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Knox County Schools to meet Oct. 6 to vote on policy changes, discuss superintendent search

Controversy has continued across Knox County following a judge's decision to require people to wear masks in schools due to COVID-19, but masks are not on the agenda

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Education leaders in Knox County Schools were set to meet Wednesday to vote on several policy changes and to discuss the ongoing superintendent search.

Their agenda includes proposals to make changes to their nutrition policy, foreign travel policy and wellness policies. Leaders were also expected to discuss their search for a new superintendent after Bob Thomas announced that he planned to retire.

Officials said they wanted to ensure that the Knox County community was involved in the search process once it begins naming candidates. 

Members also discussed going with one of two options: hiring the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA), a state non-profit that assists districts across the state with superintendent searches and other services, or contracting another outside consulting firm via a Request for Proposal (RFP).

One board member, Evetty Satterfield, said that she thought it would be better for the board to go with the RFP option so they could hear outside opinions and tailor the search with specific goals in mind.

Also on the agenda are several changes to the district's nutritional and wellness policies. If passed, the board would implement state and federal regulations related to the development, services and assessments of wellness programs. 

They would also require schools to implement the CDC's Coordinated School Health approach to managing wellness programs, with a coordinator in charge of overseeing compliance with state standards.

A School Health Advisory Council would also be formed from parents, students, teachers, administrations, school board members, health professionals, school foodservice representatives and members of the public.

COVID-19 safety restrictions are not on the agenda, despite recent controversy and protests from parents across the county.

A social media group was formed to resist an order from a federal judge to require masks in schools. Many in that group claim that the mask requirement is discriminatory. Parents from the group gathered in front of schools across the county earlier in the week to display signs and chants.

In a court filing, attorneys said these parents allegedly called children "sheep" and tried to stop them from entering the building. Many other students did not follow the mask requirement, resulting in them being sent home.

Because of the protests and refusal to wear a mask, KCS argued that the mask mandate impacted the rights of students to get an education. Many parents on social media also said they planned to appear at the meeting to demonstrate against the mask mandate.

The judge's decision was passed down in order to ensure KCS complies with federal law requiring schools to accommodate the needs of at-risk students, according to court records.

Educators also plan to discuss a policy change reducing the amount of time public speakers at the podium to 3 minutes instead of 5 minutes.

The board is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. on October 6.