KCS celebrates 865 Academies expansion

By Ken Leinart

It’s what happens when good ideas come to fruition.

Friday morning, January 26, the last six high schools of the 14 traditional high schools in the Knox County School System unveiled their 865 Academies courses during a ceremony at South-Doyle High School.

South-Doyle, Carter, Gibbs, Halls, Powell and West high schools announced their choices.

A press release issued for the event stated, “The 865 Academies initiative has established two or three career-themed academies within each high school designed to prepare KCS graduates to enroll in college or trade school, enlist in service to their country, or find high-wage employment.”

The academies are supplemental to traditional high school curriculum, but set a pathway to help students develop skills for employment after graduation.

“High schools are big places with lots of faces,” KCS Assistant Superintendent of Academics Keith Wilson said. “The academies create smaller teams within the larger school that ensure every student, no matter how big or how small the school, to be seen and known by a set of adults that is focused on their success both in high school and beyond.”

Superintendent of Knox County Schools Dr. Jon Rysewyk called it, “Big being small.”

He said the concept of the academies began three years ago.

“Today we’re celebrating 14 schools, 14 leaders and 14 teams,” Rysewyk said Friday.

“So many times good ideas, especially when you talk about government and schools, get stuck in this implementation — I’ve heard it called an implementation black hole –great idea, looks great on paper, have a plan and a power point but we don’t actually bring it to fruition. It takes great people to do that.”

Those “great people” include an array of partners and stakeholders.

Rysewyk praised the relationships with partners in the post-secondary and business world.

He said the academies allow “building a smaller learning community” and educators are better able to get to know the students better. The academies can also give “industry experience.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said he applauded KCS and its mission to find “varied pathways to success” for its students.

“Making an investment in these students also makes an investment in the future of Knox County,” Jacobs said.

Knoxville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Odom said 865 Academies are important enough the Chamber has a staff member dedicated to work closely with KCS throughout the process.

While the selection of academies for each school draw heavily from surveys of students, they also rely on employment trends, industry analysis, and other factors.

Odom said it he felt it was important for the Chamber to “provide feedback to KCS.”