Kingsport City Schools

Kingsport City Schools Begins 2014-15 School Year

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We are ready…

Though teachers and staff have been back at work for quite a few days now (and some never actually left!), many more alarm clocks likely went off much earlier than usual all around Kingsport this week as 7,000+ KCS students made the official shift from summer mode to the 2014-15 school year.  For the first time in 74 days (yes, summer break was really that long) lunches were packed, backpacks were loaded with fresh supplies, buses rolled, and quiet school hallways filled with the buzz of excitement and new beginnings.  The first day of school is always a time of renewed opportunities, and this year was no different, as students, teachers, and staff embarked on the unknown journey that is our new school year.

For some, it is a brand new adventure.  How precious it is to see the faces of 530 kindergarteners mixed with eager anticipation, happiness, and just a touch of nervousness as they start “big” school.  For the over 450 seniors at Dobyns-Bennett, it’s the beginning of the end of their KCS journey.  Their faces may look decidedly different as they balance AP coursework, graduation requirements, Senior Prom, and college or career choices.  But if truth be told, they are probably feeling that exact same mix of emotions as those 5-year olds entering school for the very first time.

Over 40 teachers and just as many classified staff members are starting a new professional journey with KCS this week.  Each year always brings a new group of dedicated and excited educators to Kingsport, and this year is no different.  As one of its Core Tenets, KCS lists as one of its organizational goals to recruit, hire, and retain the very best employees.  Though that process takes place all year long, the first day of the school year is always a landmark day in that process for so many individuals that we are so excited to now call colleagues.

And for John Sevier Middle School teacher Kenn Naegele, Monday might be day #1, but it is certainly nothing new.  As the longest tenured employee of Kingsport City Schools, this week marks his 43rd “first day of school.”  You might think that after starting over 40 school years, this would be old hat for him.  However, I’m sure Kenn will attest that he has the same level of energy, excitement, and even “butterflies” as those new employees just starting their educational careers. 

Young or old.  Experienced or brand new.  Day one always brings new excitement… new beginnings.. new possibilities.  It’s quite possibility the best day of the year!

We are ready… We Are KCS!

Dobyns-Bennett Students “Pay it Forward”

We have a heart for service…

It is said that the true character of a person is demonstrated when no one is watching.  If that is the case, than a group of young ladies at Dobyns-Bennett have set a bar that we all should strive and hope to reach.

Following an economics class on poverty during their Junior year, these ladies felt called to served economically disadvantaged students at D-B that might be missed by local service agencies.  Knowing that navigating through high school can be difficult enough, they wanted to do what they could to help their fellow students who’s families might be struggling financially.  Thus, “Pay it Forward” was born.  Over the next year, they worked to support students whose high school experience might be limited due to financial issues.

It was certainly a noble cause that made a tangible difference in the lives of many D-B students.  But here is the amazing, and likely most impressive part of the story… the entire project was done anonymously.  Mailboxes were placed within D-B and students were encouraged to anonymously suggest names of classmates so that no one would feel awkward requesting help.  The names of students or families in need were referred to appropriate individuals and agencies for help.  Assistance was provided quietly with students’ feelings in mind.  High school can be hard enough, as it is.

When word about Pay it Forward did come to light, community members quickly rose to support the cause.  Brothers Scot and John Franklin, owners of the Fort Henry Drive Subway, held two fundraising events over the course of the 2013-14 school year.  Over $670 was raised to support the efforts of Pay it Forward, with all funds donated to the Clothes Closet for needed shoes and clothing.  Dozens of shoes, tops, and pants were purchased for students in need.

And who were the young ladies that imagined, created, and facilitated the “Pay it Forward” project?  Nope… that’s anonymous, as well.  You see, it was important to these young ladies that their work remain behind the scenes, as they wanted neither credit or personal recognition for their work.  They simply desired to serve their classmates in whatever way they could… To make a positive difference in another’s life so that they could have the same type of high school experience that these young ladies were blessed to have.

