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Jon Rysewyk picked to be next Knox County Schools superintendent

Rysewyk, who has more than 20 years of experience with KCS, and Dr. Linda Cash of Bradley County Schools, were finalists for the job.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County Board of Education members picked in-house candidate Dr. Jon Rysewyk on Tuesday to be the next superintendent of the 60,000-student school district.

Board members chose the more than 20-year Knox County educator with 7 votes in a special meeting that started at 5 p.m. Nobody signed up to speak at the meeting, and board members decided to vote for the superintendent by paper ballots.

Rysewyk and Dr. Linda Cash of Bradley County Schools were finalists for the job to replace Bob Thomas, who retires after this school year. Tuesday's vote is the culmination of a five-month-long search process.

Board members Satterfield and Watson voted for Dr. Linda Cash. Owen originally voted against both candidates before changing her vote for Rysewyk.

Board members then also made a motion to take a vote of solidarity and support of Rysewyk as the next superintendent. Satterfield and McMillan voted against the motion, as McMillan criticized other members for making it.

Rysewyk is under contract as KCS's assistant superintendent and chief academic officer. Five years ago, he was a last-minute addition to the pool of candidates under consideration for superintendent before the board promoted Thomas.

Credit: WBIR
Jon Rysewyk speaking to the school board Feb. 18.

He's been widely viewed as a favorite to become superintendent.

"It's a blessing to have the opportunity to serve the people in Knox County and particularly for me, the students in Knox County," Rysewyk said. "I'm humbled."  

Rysewyk is familiar with the school district and said he's excited to continue working with his team.

"This is my community. This is where my wife and I have raised our daughters," he said. "This is where I want to be. This is where my career has been." 

He told board members he thinks priority should be given to investing in teachers and principals to ensure all students excel and are ready to graduate and thrive.

"I've learned over time, in any leadership role you're about the work, you're about achieving for kids and the time goes by so fast," he said Tuesday. 

Upon receiving the news of his new position, he told 10News he plans to stay in the spot as long as he can continue growth within the school district. 

"As long as we feel like we can still do things for students and we're still driving forward for their future I think we'll do that," he said. 

Rysewyk told the board that KCS must do a better job of hiring and keeping a diverse teaching force that better matches the student body itself.

For example, he said, the system's Black population is 17.1% but its Black teaching force is about 2.89% of the total teaching population. Its Hispanic population is 11.3% but its Hispanic teaching pool is 1.4% of the total.

Tennessee's third-largest public school system, KCS employs some 8,000 people and operates more than 80 schools with a budget of more than $540 million. It represents the biggest chunk of Knox County taxpayer money spent every year.

Credit: Jon Rysewyk
Jon Rysewyk and his family.

The job will pay a base of $250,000, the school board previously has decided. Rysewyk makes about $134,000 currently with the system.

Rysewyk and his wife, Rebecca, have two daughters, both of whom have attended KCS. His oldest daughter is now a student at the University of Tennessee.

His teaching experience dates to an internship with KCS in the late 1990s at Bearden High School. He's been a teacher at Oliver Springs High School and Karns High School, as well as an assistant principal and executive principal at Fulton High School.

He left KCS in the mid-2010s to direct the Emerald Academy, the county's only charter school, from 2014 through 2016. He then returned to KCS and became the system's assistant superintendent.

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