Author: We Are KCS

Andy True serves as the Assistant Superintendent - Administration for Kingsport City Schools and writes "We Are KCS" to spotlight the people and programs of KCS.

The Saturday Six “American Education Week” Edition – November 18, 2017

Each year in November, the educational community stops to give special recognition and say “thank you” to educators of all types during American Education Week.  Kingsport is blessed to have over 1,200 educators that give so much of themselves, both professionally and personally, so that all children can succeed.  Thank you to these women and men that are so dedicated to the success of our students!

This week in the Saturday Six, we pause to celebrate these educators.  Let’s look at a few images (admittedly more than six this week) that capture some of these great Kingsport City Schools employees.



Next week in the Saturday Six:  Can you believe it’s almost holiday concert season?  We’ll take a look at the full schedule of KCS holiday programs so that you can plan accordingly!

The Saturday Six “Charity Month” Edition – November 11, 2017

11-11 tribe charity month

A key component of the Kingsport City Schools Guiding Tenets is to develop a community that is fully engaged, while supporting students in their academic, physical, and emotional development.  As a part of that effort, students and staff continually seek service opportunities and ways to positively impact our community, both local and beyond.  It’s a focus that helps us all see how our collective talents and gifts can better our world.

November has been designated as “KCS Charity Month.”  It’s a time dedicated to joining together in service to others by recognizing the needs in our community and empowering students to find solutions.  Lives can be changed through this collective effort, as over 7,000 individuals from KCS strive to make a difference.

This week in the Saturday Six, let’s take a look at some of the ways KCS students and staff are impacting our community.  We are #OneTribe!

  1. A focus across the district is on meeting needs related to hunger in our community.  Students seek how they can F.E.E.D. (Feel, Engage, Empower, Do it!) others, not looking at the initiative as an “extra” project, but creating an ongoing attitude that strives to nourish the hunger of others, be it for food, resources, or nourishment of the heart!
  2. The KCS middle schools have taken the F.E.E.D. concept to heart!  Robinson Middle School and Sevier Middle School are both actively pursing ways to gather resources to support those in need.  Robinson is in the middle of a Thanksgiving food drive for students and families, and Sevier is supporting Operation Christmas Child and continuing to provide donations to those effected by flooding in Texas.
  3. The students and staff at Dobyns-Bennett are incredibly active in service both at school and throughout the community.  Student clubs and organizations that meet both during and after school work with local organizations to provide resources and services to make Kingsport a better place.  You’ll find D-B students volunteering in our local hospitals, churches, and community organizations.  Some students even volunteer in our own KCS schools.  The D-B YES! Club provides valuable mentoring and support to elementary students throughout KCS.
  4. Service projects are also in full swing at all KCS elementary schools.  Students and staff are hard at work collecting food for holiday food baskets, supplies for agencies such as the SBK animal shelter, and holiday cards for veterans.  For instance, 100 handmade or store-bought cards will be delivered to veterans at the VA nursing home and VA domiciliary for homeless veterans through the efforts of KCS students, and holiday cards will also be sent to soldiers deployed around the globe.
  5. Food drives are taking place at all elementary schools, supporting agencies such as Second Harvest Food Bank and the KCS Family Resource Center. Students and staff are also helping children have a brighter holiday through the Adopt-a-Student program with Angel Tree, providing warm items such as gloves and mittens to those in need, and helping those effected by fires in California.
  6. And as a school system, the KCS Family Resource Center also continually provides items such as food, clothes, and backpacks to KCS families.  As the colder holiday season approaches, many students in Kingsport will have the opportunity to have a new warm coat and a great holiday meal thanks to the efforts of all involved with the Kingsport City Schools FRC.

November is a great time to focus on how we can support others!  Thanks to initiatives such as Charity Month, the students and staff of KCS can continue to seek ways to improve the lives of all around us.

