KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the Knox County Schools will partner to improve the lives — and education — of children at one local school, thanks to a three-year pilot project being funded by UT alumnus and Doyle High School graduate (now South-Doyle High School) Randy Boyd.
Boyd, founder and president/CEO of Radio Systems of Knoxville, has given $323,850 to UT Knoxville’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences to further Professor Bob Kronick’s work through the Full-Service Community School Collaborative Project.
“An overriding theme of the Full-Service Community School Collaborative Project is that students who are hungry and are lacking in other basic needs are at a disadvantage in their learning process,” Kronick said. “By meeting the noncurricular needs of children and families, the full-service school ensures that learning will happen for all students in the school.”
Knox County Schools officials say Pond Gap Elementary School will be the focus of this project for the coming academic year.
Through this project, Pond Gap’s mission will be broadened to provide health, mental health and other services for students and families. The goal is that the school provides some basic care — providing meals, doing laundry, etc. — that families, for various reasons, are unable to provide for their children. Among the long-term goals of full-service schools: preventing crime, mental illness and poverty.
“The Full Service Schools initiative seeks to ensure that students have their basic physical, emotional and health needs addressed so that they come to the classroom ready to learn at high levels,” said Jim McIntyre, superintendent of the Knox County Schools. “We are very thankful for Mr. Boyd’s investment in this initiative and believe it has enormous potential to enable increased student academic achievement in our high needs schools.”
Although Kronick already has initiated several smaller-scale full-service projects in select Knox County Schools, and plans to continue them, this is the first significant, dedicated funding the effort has received. Some of the gift will be used to hire an after-school coordinator to be located in the chosen school. UT student volunteers and UT undergraduates enrolled in Kronick’s “Service Learning and the University Student” course will be key players in the project.
Details of the special services that will be provided at Pond Gap are still being finalized.
“The best teacher in the world can’t reach these children without help,” Kronick said. “Hence, school clinics are established and staffed by pre-med students. UT graduate students in school and mental health counseling also work in the school and referrals are made to outside agencies, when necessary.
Boyd said his work with other education programs has convinced him that many student-success efforts come too late.
“We realized we needed to reach our youth as early as possible to really make a difference,” Boyd said. “Dr. Kronick shared with me his vision for a full-service school, and I thought it was a very compelling, smart solution. It leverages the physical infrastructure already in place in the school buildings themselves. It leverages the talents of hundreds of students from UT, and it leverages many other community organizations.
“If it works as we hope it will, I believe it is very scalable and very sustainable. The leadership provided by UT is the catalyst for this program; the passion of its students will make it successful. We can really transform not just the lives of the students, but whole communities through this initiative.”
Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, said the project is a very forward-thinking initiative.
“Full-service school projects attempt to improve a child’s academic performance by attacking many of the outside forces that threaten to hinder it,” he said. “We’re excited to receive this gift to further our full-service school efforts. This is not an educational fad; it is a realistic, tactical approach to improving education in the 21st century.”
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