We may very well never know the identities of these D-B students that did so much for their classmates, but the results of their work can be seen in the positive impact on the lives of many others.  For these young ladies, that is reward enough.

We have a heart for service… We are KCS!

Dobyns-Bennett 2014 Graduates Excel


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We excel…

Saturday, May 24, 2014 dawned bright, sunny, and unseasonably cool in Kingsport, as 427 Dobyns-Bennett graduating seniors awoke to a day of excitement and celebration.  Graduation day at D-B is always a joyous occasion, as graduates and families gather to recognize student achievement and success.  This year’s event was no different, as another fantastic D-B class brought a successful close to their high school careers.

After a review of the data, to say this was a “successful” graduating class actually turns out to be quite an understatement.  In preparation for his commencement address, D-B Principal Dr. Chris Hampton did some research regarding the accomplishments of this particular class.  The results are nothing short of astounding.  The Class of 2014 contained:

  • Three National Merit Finalists
  • Two National Merit Commended Students
  • A Presidential Scholar Semifinalist
  • 85 Tennessee/Virginia Scholars
  • 93 Graduates of Distinction
  • An appointment to the United States Air Force Academy
  • Multiple commitments to the United States Armed Services
  • Four students with perfect attendance for all four years of high school
  • Over a dozen Career and Technical state-level winners and national qualifiers
  • Over 50 conference, district, and regional athletic titles
  • Multiple state athletic champions
  • A student with a perfect score on the ACT

But it doesn’t stop there.  This year’s graduating band class has been described as one of the most successful in the history of Dobyns-Bennett, having performed on some of the biggest stages in the country.  Their credits include performances for both the Governor and President, having marched at Neyland Stadium, in the Tournament of Roses and Macy’s parades, and at the Presidential Inauguration.

The quality of this year’s graduates has certainly been noticed, both near and far.  As an indicator of their success and future potential, the Class of 2014 has been offered the staggering amount of over $10.2 million in scholarship money to date.  This is the largest recorded amount of scholarship offerings for a graduating class since this data has been collected and speaks volumes about their achievement and potential for the future.

It is a class to be celebrated.  We look forward to seeing what great things lie in these students’ futures and trust that the experiences gained at D-B have prepared them well for the path in front of them.  The Class of 2014 epitomizes the definition of the phrase “World Class,” and with excitement and confidence, wish them well.  Once an Indian… Always an Indian!  #RollTribeRoll

We excel… We are KCS!

Cora Cox Academy Graduates Largest Class

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We persevere,

How do you define success?  It may be different for each of us, but for most folks, we likely think about crossing a finish line after embarking on some type of life journey.  At this time of year, graduation ceremonies provide the opportunity to celebrate the academic accomplishments of students who have reached a successful conclusion to their school experience.  It is one way we acknowledge the hard work and effort required to earn a diploma.

For many, that journey may be a direct path.  But for some, the road to that graduation finish line might look a bit different.  For a variety of reasons, life may cause it to be a winding road rather than a straight line.  That is what makes the 2014 graduating class of Cora Cox Academy so unique and so extraordinary.  Undaunted by whatever challenges life my have thrown at them, these young men and women demonstrated the commitment necessary to graduate high school and successfully prepare themselves for the next stage of their lives.  They are to be greatly commended for understanding the importance of completing high school and for committing themselves to accomplishing that goal.

On May 21, 2014, the largest graduating class in Cora Cox Academy history crossed the stage and received their diploma, signifying the completion of their high school journey.  It marked the next step in the growth and evolution of CCA, which offers students a unique path to a high school diploma.  In the coming months, this innovative approach to a personalized high school education will grow to include both a virtual academy with expanded online course offerings and a non-traditional high school academy, where flexible spaces and scheduling will help to serve a student population with diverse needs and abilities.    It’s an exciting and cutting-edge approach that focuses on individual student needs to provide all children a path to high school graduation… especially ones that may find success in the traditional high school setting more challenging.