Next week in the Saturday Six:  November 13-17, 2017 is American Education Week in the U.S.  We’ll take a look at some of the phenomenal educators making a difference in the lives of KCS students, and celebrate the women and men that give so much to make Kingsport City Schools a world-class school system!

The KCS Saturday Six “School Resource Officer” Edition – November 4, 2017

Each and every day, the women and men of the Kingsport Police Department go the extra mile to serve and protect the children and staff of Kingsport City Schools.  Whether on the streets, patrolling the exterior of our school campuses, or walking through our school buildings on a daily basis, these officers are a key supportive resource that help ensure the safest possible school environment.

On Wednesday, November 1st, KCS paused to celebrate these heroes during the 2nd annual “KCS Back the Blue” day.  Special recognitions took place throughout the day as the officers and staff of the KPD took a much deserved turn in the spotlight.  While all are greatly appreciated, four officers in particular hold a special place in the hearts of KCS students and staff.  The KCS School Resource Officers serve full-time in KCS schools, adding a vital layer of safety and security to the learning environment.

In this week’s Saturday Six, let’s take a look at the four KCS School Resource Officers and highlight the great work they do for KCS!

  1. Through a partnership with the Kingsport Police Department, four SROs serve in KCS schools.  Two officers work at Dobyns-Bennett High School, with an additional officer placed at both Sevier and Robinson Middle Schools.  All four of these officers also support other KCS schools as needed.  Let’s meet the great team that serves as the KCS School Resource Officers!
  2. John Sevier Middle School SRO Brad Conkin is a 31 year-old Kingsport native, graduating from Sullivan South High School in 2005 and then attending Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. He graduated from Tennessee Tech in 2009 with a Bachelors of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries.  After college, he worked for the Tennessee State Parks before joining the police force in 2010.  He first worked as a patrolman with the Kingsport Police Department and was chosen to become the School Resource Officer at John Sevier Middle School in 2014.While working as a patrolman, Conkin began to be drawn to the schools through walk-through patrols.  Once experiencing those walk-throughs, he felt strongly that service inside of a school is what he was meant to do. When chosen for the role as SRO at Sevier, he states that, “I truly knew then why I became a police officer… It is the most rewarding job because I go from leaving my house in the mornings as a farther of two to walking in the school and becoming a father of 850​+ for the day.  We can smile, laugh, cry and dance together while still learning.  I know that when parents drop off their kids every morning, they expect a great education and safety.  If I instill a little comfort in parents’ minds for the eight hours a day their kids are here, I feel my job is complete.”
  3. Dobyns-Bennett SRO Sean Cornett was born and raised in Kingsport, graduating from D-B in 1991.  Following graduation, Officer Cornett worked at Eastman as a chemical operator until 2004.  He then started his tenure with KPD, shifting to the role of an SRO in 2008.  After a short transition to other roles with the KPD, he returned to SRO duties in 2015. 

    Officer Cornett also serves as a Field Training Officer and an Advanced Collision Investigator, holding numerous certifications with KPD.  He has twin sons that attended KCS and are now in college.  When not serving the students and staff at D-B, he enjoys working on vehicles, computers, and weight lifting.

  4. Officer Rick Marshall has served as a School Resource Officer for 12 years and is a vital component of the safety team at Ross N. Robinson Middle School. He takes an active role in developing relationships with students and staff, focusing on both safety and doing whatever possible to help each child succeed.  This individualized approach to students has become a hallmark of Officer Marshall’s work and is widely recognized as one of his strengths as a leader and an officer. 

    Officer Marshall has often commented how humbling it is to know that students, staff, parents and community rely on the School Resource Officer to provide a safe and positive learning environment. He is willing to do whatever is needed to make sure every student returns home safely at the end of each day.  He places emphasis on helping children accomplish their goals and watching them progress in life and in their education.  Through his actions, Officer Marshall has helped many students move forward positively in their lives!

