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.’”
Students and teachers at Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event on Monday as they welcomed First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as part of their national tour of schools.
Biden and Cardona, alongside Principal Robin Curry, visited the classroom of second-year teacher Kaitlyn Baker to meet students.
“When the press came in, all the students went silent,” Baker said, laughing. “But then the First Lady came in, and she really filled the space in the room and was building relationships with the students.”
Principal Curry said classroom visits are a natural part of a typical student learning walk.
“It was just awesome to be able to let her see our kids working hard and our teachers work on foundational literacy,” Curry said.
Biden also spoke with teachers in a small roundtable about educational support.
Farragut Intermediate special education teaching assistant Karol Harper discussed her experience entering the field through Tennessee’s unique Grow Your Own initiative, the state’s apprenticeship plan for preparing professionals transitioning into teaching positions.
The program was a major focus during Biden’s visit to the University of Tennessee later that day.
But the classroom visit and roundtable weren’t the only items on the agenda at Sarah Moore Greene. Biden and Curry had a surprise in store for the staff. Together, they unveiled a renovated lounge space featuring a calming color palette and comfortable furniture.
“I’m just grateful,” educational assistant Rachel Rodgers said. “To be able to go somewhere and sit and recharge and to enjoy your lunch. It’s a blessing to be able to have that.”
The new space has also helped to build community between teachers.
“Before, third grade teachers would sit with third grade. Fourth grade would sit with fourth grade,” Baker said. “But I’ve gotten to talk with other teachers too because we have a common space for when we don’t have students with us.”
All in all, Principal Curry hopes this visit inspires a long-lasting change in the community.
“I’m just hoping that we continue to focus on the great things that our community has, with our school being one of them,” Curry said.
The First Lady and Secretary of Education continued their tour with stops in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
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