As the recent Cora Cox Academy graduates demonstrated, great things can be accomplished when you dedicate yourself to doing whatever is necessary to reach that finish line.  And with the non-traditional approach being developed at CCA, even more students will have the opportunity to take this vital step in their life journey.  To the CCA Class of 2014, we salute you for not allowing the winding and difficult road of life from deterring you from reaching your goal of a high school diploma.  You set a wonderful example for us all, and we look forward to celebrating that next finish line with you.

We persevere… We are KCS!

Tennessee Titan Coty Sensabaugh Gives Back to Kingsport

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We give back…

In the long and storied history of Dobyns-Bennett High School, there have been countless graduates that have developed their personal talents and gone on to great professional success. Take a glance through the list of D-B alumni, and you’ll quickly discover some of our nation’s finest and most successful individuals. You’ll find the likes of business leaders, military generals, and captains of industry.

In April, one of D-B’s most recent athletic success stories returned to Kingsport to share his personal journey and impress upon our students the importance of education. Current Tennessee Titan and D-B grad Coty Sensabaugh visited several KCS schools to share his message and encourage students to take advantage of the great educational opportunities in KCS. Through his talent, dedication, and commitment, Coty has been provided a platform where he can influence the youth of our community. How impressive that he takes advantage of this to come back and provide such a positive message to our students.

What is even more impressive is that Coty doesn’t just talk the talk. He is serious about using his good fortune to help support the community that, in his words, provided him so much support during his development. On June 14, 2014, the 2nd Annual Sensabaugh Camp Classic will take place at J. Fred Johnson Stadium. This non-contact youth football camp is open to all children, boys and girls, from ages 6-17. In addition to receiving personal instruction from Coty, other NFL players, and coaches, campers will receive a camp t-shirt and lunch.

But what sets Coty’s camp apart from many others (and also demonstrates his loyalty and commitment to Kingsport) is that the camp is totally free to participants. Yes… that is correct. There is no fee for any aspect of the camp. Children can come and learn about football, physical health, and teamwork from positive role models that take seriously the concept of using their good fortune to help others. For more information about the camp and to register, visit

Coty walks the walk. What a great example of someone who recognizes his ability and potential to positively influence our children and community.

We give back… We are KCS!


KCS Students Display Their Patriotism


We are patriotic…

It happens in classrooms all across Kingsport each and every day.  To some, it may seem like just another ordinary routine.  But for students in Kingsport City Schools, it is an exercise in freedom and civic understanding.  It’s the Pledge of Allegiance, and for our students and teachers, it’s how we begin our day.  During this school year, students and teachers have had the privilege of participating in WKPT-TV’s regular morning broadcast of the Pledge, which has aired during “Good Morning America” and has also been posted on the KCS and WKPT Facebook pages.  It has been a fun way for parents and community members to see our students displaying their patriotism.  And let’s face it… It’s always exciting to see your daughter/son/grandchild on television, right?

However, there is a bigger issue at play here.  This is just one of many things occurring in our schools every day that stress citizenship, honor, and civic responsibility.  In a day and age where these traits are often overshadowed by the many voices of popular culture, it’s important that children know and understand the country in which we reside.  We are privileged to live in this great nation and to be a part of a special school system.  In helping our students become excellent in their academic and social pursuits, we also take seriously the need to support and assist in the development of informed, knowledgeable, and responsible citizens.

Kingsport City Schools strives to educate and develop the whole child.  Whether it’s the responsibility instilled through rigorous academic pursuits and extra-curricular activities, the sportsmanship taught through participation in athletics, or the many important life lessons learned both inside and outside of the classroom, our students are growing and developing each and every day. We are proud to play such an important part in the nurturing of Kingsport’s next generation of citizens and leaders.  It’s a vital role in ensuring that we all understand our heritage, our responsibilities, and our pride in our community and country.

We are patriotic… We are KCS!