  5. Officer Mark Smelser is the newest KCS School Resource Officer, beginning his tenure at Dobyns-Bennett in 2017. Another former KCS graduate, his personality and connection with students have made an instant positive impact on the culture and security of D-B.  While a student at D-B, Officer Smelser was a varsity soccer player and continued to develop those skills while attending Maryville College, where he graduated in 1991. 

    Officer Smelser has served with the Kingsport Police Department for five years and brings a high level of energy and enthusiasm to his work each day.  Knowing he wanted to be a police officer since the age of 5, he is fulfilling his lifelong dream by interacting with students at his alma mater and doing all he can to ensure their well-being.  He has three children, ranging in age from 11 to 20.  An accomplished athlete, Officer Smelser runs an average of 40+ miles per week, having completed eight marathons, participating in the prestigious Boston Marathon three times.

  6. Have you seen the WeAreKCS Video Blog highlighting the KCS SRO program and officers? It’s a great review of the program and provides insight on the purpose and benefits to having such qualified safety officers in our schools each day.

Next week in the Saturday Six:  We’ll take a look at an innovative program designed to support and encourage community service.  It’s “Charity Month” throughout KCS and we’ll learn more about it next week!

The WeAreKCS Video Blog – KCS School Resource Officers

Kingsport City Schools is fortunate to have an exceptional group of School Resource Officers (SROs) working every day to keep our schools safe and secure.  These four Kingsport Police Department officers work full-time in our schools, ensuring that students and teachers have the best possible learning environment.

In honor of this week’s “KCS Back the Blue” day, the WeAreKCS Video Blog highlights these fantastic officers and the KCS School Resource Officer program!

The WeAreKCS Video Blog – Coding @ Jackson Elementary

It’s new!  It’s improved!  The WeAreKCS Video Blog is back!

The “vlog” is one more way to learn all about the great things taking place around Kingsport City Schools.  In this edition, we take a look at how elementary students are using coding to develop high-level technology and problem solving skills.

The Saturday Six “KCS Data” Edition – October 28, 2017

It’s that time of year!  Every fall, a wide variety of data is released to school systems as a result of the previous school year’s student assessments.  Like most systems, Kingsport City Schools takes a deep look at this information to determine where our students are progressing in their academic journey.  But perhaps more importantly, this data is analyzed to determine where we can improve efforts to help all students reach the highest possible levels of achievement and growth.

This week in the Saturday Six, we’ll take a look at several data points that provide information about how KCS is progressing on our desired journey to “world class!”

  1. The ACT continues to serve as the benchmark assessment for high school students in Tennessee, and KCS has again registered one of the highest scores in the state.  Scoring at 22.4, the district had the seventh highest ACT average composite score in Tennessee and the highest of any district in our region!
  2. KCS has placed a priority on supporting students in stretching themselves academically.  One key way this is occurring is through the offering of 24 Advanced Placement courses at Dobyns-Bennett, providing students with rigorous coursework that will well prepare them for future studies.  As AP participation continues to increase, KCS was one of only four districts in Tennessee to have over 70% of AP students score a three or higher on the 2017 AP exam.
  3. The 2017 TNReady test data has revealed some high levels of success in subject areas across the district.  For instance, KCS had the third highest U.S. History proficiency rate in Tennessee on the 2017 TNReady test and the highest rate in the entire eastern region of the state!
  4. U.S. History wasn’t the only subject where KCS finished third in Tennessee and tops in the eastern region… KCS Algebra II students also achieved this mark!
  5. KCS students had the seventh highest Algebra I proficiency rate in the state on the 2017 TNReady Test.  This is especially significant considering these scores do not even include a high percentage of high achieving middle school students who took Algebra I in the spring.  These scores are accounted for in middle school math scores.
  6. Finally, KCS students taking End of Course exams cracked the top-15 in Tennessee in a wide variety of subjects:
    • High School Social Studies – 3rd
    • High School Math – 8th
    • High School English/Language Arts – 10th
    • High School Science 12th
    • English I – 9th
    • English II – 12th
    • Biology – 12th
    • Chemistry – 15th

KCS administrators, teachers, and students will continue to analyze data as it arrives, seeking new insights and opportunities for improvement!

