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Knox Co. Schools receives $1.2M grant from Gates Foundation

10:52 PM, Jul 8, 2013   |    comments
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Bill Gates(Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

(WBIR - Knoxville) Knox County Schools announced Monday the district is getting more than $1 million from some of the world's top philanthropists.

School officials revealed it is the recipient of a $1.2 million "Smart Spending" grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. $850,000 comes from the foundation and a local match, primarily from the Great Schools Partnership, will cover the rest.

Knox County is one of just four school districts in the entire country to receive the grant.

Unlike some grants, this one doesn't immediately supply books, technology, or any specific needs the schools may have. Instead, it provides assistance to district leaders, as well as expert advice on how to better align financial resources and the schools' educational mission.

Dr. McIntyre said, ultimately the students will benefit when the district invests resources wisely.

"One of the challenges for any public education everywhere across the country is limited resources, and you have a certain pool of resources to work with," said Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre. "And so the challenge is to make sure you're using every dollar and every dime that you have, effectively and efficiently, to support great instruction and high level learning for our kids."

McIntyre said that process will include a review of current instructional programs, to determine what is working well for the district and what is not.

Before the grant kicks in, the Board of Education must approve two items on the agenda for Wednesday night's meeting.

First, the board must accept the grant from the Gates Foundation. Second, the board must agree to a contract with The Parthenon Group, which will be subcontracting with Education Resource Strategies to assist the district in carrying out the grant's work plan.

Dr. McIntyre said the district will focus heavily on the 2015 school budget, but also building financial capacity for the future.

"We're really excited about, not just the short-term impact this will have on the budget process coming up, but also the long-term impact on making sure we are getting the best possible return on our educational investment in our community," McIntyre said.

If approved Wednesday, the superintendent said the grant will go into effect immediately.

The Gates Foundation grant is just the latest opportunity for the school district to shine on a national stage.

In April, a group of 5th graders from Sarah Moore Green traveled to Washington DC  to help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Garden.

The First Lady also recognized the district's healthy lunch standards on her "Let's Move Blog" in March.

Also, a Knoxville student will be a guest at the White House for the Annual Kid's State Dinner. East Knox Elementary second grader, Makenna Anne Hurd, was selected after she submitted an all-bran muffin recipe as part of the Healthy Lunch Challenge competition.

"I think it speaks to, that our school board has adopted a very clear, and I think detailed strategic plan about the direction we're going in educationally," Dr. McIntyre said. "And I think we've stuck to that over a long period of time."

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