KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The next superintendent of Knox County School has been chosen following a lengthy search effort. Board members cast votes Tuesday and chose to offer Dr. Jon Rysewyk the job.

Wednesday, Rysewyk stopped by the WATE studios to discuss his plans for the future.

Below you can read a full transcript of his discussion with WATE Anchor Lori Tucker:

Tucker: All right, you know this by now. Knox County has a new school superintendent. The decision was made last night by the school board and it’s the current Assistant Superintendent Dr. John Ryswyk who’s with us now. Congratulations. 

Ryswyk: Well, thank you so much. Excited to be here. 

Tucker: You’ve been making the rounds, are you tired yet? Has it sunk in? 

Ryswyk: You know, I think it is a lot of adrenaline. … The interview process last week was a very strongly vetted process. So I think we would kind of get used to it then and I think just going off adrenaline now but super excited about it. 

Tucker: There you go and you got a few months to prepare, that’s for sure. 

Ryswyk: That’s true.  

Tucker: I’ve got to ask you this. Last night’s vote was not unanimous, and you’ve worked with the school board in your current position. What does that tell you about how you need to proceed with the school board? 

Ryswyk: Well, I mean I would say first of all I mean to me, you know, it’s kind of all water under the bridge and I’m moving forward with what we’re going to do for students. I know all nine of these people, and I know that their heart is for students, and I know that that’s something we all agree on, and so I think there’s a lot of common ground for us to move forward and work together.

Tucker: You’ve been here the last two years, especially, incredibly tough on kids, families, teachers. You’ve been in the trenches as a teacher. What would you have done differently had you been in that top job during that time? 

Ryswyk: You know, I think that’s tough because I think you know no one predicts or is ready for something like COVID. You know, and those kinds of things that happen so. 

You know, I applaud what Mr. Thomas has done, what our school board has done to really stay committed to keeping schools open. We know schools are important and being live and at school, every day is important for the academic side but also for feeding and for relationships and for all the other pieces that the teachers and principals do every day. 

You know, I just applaud their effort, that they were nimble enough to try to get that done. That we were able to stay open for the most part with just some small closures.  

Tucker: Tough time for everybody, that’s for sure. You’ve been talking about this ninth-grade math algebra. Fewer than 10% of minority kids are considered proficient. We’ve got problems with third-grade reading levels, what are your plans for that? 

Ryswyk: Yeah, I mean definitely. I think what’s unique about Knoxville is that the problem is solvable. 

You know, sometimes you get in very large cities where that’s a little harder to do, but I think the fact that it is something we can get our arms around. I think that it’s additional supports. 

It’s making sure that our teachers have the training and materials and again the supports that they need and the principles to do that. So, I think we’re going to have to be innovative in some areas and find some partners to come along with us to build out a plan that’s sustainable over many years. 

Because that’s what it takes, it doesn’t just happen during their senior year of high school. It happens from kindergarten on. 

Tucker: Oh, that’s the truth, you got to get them early. What about getting good teachers and keeping them? That’s the key, people are having trouble all over.  

Ryswyk: Sure. You know, I think some of the name of the games has changed a little bit. Before, you know, we could go to teacher recruitment fairs and they’d get your pencil and they sign up. You’re kind of looking for certain people.  

So, now you know what we see, the educational prep providers and universities really aren’t turning out that many teachers anymore. So we have to be innovative again and thinking of other ideas to do that.  

We have some programs that are “grow your own” programs where especially like Fulton, Austin-East, and Central. We’re trying to identify future teachers before they graduate high school and try to follow them throughout and bring them back.  

I think, also, we’re seeing it’s easier to become a teacher with some of the ways the states are changing things, so that, I’ll say that for people who have degrees and are interested in doing that, we probably have a pathway for you to get there. 

Tucker: You heard that. OK, let’s end with this, your dad and as I mentioned, a former teacher, what promise can you make to our kids here in Knox County? 

Ryswyk: You know, I promise you that we’ll do everything we can and wake up every day thinking about that. 

We understand that important role. You know, we’re the one organization in the whole community that is charged with getting students ready for life after high school, so that they’ll be ready to be successful if they enlist, if they enroll, or if they go straight to employment. 

That’s something we take very seriously, and that’s something we take seriously every day.  

Tucker: Dr. John Ryswyk, appreciate it. Thank you very much. And a reminder, current Superintendent Bob Thomas will be retiring in June. We’ll see Dr. Ryswyk at the helm coming up in July.