Next week in the Saturday Six:  The Kingsport Police Department partners with KCS to help provide the safest possible environment for students and staff.  To celebrate these efforts by the KPD, Wednesday, November 1 is “KCS Backs the Blue Day” across the district.  We encourage all of Kingsport to wear blue on Wednesday as a part of saying “thank you” and recognizing all these women and men do for us.  Next week, we’ll take a look at the ways KPD helps support Kingsport City Schools!

The Saturday Six “Fall Break” Edition – October 21, 2017

Though students and many staff members took advantage of Fall Break to enjoy some much deserved rest and relaxation, it was still a busy week across Kingsport City Schools.  Many KCS employees were working hard to prepare, serve, and improve our educational community while our facilities were a little less crowded.

What goes on across KCS during a student break?  This week, the Saturday Six goes behind the scenes to take a look at some of the activity and work that has taken place during Fall Break 2017!

  1. As part of the continual effort to improve student learning, the KCS Technology Department was hard at work installing new wireless access points in all elementary schools.  This major project will help ensure that the KCS Technology Vision is fulfilled at all levels and that students have the best possible access to an engaging curriculum!
  2. When over 7,500 students are not in our schools, it’s a great time for the KCS Custodial & Maintenance departments to tackle a wide variety of upkeep items.  Floors were waxed, maintenance took place, and staff worked hard to clean and keep facilities in tip-top shape.  These women and men are a prime reason why KCS has such great learning environments!
  3. Some children continue to call KCS home over break.  Facilities that host Early Childhood Learning Centers and School-Aged Childcare were bustling with activity and learning this week!
  4. A break is also a great time to take care of larger physical projects in schools.  For instance, Adams Elementary received some office and music classroom improvements in the form of new walls and office furniture.  A definite improvement in these important areas!
  5. Learning certainly doesn’t stop over break, even for the adults of KCS.  Professional development activities took place in Kingsport, and several teachers and administrators even gave up part of their vacation to attend important learning opportunities outside of Kingsport.
  6. And while classes may not have taken place this week, business operations across the district kept right on rolling.  From schools to the Administrative Support Center, offices remained active to serve the needs of the community.

We hope you had a great Fall Break 2017.  We’ll see you back at school on Monday morning, October 23rd.  It’s hard to believe there are only 4 1/2 weeks until Thanksgiving and only 41 days until Winter Break!

Next week in the Saturday Six:  This is a time of year when teachers and administrators spend much time reviewing and analyzing a wealth of incoming data.  Next week, we’ll look at six highlights regarding KCS student growth and achievement data.

The Saturday Six “KCS Principals” Edition – October 14, 2017

Did you know that October is “National Principals Month” in the United States?  It’s an opportunity to stop and recognize all the great work that is done on a daily basis by the women and men that lead our schools.

In Kingsport, we are blessed to have a phenomenally talented group of school leaders guiding our students and staff.  They are vital to the success of our schools and shape the educational environments that ensure student success.  In fact, research shows that after great teachers, a principal has the greatest effect on student achievement… and KCS has the best of the best!

This week, the Saturday Six takes a look at the team of KCS principals and celebrates all they do for our students, families, and community!

