Knox County Schools community task force one of multiple groups providing feedback for fall reopening plan

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Update: On Tuesday, June 16 Knox County Schools announced a change of date for the first Community Task Force meeting later this month. The Community Task Force for school reopening has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24 at Sarah Simpson Professional Development Center – Great Room, 801 Tipton Ave., 37920.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Multiple groups and points-of-view are being taken into consideration to determine what the upcoming school year will look like, according to Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas.

One of those groups, the community task force, is a third party group that will review the online surveys available to KCS families.

The task force consists of 9 members chosen by a school board member to represent their district. The chairman of the task force, chosen by Thomas.

Dr. Jerry Askew, the president of the Alliance for Better Nonprofits will work with the community task force members, who are:

  • District 1: Rev. Sam Brown, Pastor at Logan Temple
  • District 2: Joan Grim, University of Tennessee Theory & Practice in Teacher Education
  • District 3: Melanie Craig, PTSO Board Member
  • District 4: Jonathon Fortner, President of Sequoyah Elementary Foundation
  • District 5: Susie Carr, KCS Parent/PTSO Board Member
  • District 6: Michelle Pickler, Community/School Volunteer
  • District 7: Rob Cummings, KCS Parent/School Administrator
  • District 8: Steve Hunley, Publisher/Local Business Owner, and
  • District 9: Brannan Gillenwater, KCS Parent/Local Business Owner.

“There’s been some criticism about there not being educators or healthcare professionals on the task force, but that’s not what we were asked to do. We were asked to pick someone in the community,” Kristi Kristy, District 9 School Board Member, said.

Kristy said her choice, Brannan Gillenwater, was important because he was a parent at South Doyle High School, but also, a local business owner.

In District 4, School Board Member Virginia Babb filled the request for a community representative by selecting Jonathon Fortner, President of the Sequoyah Elementary Foundation. Her reasoning: She was hearing from members of the Sequoyah Elementary community the most and wanted to give them an opportunity to be involved.

Evetty Satterfield, District 1 School Board Member, chose Rev. Sam Brown, because she said the faith community plays a large part in her district.

“Finding someone to amplify their voice,” Satterfield said.

In District 5, School Board Member Susan Horn said she wanted to find a parent who spent time within the school district volunteering. She said Susie Carr has been a parent in KCS for 25 years, with a current senior. Carr has also been a substitute in Farragut schools.

“She understands what the issues may be it gives her a unique perspective,” Horn said.

Patti Bounds, District 7 School Board Member, said she wanted to find someone involved in the Powell, highly regarded in the community, and who was supportive of education. Her choice: Rob Cummings.

“We’re working hard and we’re trying to do all we can do to get a very balanced approach,” Bounds said.

Over the phone, Cummings, the community task force member reprsenting District 7, said he is going into the June meetings with “an open mind.”

“I don’t think that this group of 9 will be the final say on anything, by any means. We’re another voice.”

Rob Cummings, District 7 Community Task Force Member

Cummings also said he is looking to assist KCS in anyway he can and make safety a priority.

 “With all of the unknowns right now, we want to make people feel good about coming back into the school buildings and doing it in such a way that everyone’s happy to be there,” said Cummings.

Superintendent Thomas on next steps

“We’re very interested in all the information that comes from those groups, that’s part of the success for reopening,” Thomas said.

Addressing concerns with the community task force, Thomas said district leaders talk to the Knox County Health Department on a daily basis. He adds, leaders are also in communication with the State Department of Education.

RELATED: Knox County Schools: ‘The goal is to have our students in school’

“The task force is helping us from a community stand point with the objectivity looking at the survey,” said Thomas.

Focus groups will take a deeper dive into the survey information. Thomas said they will “help us addressing those concerns in reopening” but that safety and welfare of students and teachers is paramount.

“No group is more important than the other group, the task force is helping us from a standpoint of being objective of this data,” said Thomas.

Thomas said 70,000 families were sent information about the survey, 22,000 have completed it as of Wednesday. The survey will be available online until June 19th.

KCS officials said Monday the task force will meet on Monday, June 22 and Monday, June 29 at 5 p.m. at the Sarah Simpson Professional Development Center – Great Room, 801 Tipton Ave., 37920.

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