• Community Leaders Are
    Principals For A Day

    Posted by Josh Flory on 11/16/2018
    Students walking into Gibbs Middle School on the first day of school.
    Gibbs High School Principal Jason Webster reviews floor plans with Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler and Walgreen's store manager Joshua Frye, while visiting an Intro to Basic Construction Class at Gibbs. 

    Business executives, non-profit leaders and elected officials from across Knox County got to try on a new title this week -- Principal.

    Knox County Schools on Thursday hosted its annual Principal For A Day outreach, inviting 128 community leaders into the schools for an up-close look at a day in the life of a school leader.

    At Gibbs High School, Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler and Walgreen's manager Joshua Frye visited with Principal Jason Webster and toured the school's CTE wing, dropping in on a construction class and a cosmetology class.

    Frye, who serves on the KCS Partners in Education board, said later that his biggest takeaway was the level of emotional support provided by teachers and administrators.

    "It's not just educating kids, it's taking care of them holistically and making sure that they're nurtured and guided and have somebody to look up to if they need that," he said.

    At Gresham Middle School, Principal Donna Parker was an energetic example of all the hats that principals wear. Before classes began, she was summoned outside to hold an umbrella while a student on crutches made his way through the rain. After making sure the floor was dry and no one slipped, she met Karen Pershing, executive director of the Metro Drug Coalition, and Alizza Punzalan-Randle, CEO of the YWCA Knoxville, who were Principals For A Day at Gresham.

    The trio walked the halls, met with teachers and dropped by classrooms to see student learning in action.

    Punzalan-Randle said she was blown away by the principal's commitment to being present in classrooms and knowing students, adding that it was a contrast to the stereotype of a principal who stays in their office and never interacts with students. The executive said that while Parker asked the YWCA to come speak with her students, Punzalan-Randle was hoping Parker would do the same.

    "I was inspired by her," the executive said. "I’m trying to figure out how can I get her in front of some of our youth, and even in front of some of our volunteers." 

    Students walking into Gibbs Middle School on the first day of school.
    Gresham Middle School Principal Donna Parker helps a student through the rain.

    Following the school tours, participants gathered at the Sarah Simpson Professional Development Technology Center for lunch, and talked about what they learned from the principal's-eye view. Like Frye, many participants were struck by the extent to which teachers must grapple with challenges that students bring from outside the classroom.

    David Hunt, General Manager of WBIR-Channel 10, said he visited a school where 85 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, adding that after his visit, he has a much clearer picture of the challenges facing teachers.

    "The work you guys are doing is 10-fold what they were doing when I was in school," he said.

    Kenneth Herring, of IT firm United Data Technologies, was Principal For A Day at Fulton High School, and said he was impressed with the amount of individualized instruction that students were receiving. Equally important, he praised principal Rob Speas for building relationships with teachers and students, and emphasized the importance of that personal touch for education.

    "The students are just like us," Herring said. "The people that you have the best relationships with are the ones you're able to impact the most."


    Students walking into Gibbs Middle School on the first day of school.

    Kenneth Herring, of United Data Technologies, speaks at a luncheon following his service as KCS Principal For A Day at Fulton High School.