  1. First, let’s introduce you to the KCS principal team!
    • Palmer Early Learning Center – Dr. Amy Doran
    • John Adams Elementary – Mrs. Christy Free
    • Andrew Jackson Elementary – Dr. Krissy Turner
    • Thomas Jefferson Elementary – Mr. Mike Fulkerson
    • Andrew Johnson Elementary – Mr. Stacy Edwards
    • John F. Kennedy Elementary – Dr. Janice Irvin
    • Abraham Lincoln Elementary – Mrs. Suzanne Zahner
    • Theodore Roosevelt Elementary – Dr. Kelli Seymour
    • George Washington Elementary – Mrs. Heather Wolf
    • Ross N. Robinson Middle – Dr. Jim Wernke (interim)
    • John Sevier Middle – Dr. Holly Flora
    • Dobyns-Bennett – Dr. Chris Hampton
    • D-B EXCEL – Mrs. Shanna Hensley
    • Cora Cox Academy – Mrs. Julie Malone
  2. The KCS principals collectively possess hundreds of years of educational experience and training from some of the most respected educational institutions in America.  Our principals hold Masters, Educational Specialist, and Doctorate degrees from colleges and universities such as Appalachian State University, Tusculum College, East Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee, Milligan College, Lincoln Memorial University, Cumberland College of Tennessee, Elon College, Johns Hopkins University, Carson-Newman College, Middle Tennessee State University, and Indiana University.
  3. What do KCS principals love about their job?  When asked, the resounding answer is “students and teachers!”  To quote one KCS principal, “Each morning, the students energize me and help to get my day started off on a bright note.  My favorite place to be is in the classroom, engaged in the learning, with teachers and students.  I am so grateful for a wonderful school family!”
  4. A key role of a school principal is to align the many efforts of a school community to ensure student success.  It’s a tireless job that takes great leadership skills, long hours, and an unyielding focus on children.  As one KCS principal noted, “I love being a principal because in everything I do, from the tiniest of decisions to strategizing for big goals, I get to be a champion for ALL kids!
  5. Principals keep their eye on both the little details and the big picture for both students and staff.  A principal said it best when she commented, “Our educators are outstanding because they focus on taking care of the ‘whole child’. We have students who are creative, smart, and will one day be leaders in our community.  As a principal, I am able to see the tapestry of work and love that comes together to create our student-centered school culture.  I’m proud to work alongside our faculty and staff!”
  6. KCS principals not only excel in their schools, but have also been recognized in Tennessee and across the nation for their work!  Robinson Principal Mr. Brian Partin is currently serving as President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and Sevier Principal Dr. Holly Flora has served as President of the Tennessee Principals Association.  Wow!

This week, we pause to celebrate and give a huge “THANK YOU” to the KCS principals that give so much of themselves for the children of Kingsport.  You are greatly appreciated!!

Next week in the Saturday Six:  KCS may be on Fall Break next week, but the work of the district continues, even when students are away! The Saturday Six will take a look behind the scenes at what goes on across KCS during a scheduled student vacation.

The Saturday Six “2018-19 KCS Calendar” Edition – October 7, 2017


Though the start of the 2018-19 school year is still ten months away, the Kingsport Board of Education has already approved the calendar for next year.  This is done as early as possible so parents and students have as much time as possible to plan accordingly.  This week, the Saturday Six takes a look at the major components of the 2018-19 KCS Calendar.  It’s never too soon to start getting prepared for next year!

  1. The first day for students will be Monday, August 6, 2017.  This will kick off an instructional year that includes 178 student days, with 89 days each in the fall and spring semesters.  The first student day of the Spring Semester will be Tuesday, January 8, 2019, following a teacher in-service day on January 7, 2019.
  2. There are four major breaks during the course of the school year… Fall Break, Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break, and Spring Break.  The dates for these in 2018-19 are:
    • Fall Break:  October 15-19, 2018
    • Thanksgiving Break:  November 21-23, 2018
    • Winter Break:  December 24, 2018 – January 4, 2019
    • Spring Break:  March 25-29, 2019
  3. In addition to the formal breaks, there are several long/holiday weekends throughout the school year.  Students and staff will not attend school on Monday, September 3, 2018, Monday, January 21, 2019, or Friday, April 19, 2019.
  4. Once again, KCS will offer two opportunities for Parent-Teacher Conferences during the school year.  Friday, September 14, 2018 and Friday, February 8, 2019 are set aside for these important meetings.
  5. Professional learning for teachers and staff is a vital component to making sure students have the best opportunity to learn.  Several in-service days are set aside for this important work, including two days in the middle of each semester.  Teachers will have these in-service days on Friday, October 5, 2018 and Friday March 15, 2019.
  6. The last student day of school will be an abbreviated day on Thursday, May 23, 2019.  However, the unofficial end to the year will take place with Dobyns-Bennett graduation on the morning of Saturday, May 25, 2019.  This annual event is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. in J. Fred Johnson Stadium and is the ultimate celebration of the students and educators of D-B and KCS.  We hope you will consider joining us for this capstone event!

