TDOE Designates 24 Reward Schools in Knox County

By Ken Leinart

Knox County Schools (KCS) announced 24 schools have earned “Reward School” status for the 2022-2023 school year.

The announcement was made Thursday, Feb. 22, at Ritta Elementary School, which hosted the event. Principals for all 2022-2023 designated schools were honored during the announcement.

Tennessee Department of Education designates “Reward” school status when a school demonstrates high levels of performance and/or meets specific goals to improve performance.

The 24 schools recognized Thursday morning exemplify the strong growth in the Knox County system. For the 2021-2022 school year, Knox County had nine schools designated as “Reward schools.”

“The Reward schools, like Ritta Elementary where we are today, have earned this recognition through hard work and dedication of the students, the teachers, and the administrators,” KCS Superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk said Thursday morning.

To earn “Reward school” status takes work and dedication and there are a lot of moving parts involved.

Ritta Elementary School Principal Shawnda Ernst shared a brief explanation and insight into what is involved – and she noted Ritta had a bit of a climb to achieve designation as a Reward school.

“We got some bad news from the state at the beginning of last school year,” Ernst said.

“Our biggest sub-group was in the bottom 5% in math. We were like, ‘Whoa! How did that happen?’ I can speak for all of us — we work hard every single day so, ‘What in the world?’”

Ernst said Ritta administrators sat down with teachers and poured over data, looked at pacing, and talked with the school counselor.

Tutors were all involved in the Ritta game plan

She noted last year the school had two part-time tutors who were “dedicated and committed.”

“They (tutors) helped fill in the smaller gaps,” Ernst said. “Intervention groups helped fill in the bigger gaps.”

And, she added, “The kids and the families really stepped up.”

Ernst said all parties involved were invested in the success of the students, which translated into success for the school.

“There are so many people who help make this designation possible,” she said.

One of the partners of KCS is the Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley.

President and CEO Bart McFadden spoke about another moving part in the growth and success of schools.

“There are more grandparents, more caregivers raising kids and they need support,” McFadden said.

He said more and more children are in need of social support as well.

He said a student without social well-being, a child going through some sort of trauma in their lives, “Are a greater challenge for the teacher and a greater challenge for other kids in that classroom.”

Organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club offer support for students facing challenges away from school and they work with all schools in the Knox County system.

He congratulated the schools honored Thursday morning. “You all have done an amazing job,” McFadden said.

The 24 schools recognized Thursday morning were: A,L. Lotts Elementary, Amherst Elementary, Ball Camp Elementary, Bearden Elementary, Blue Grass Elementary, Bonny Kate Elementary, Career Magnet Academy, Copper Ridge Elementary, Christenberry Elementary, Farragut High School, Farragut Intermediate, Gap Creek Elementary, Gibbs Elementary, Hardin Valley Elementary, KCS Virtual Middle School, L&N STEM Academy, Mt. Olive Elementary, New Hopewell Elementary, Northshore Elementary, Ritta Elementary, Sequoyah Elementary, Shannondale Elementary, South Knox Elementary, and West View Elementary.