“School safety must be our number one priority”

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Knoxville, Tenn. (WVLT) — New Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk said Monday he has goals to keep the school system soaring toward success.

“School safety must be our number one priority. You know, we’re an academic – preparing students for their careers after high school is the most important thing we do, but we can’t do that if we’re not in a safe environment,” Rysewyk said.

He said he met a new class of officers last week and he “could really see that they weren’t just trained to protect and look for things in school, but really how to defuse how really having conversations with parents and students and really having their best interest at heart,” Rysewyk said. “I can really appreciate what they’re doing.”

Additionally, he appreciates KCS’ partnership with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Knoxville Police Department and wishes to maintain an open dialogue with them.

“Anything we can do to keep learning how to be better, we’ll keep doing it,” Rysewyk said.

Rysewyk said preparing students for life after high school is a priority, not just graduating but finding a successful next chapter, whether it’s enlisting, s enroll in university or start a career.

To achieve this goal, he believes in the excellence of fundamental skills. He said he sees this in summer apprenticeship programs. Additionally, he wants there to be career empowerment and preparation for high school students.

Third, Rysewyk said he knows the importance of having good educators in every building and said he wants all students to succeed, which means recognizing that students have different obstacles from each other and that it is KCS’s job to remove them in order to succeed.

When retaining and recruiting teachers, Rysewyk said he plans to keep the same focus on teacher compensation and talk about it every year.

“If teachers know they are making a difference and have the resources to do so. I think that’s what really makes them want to stay and be a part of something bigger than themselves, they have the heart to want to do that,” Rysewyk explained.

He also said he recognizes that fewer people are entering the profession, so staff are considering alternative certifications and ways to become teachers.

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