Click here to view the approved 2018-19 KCS School Calendar!

Next Week in the Saturday Six:  October is National Principals Month, and KCS is blessed to have a world-class group of principals leading our schools.  We’ll shine the spotlight on these women and men that play such a vital role in the Kingsport educational community.

The Saturday Six “KCS Library” Edition – September 30, 2017

One of the most important resources available to all KCS students is their school library.  School libraries are full of high quality books and materials that open the door to a vast world of learning for students on a daily basis.  But what is the key to unlocking those adventures and guiding students in that learning adventure?  The KCS library media specialists!

This week in the Saturday Six, let’s take a look at six things you might not know about KCS libraries and library media specialists.

  1. KCS Libraries have partnered with the Kingsport Public Library and the Tennessee STEAM Festival in Knoxville to host a community “STEAMfest” on October 7, 2017 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Glen Bruce Park.  This unique event will allow students of all ages to experience Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math at various stations.  There will be activities for kids, snacks, and FREE giveaways for all participants!
  2. KCS Library Media Specialists (LMS) were recently honored by being able to present at the Tennessee Association of School Libraries Conference in Murfreesboro, TN.  The LMS’ collaborated to offer three presentations to others LMS professionals from across Tennessee.  “Rockin’ with Robots in your Makerspace” showcased how KCS is using robotics to teach coding in school libraries.  The “STEAM in the Community” presentation highlighted the upcoming STEAMfest.  “Take this Code and Shelve it: Implementing a Coding Curriculum” gave details of how the KCS LMS’ have undertaken teaching of a new coding curriculum within their classes.
  3. Did you know that in Tennessee, an individual must have a Master’s degree in Library Information Science in order to be qualified for the position of Library Media Specialist?  This is one of only a few teaching positions that requires this advanced degree.
  4. KCS Library Media Specialists are leading the way in computer programming training for students across the district.  These professionals have received intensive training on teaching coding to students in grades K-8.  Coding not only teaches 21st Century technology skills, but also allows students to problem solve and engage in higher-order thinking.  KCS Library Media Specialists have done an excellent job of fostering these skills in students at a very early age.
  5. All KCS Libraries house a “Maker Space.”  A Maker Space is a location in which individuals with shared interests (especially in computing or technology) can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.  The Maker Space holds a variety of different materials for this purpose.  Some of the most popular items include Legos, K’Nex, Makey Makey circuit boards, a Dash robot, PlayDoh, building materials, iPads, and computers.
  6. The KCS Libraries and Library Media Specialists have received a number of awards and certifications in recent years.  These recognitions include three National Board Certified teacher designations, four Certified Tennessee Electronic Libraries Trainers, all LMS’ receiving training in selection and resource curation, several American Library Association accredited school designations, three Library of Congress primary resource trained professionals, and the 2017 Tennessee Association of School Libraries Innovative Elementary Librarian … WOW!

As you can see, the KCS Library Media Specialists play a critical role in the development and support of the KCS teaching and learning process.  Thanks to this great group of individuals who work hard on a daily basis to support exemplary student learning!

Next week in the Saturday Six:  The KCS Board of Education is poised to approve a 2018-19 School Calendar at their scheduled meeting next Tuesday.  We’ll look at the major components of that schedule next Saturday!