By Sally Absher

Welcome Back Students!

A hearty “Welcome back” to Knox County students and their families! We hope you (or your parents) will make a habit of reading the Chalk Board column in the weekly Knoxville Focus paper – either the print version that comes out on Mondays, or the online version available at (click on the “download the PDF” button at the top of the page).


Don’t Forget – Back to School Bash – Monday August 8, 2016

THIS MONDAY Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will host the 5th annual “Back to School Bash” at the Knoxville Expo Center, 5441 Clinton Highway. The event is scheduled from 3-6 pm, and will provide area families with free school supplies and health screenings. There will be activities, games, free food, and special programs. The event is free and open to the public.


Slow Down – The Life You Save May Be Someone’s Child!

Knox County Schools, along with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Knoxville Police Department held a Back-to-School Safety press conference last Thursday at Northwest Middle School.

Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, Knox County Sheriff’ Chief Deputy Eddie Biggs, and KCS Chief of Security Gus Paidousis presented information about enhanced bus safety, school zone safety, and school security measures.

Thomas introduced himself as Interim Superintendent, and added “I’m fortunate enough to be working for Knox County School Board, my bosses, and one of them is here today, Board member Terry Hill. Northwest Middle School is in Terry’s District, and she is a great champion, not just for the kids here at Northwest, but for all of our students.”

He said the purpose of the press conference was to talk about the most important thing in the world – the safety of our children, particularly as they get to and from school each day.

“Knox County school buses travel 3.5 million miles per year- that’s nearly 20,000 miles per day in rush hour,” he said, adding, “I want you to know we are doing and will be doing this year everything that is humanly possible to make those miles as safe as possible.”

He said KCS has been working this summer to install cameras and radios and train drivers. “We’re working to create the best school in the south, and we can’t be the best schools if we’re not the safest.”

Specifically, Thomas said each school bus will be equipped with radios and two video cameras. KCS has done safety training for all bus drivers – in fact, KCS now has a full time safety trainer. KCS conducts check rides, and has a full time school bus ombudsman to listen to complaints and concerns when parents or others need to call. The District is spending more money this year for bus contractors and drivers to make sure they are paid properly.

“But,” Thomas said, “Every single citizen of Knox County has a responsibility to drive safely, to slow down when you are around schools or around school buses, and to remember that the life you save is somebody’s child.”

This message was reinforced by KCSD Chief Deputy Biggs, KPD Chief Rausch, and KCS Chief of Security Paidousis.

Chief Biggs said, “Our primary focus is to keep our kids safe – they are our leaders of tomorrow.”

Chief Rausch also emphasized the safety of children, and the teamwork of the partners present. He said “We need to make sure that everybody understands, school is getting ready to be in session. What that means is children will be out on the roadways, they’re going to be walking in our neighborhoods, walking to bus stops, walking to school – and we need to be paying attention and watching out for our children.”

He said traffic enforcement plans have been prepared for every school – designed to keep students safe as they return for another year of learning.

“Officers will be focused on watching for motorists who are speeding or driving recklessly in school zones,” Rausch said, adding, “It’s a warning. There is no secret here – we’re going to be there, enforcing the law.”

Last year, it took three days for motorists to get the message – with an increase in citation issued culminating on day three with 100 citations issued. More than 900 citations were issued for traffic violations in school zones during the 2015-2016 school year. That’s 900 times that a child could have been endangered, Rausch said.

KCS Security Chief Paidousis echoed the others, adding, “We’ve elevated the standards for our school security officers… the expectation is that we will have armed officers in every school, as a result not only of our school security officers but our partnership with the police department and the sheriff’s office.

We asked Thomas if there was an increased emphasis on safety concerns – especially bus safety – as a result of the tragic bus wreck that killed two students and a teachers’ aide in December 2014.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that tragedies focus our attention, and that one certainly did. It caused us to review everything we do about bus safety… of course it resulted in legal changes in our state regarding texting and even drivers having cell phones on them when driving. We communicate with drivers on a frequency where only drivers and police officers are talking (hence, the radios on every KCS school bus).”

He added, “We’re putting more adults on buses because we realized that distracted drivers – not only drivers who are texting, but good drivers who are turning around because kids are having a fight, or an argument or something….We’ve gotten real serious about bus safety, and we are going to continue to be serious about this.”