We Celebrate Our Educators


We are educators…

This week, schools and communities all across America are celebrating “Teacher Appreciation Week.”  It’s a time set aside to show our appreciation to the people who have dedicated their lives to helping our children learn and grow.  Personally, I believe it’s about 51 weeks too short, but that’s a discussion for another day.  However, the recognition got me thinking about how we define the word “teacher.”

Of course, it can refer to what we typically think of as a classroom teacher… the person who’s name is on the classroom door and on the top of the report card when it goes home each nine weeks.  I’m sure that when Teacher Appreciation Week was conceptualized, those are the individuals they had in mind.  The dedication it takes to be a classroom teacher is enormous.  It’s a position that requires a huge amount of preparation, professional learning, data review, content knowledge, and teaching skill.  Combine a full-time teacher, social worker, parent, friend, statistician, mentor, student, and advocate… That’s a more complete picture of what it actually takes to be a teacher today.

But what about all the other people that contact and influence our children each day?  Aren’t they “teachers,” just as well?  What about the bus driver that may spend an hour each day with our children and likely learns more about their ins and outs then we’ll ever know?  What do they teach our kids about reliability, safety, and friendship?  What about the cafeteria workers that are there each day with friendly faces and a hot meal?  Aren’t they providing life lessons in nutrition, service, and teamwork?  The examples are found all throughout our workforce, schools, and community, and they give their best to support the 7,000 children that enter our schools each day.

In Kingsport, we don’t just refer to this week as “Teacher” appreciation week, because we feel that every one of our employees contributes to the growth of our students.  We believe that all KCS employees, regardless of job title, are educators.  It’s a group of over 1,100 diverse individuals that give their very best to our children, and deserve our thanks, not just this week, but all throughout the year.

So to the teacher, instructional assistant, secretary, bookkeeper, office assistant, custodian, bus driver, maintenance worker, counselor, nurse, cafeteria worker, therapist, psychologist, curriculum coordinator, technology specialist, coach, finance worker, administrator, and all other educators that work for Kingsport City Schools, we thank you.  Not just today or during Teacher Appreciation Week, but each and every day of the year.  You continually give of yourself to improve our children, and for that, we are eternally grateful.

We are educators… We are KCS.

John Sevier Middle School Student Council… A Four-Star Organization of Servant Leaders

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We are leaders…

What is the purpose of attending public school?

It’s a seemingly simple question, but one that may elicit many different opinions, depending on whom and when you ask the question.  Certainly, academic growth and achievement is always at the top of the list.  As is developing toward college and/or career readiness.  Growth of the whole child is critical, in areas such as the arts, athletics, and music.  The “priority list” could, in fact, be quite lengthy.

For a group of students at John Sevier Middle School, “Servant Leadership Development” is clearly a focus.  Led by faculty sponsors Rachel Wagner and Heather Donihe, these students have committed to developing themselves not only as students and learners, but also as leaders in their school.  Their efforts are being recognized not only throughout the Sevier community, but also at the state level.  The Tennessee Association of Student Councils has honored the JSMS Student Council with their “Four Star Award,” the top honor given to a school student council.  In fact, only five middle schools in Tennessee received this prestigious honor in 2014.

The criteria to receive the award is incredibly difficult.  During the past school year, the JSMS Student Council completed over 20 projects throughout their school and community in attempting to qualify.  These projects involved community and school service, fundraising, communications, faculty and staff relations, leadership development, and school spirit.  Much selfless work was completed.  It’s the exact type of work that serves to develop community-minded individuals that grasp the importance of placing others above self… the type of individuals that as middle school students, are already understanding what it means to be leaders in the true sense of the word.

Congratulations to all the members of the JSMS Student Council for your shining example of servant leadership.  For your selfless sacrifice and commitment to your school and community, you are absolutely deserving of the honor given by the Tennessee Association of Student Councils.  Well done George Armentrout, Jackson Bass, Charles Chervanik, Samuel Cleek, Caitlyn Cole, John Lewis Corker, Leland Corker, Emily Godsey, Tanner Guske, Jasper Hunley-Bota, Olivia LaHair, Morgan Malcolm, James Root, Callie Stidham, Zach Sublett, Aja Thomas, Aubrey Vincent, Rithvik Vutukuri, and Katie Williams!

