstacles to learning.

In December, KCS began work on a plan to strategically improve the 13 schools that comprise Region 5. This plan was built using community feedback from focus groups that included students, families, teachers, principals, and community leaders from different industries to create high-achieving goals and the action steps that are necessary to meet those goals. 

“I feel like the goals are high, but they are attainable with a lot of intentionality, dedication, and work,” said Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy Principal Robin Curry. “It is the work that is needed for our kids.”

The Region 5 Way established four main themes the strategic plan aims to reach: holding high academic expectations for all students, recruiting and retaining elite educators, providing career and college pathways for K-12 students, and establishing systems to meet whole-child needs for academic success. 

These major themes were divided into specific goals with ambitious and achievable actions, metrics, and milestones to meet the goals in the next five years. 

The initiative is being led by Region 5 Director Dr. Dexter Murphy and Supervisor Sallee Reynolds.

Murphy said it is important for the district to match the potential and talent of students in Region 5 with a compelling action plan.

“By setting ambitious, tangible goals and carefully measuring our progress toward them, the Region 5 Way will be our community’s transformative call to action,” he said.

And for the parents like Angel Bowman, it’s exciting to be part of the broader effort to bring change.

“We have some of the best and brightest minds here in our communities. We are raising and helping to develop the next generation of geniuses, so we need to have high expectations from an early age,” Bowman said. 

She added: “It feels like there is this group of people that are rallying around our kiddos and our community and our school. There feels like this overwhelming excitement of ‘we’re all going to do this together.’”

Knox County Schools is committed to highlighting the success stories of Region 5.
Know someone from KCS Region 5 that should be highlighted on
Hall Pass? Reach out to Kaleigh Cortez (kaleigh.cortez@knoxschools.org)!

Holston Show Choir Prepares For Summer Performance

Holston Show Choir Prepares For Summer Performance

Following a successful run of Moana Jr., the Holston Middle School Show Choir has begun rehearsals for their first summer performance of Matilda the Musical, a show made possible by a Tennessee Arts Commission grant.

Natalee Elkins, the HMS choral director and Show Choir director, and Taylor Branson, an HMS school counselor and Show Choir production coordinator, applied for the grant last year, and after a months-long application and interview process, they were finally able to bring their vision to life.

“We’ve had the rights for this show for three years. It was supposed to happen pre-COVID,” Elkins said. “We knew that if it was to come to fruition, we were going to need some outside funding. We applied for the grant last year, and, honestly, I don’t think we ever thought anything was going to come of it.”

With the additional funding from TAC, the Show Choir directors were able to open auditions to students, teachers, and even professors from across the county. Most of the cast attend schools in the KCS Regions Four and Five, including Holston, Beaumont, Belle Morris, Central, Fulton, Gibbs, Gresham, Shannondale, and Sterchi.

“We did what they call ‘non-traditional casting,’ which is where we are basically looking to not cast based on physical or ethnic traits. We are casting based on who we felt is best for the part,” Elkins said. “We have a diverse cast of kids coming from everywhere which is really fun.”

This unique opportunity has also allowed educators to grace the stage. Elkins and Branson have roles of their own in the musical, Holston Middle Principal Katie Lutton will play the beloved Ms. Honey, and even University of Tennessee math professor Jack Sturm joined the cast. 

“Something really neat about Jack – he’s the UT professor – he teaches math now, but he originally was going to be a theater major,” Branson said. “We’re going to use him as that college and career piece, like ‘Look, he has this other job, but he is still able to do this,’ which also ties into the 865 Academies.”

The Holston Show Choir has been performing for over 15 years, and its repertoire includes several condensed versions of popular Disney films. Prior to this season’s Moana Jr. performance, the group staged Into the Woods, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid, to name a few. 

Elkins and Branson are always brainstorming for the next show, but for now, all the focus is on Matilda. 

Tickets for Matilda the Musical are on sale now for July 7 – 9. Buy tickets here.

NEA Recognizes West Haven TA With ‘ESP Of The Year’ Award

NEA Recognizes West Haven TA With ‘ESP Of The Year’ Award

A West Haven Elementary staff member is earning time in the spotlight as the Tennessee Educational Support Professional (ESP) of the Year and will attend the National Education Association’s ESP Conference.

