Interim Knox County Schools superintendent outlines priorities for first 90 days

Buzz Thomas

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Interim Knox County Schools Superintendent Buzz Thomas issued an open letter to the community Monday outlining his priorities for his first 90 days.

Thomas says the school system’s main goal has not changed in the past four years, which is to build the best school system in the South, so that “our children and grandchildren will have happy, successful lives in the highly competitive world in which they live.”

Previous story: Meet Knox County Schools Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas

Thomas says since the retreat four years ago when that goal was set, graduation rates have increased to 90 percent, teacher pay has been raised and they have earned the state’s first large school system rating of “exemplary” but more work needs to be done. He says half of Knox County third graders do not read on grade level and more than half of graduating seniors do not meet the minimum ACT benchmarks for college and career readiness.

Thomas says his four main priorities are:

  1. Using summer training time to ensure all elementary principals and early elementary teachers are properly trained to teach reading.
  2. Making schools and central office more transparent, collaborative and customer focused
  3. Making decisions as close to the action as possible. Thomas says when someone is assigned responsibility for a task, they should have the authority associated. Teachers should be able to run their classrooms and principals run their schools. Everyone must be held accountable, but Thomas says the school system should not micromanage the schools.
  4. Getting their own operations in order. Thomas says recent studies show the school system has not held itself to the same standard of excellence it holds its schools. There have been significant problems with transportation, public information and human resources for example.

Thomas says he will write a second open letter in the fall after new school board members are sworn in.

More online: Read the full letter

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