We are leaders… We are KCS.

Roosevelt Elementary Students Create Butterfly Garden

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We are unique…

So how can real learning take place in our schools and classrooms… where students move beyond textbook resources and develop deep personal understandings of the subjects they study? How can a community come together to ensure that all students have rich learning environments that take learning to an entirely new level? And how can we ensure that these experiences cater to the individual needs and interests of our children? For the students in the Roosevelt Elementary School Life Skills class, it began with a little help, a lot of ambition, and a cooperative spirit that has led to a large-scale project full of excitement and new learnings.

Beginning in November, 2013, Life Skills teacher Morgan Saunders applied for and received an Eastman “Putting Children First” grant. These funds, generously supplied by Eastman Chemical Company, support and encourage innovative classroom-level projects all across northeast Tennessee. In Ms. Saunders class, it allowed for an in-depth life-cycle project to occur through the creation of a fully developed butterfly garden.

Through this study, Ms. Saunders, her students, and the staff at Roosevelt have reared over 100 painted lady butterflies, built and planted a sustainable butterfly garden, and released the butterflies into their garden creation.  Along the way, they have experienced numerous classroom opportunities focusing on investigation, the sequencing of life cycles, habitats, and the stages of development. Lasting from November through May, this extended hands-on study provided countless opportunities for learning, excitement, and growth.

Every Kingsport City Schools student has individual talents and interests. With the help of Eastman, Ms. Saunders has been able to cultivate a curiosity and love of science in her students, leading to a hands-on, learning-rich environment. We are fortunate to have such fantastic corporate partners that make these unique opportunities possible, and such terrific children that thrive in the excitement of new learning.

Just like the butterflies they released into their new habitat, the students at Roosevelt are distinct individuals, full of life and beauty, and certainly ready to fly!

We are unique… We are KCS.

Dobyns-Bennett High School Dramahawks


We are exceptional…

When the long and successful history of Dobyns-Bennett academic and extra-curricular programs are considered, you’d better make sure to place the D-B Theatre Department very close to the top of the list. With a litany of local, regional, and state honors achieved, Director Debbie Coram continues to develop the “Dramahawks” into some of the finest actors and actresses in the state. The bar continues to remain high, and our students (not surprisingly), continue to surpass those high expectations.

Earlier this month, D-B students again struck it big at the state drama tournament in Nashville, winning top honors in a variety of categories. The cast of “Teen Drama Takes a Hike” won the state Interpreters’ Theatre title (Daniel Jernigan, Lukas McCrary, Hunter Eaton, Jackson Fox, Zoe Stout, Merritt Cagle, Haleigh Hankins, Lauren Feathers, and Anna Mader), while Aaron Johnson and Ben Blevins took the title for Duet Acting. Other top results were turned in by Kelli Frawley (3rd place, Costume Design), Grayson Marshall (3rd place, Prose Interpretation), Devin Hooven (4th place, Pantomime), McKenzie Miller (4th place, Humorous Interpretation), Astrid Rotenberry (4th place, Solo Acting), Anna Mader (4th place, Storytelling) and Maxine Poole and Zach Shafer (5th place, Duet Acting).

One of the key foundational philosophies at D-B is that students are given a wide variety of opportunities and experiences (both inside and outside the classroom) in which to find excellence. How exciting to see that mindset embraced by a faculty that works hard to provide such varied experiences, and by a student body that excitedly steps forward to discover and cultivate the talents that lie within. The 2014 Dramahawks are a prime example of this philosophy. They should be applauded for their commitment to excellence and for displaying their talents both figuratively and literally on the local and statewide stage.

We are exceptional… We are KCS.