Patricia Jackson has been an ESP at West Haven for 23 years and has a heart for her students.

“I get really close to a lot of my kids,” Jackson said. “I’ve got kids in their 20s and 30s that still call me. I think it’s because I try to get really involved with the students that are the most needy. Those that just don’t have it anywhere else.”

Jackson initially applied to West Haven to be a secretary, but the then-principal offered her a TA position instead. As a former Big Sister for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and volunteer for her church’s kids’ ministry, she was happy to accept a position to work more closely with the students.

“I think they know I love them, and that’s very important,” she said. “Being a TA, I can do that more than the teacher. The teacher has a whole class. All of us TAs, we have that freedom to reach out a little more personally to these kids.”

Jackson also serves on the executive board of the KCEA as a classified staff member. She uses this platform to build up other TAs personally and professionally.

“I do try to get people involved because the more involved the TAs get, the more we have to work with,” Jackson said. “I’m trying to be a cheerleader for them.”

She hopes fellow ESPs recognize the importance of their jobs. 

“To other TAs everywhere, my advice would be to never, ever say, ‘my opinions aren’t important, I’m just the peon,’” she said. “Be proud of what you can be to your teachers and the students and look at it like, ‘Wow. They couldn’t do it without me.’”

Jackson travels to Seattle for the NEA ESP Conference from March 23-26 where she will attend workshops and networking events. The national ESP of the Year will be announced at a banquet for the state winners on Saturday.

Career-Themed Academies Revealed For First Cohort Of The 865 Academies

Career-Themed Academies Revealed For First Cohort Of The 865 Academies

Photo Credit: John Valentine

The first cohort of The 865 Academies revealed their new career-themed Academies at a celebration hosted by Central High School on Thursday.

The 865 Academies initiative launched in the fall of 2022, and is designed to transform the high school experience in Knox County. The goal is for every KCS graduate to be prepared for enrolling in postsecondary studies; enlisting in service to their country; or finding employment in a high-wage, high-skill, and in-demand profession, with an entrepreneurial mindset.

By establishing career-themed academies, the initiative will create small learning communities within larger schools, allowing students to participate in career exploration activities and take a deep dive into areas of interest while also building strong connections with teachers and other students.

“We’ve got to prepare students, and school systems are uniquely positioned to do that,” said Superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk. “Our job is to have students prepared for when they graduate.”

The celebration was attended by community leaders and industry partners, including Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, who said 865Ready graduates will ultimately benefit Knox County and East Tennessee. 

“This is just wonderful to see a really intentional, strategic effort to in some ways customize the student experience,” Jacobs said. “They get the tools and the skills that they need to excel in areas that they’re either naturally drawn to or things that they love.”

Gordon Heins, the president and chairman of the A.G. Heins Company, said industry partnerships positively impact both organizations and students. By working together, KCS students are provided valuable opportunities for work-based learning and career exploration.

“As an employer, we want students to come to us looking for good-paying jobs, and that they’re prepared, and they have the tools,” he said.

Central High School is in the first cohort of The 865 Academies, and Principal Dr. Andrew Brown said student performance in Algebra I has improved, while discipline referrals are down.”

Brown credited Freshman Seminar, a new class that focuses on helping 9th-graders identify interests, aptitudes and professional skills, adding that “we are already beginning to see great results out of that work.

CHS senior Justus Hayes was involved in the early stages of launching the Academies initiative, and is also an entrepreneur. He started his own business, Blended Clothing, and during the ceremony presented shirts to several local leaders. 

“Entrepreneurship is a very important thing to me. I love creating, and bringing new apparel and things to our generation,” Hayes said. “It has been my honor to help build and show my support for something that will impact our current and future generations.”

Student Ambassadors from each school presented their new Academies alongside their principals. Below are the Academies for the first cohort.


Carter High School and South-Doyle High School will be joining The 865 Academies as the second cohort in the fall.

For more information on The 865 Academies, visit knoxschools.org/academies.