KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Jon Rysewyk now has a starting date as the leader of Knox County Schools. The school board voted 8-1 to accept the contract brought before them on Wednesday night. Rysewyk will officially take over as superintendent at midnight June 4, just a day after the final Knox County high school graduation.
Virginia Babb was the lone no vote. Babb said she thinks June 4 is too late for Rysewyk to start since most decisions on school principal positions are made in May for the following school year. However, she did say that outgoing Superintendent Bob Thomas should be present for the high school graduation ceremonies as the “symbolic leader of schools.”
School board member Daniel Watson also expressed his concerns on making sure Thomas was present for high school graduations in his superintendent role.
“I know your heart is to finish strong, and I think this allows you to do that with this current graduating class,” Watson said to Thomas.
Rysewyk, who currently serves as chief academic officer for KCS, said that he has no worries about working with Thomas through May when it comes to making decisions on who will be principal at each Knox County school for the 2022-23 school year.
Thomas will stay on as a consultant until the end of his contract after June 3.
The board also voted to hire D. Scott Bennett as consultant to the Knox County Law Office as it faces an injunction in a case concerning mask mandates in schools. The injunction filed by parents of four students with disabilities imposed a mask mandate on all Knox County School students.
The board voted 5-2, with two abstentions, to hire Bennett as a consultant. Knox County Deputy Law Director Gary Dupler said Bennett will not be able to litigate on behalf of the board but the law department has “fought against masks (mandates) and will continue to do so.”
Bennett, who serves as attorney for Hamilton County Schools, was hired at $350 per hour. When asked about how long his services may be required, Dupler said it is unknown how long the legal process will take since there would still have to be a discovery period and trial unless a resolution was reached. He “guesstimated” the minimum would be $10,000-$20,000.
Board Chairwoman Kristi Kristy and Betsy Henderson voted against the hiring. Henderson sought other options for the position stating that Bennett had already lost a case where he was representing Hamilton County Schools concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“To put a losing case on his resume to us is a little discerning to me,” Henderson said. “I would like to see an attorney who wins ADA cases and at the appeals level. We’re losing on our own. I don’t think we need to add somebody who’s losing to the same lawyers that we’re losing to.”
Owens and Satterfield abstained from the vote.
The board also approved a pair of contracts, one for four years with All Occasions Party Rentals for graduation stages and $4 million contract to build a softball complex for West High School.