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Ahead of a vote to finalize the next Knox County Schools strategic plan, Tuesday night drew both educators and community members together to brainstorm ideas.

In early July, the Board of Education approved the first reading of the district's next 5-year strategic plan, which spells out the goals KCS wants to accomplish during the next five years.

Tuesday night, board member Karen Carson hosted a community input meeting at West Valley Middle School. Carson fielded questions about Common Core, retaining teachers, and standardized testing.

On the other side of town, the "Students, Parents Educators across Knox County" (SPEAK) group met, too.

"We're all trying to make sure that were doing what's best for our students, and making sure this plan is as good as it can be," said Lauren Hopson, a Knox County teacher and SPEAK representative.

Hopson said somebody from the central office called SPEAK to ask the group to share any recommendations they have regarding the new strategic plan. Those at Tuesday night's meeting are preparing a list of suggestions to give to the board later this week.

Those suggestions include a more diverse curriculum for students, fewer standardized tests, and a changing culture between administrators and teachers.

"We also want to make sure that were really focusing on our staff, not just making what one would consider a "better staff" but also treating them in a professional manner and being able to retain teachers by doing things that are going to make them feel valued and important, and recognize that they are professionals," Hopson said.

The board of education plan to vote on the strategic plan again during their August meeting. The agenda for that meeting has not yet been published online.

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