• Kelley Academy Celebrates New Home

    By Josh Flory on 12/19/2018 (https://www.knoxschools.org/Page/18292)
    Principal Janice Cook (center) leads a ribbon-cutting at the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy on Dec. 18, 2018.
    Principal Janice Cook (center) leads a ribbon-cutting at the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy on Dec. 18, 2018.

    When Ashley Griffin’s academic career hit a rough patch, she enrolled at the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy, a school for Knox County students who have fallen behind on their coursework.

    Griffin said she learned life skills that helped her stay out of trouble, and got a helping hand from teachers who made sure she didn’t fail. This week, those efforts paid off as Griffin graduated from the Kelley Academy, along with more than 30 classmates.

    “None of the teachers gave up,” Griffin said. “They might have been frustrated a little bit, but they really pushed me, and that is the only reason … I can graduate. Because without their help and the support of my family, I wouldn’t have graduated. I would be a dropout.”

    On Tuesday, the Academy celebrated several milestones. Besides a graduation ceremony in the evening, school officials and local dignitaries in the afternoon held a ribbon-cutting for the Academy’s new facility at Lincoln Park Center, on Chickamauga Avenue.

    The Academy was previously located in space at Knoxville Center Mall, but the move was made possible with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Simon Youth Foundation, a non-profit organization that receives financial support from Indianapolis-based real estate company Simon Property Group. SYF works with public school districts to support youth academies for students who are at risk of dropping out of school.

    In addition, SYF recently recognized Kelley Academy Principal Janice Cook as its Administrator of the Year, while teacher Jannice Clark was a nominee for the group’s Teacher of the Year award.

    In an interview, SYF President and CEO Michael Durnil said Cook stands out for her innovation, caring and thoughtfulness.

    “Her colleagues and her teaching staff really appreciate that she can work with them and provide leadership, as well as work with the district and advocate for them,” he said.

    The Kelley Academy is named for the late Paul Kelley, a former teacher and principal who served three terms on the Knox County School Board. His wife, Norma Kelley, was on hand at the ceremony on Tuesday.

    Knox Schools superintendent Bob Thomas said the Kelley Academy meets the three priorities set by the district: increasing student achievement, creating a positive culture and eliminating disparities. He also recognized Norma Kelley, herself a former librarian at Whittle Springs Middle School, and said her late husband “was truly an advocate for students.”

    Jennifer Owen, a member of the Knox County Board of Education, said that during her first visit to the Kelley Academy, Cook brought to her a math classroom to see instruction taking place. “It was immediate and obvious that there was so much teaching and learning going on,” Owen said. “That’s exactly what we need.”

    SYF isn’t the only organization to give the school a financial boost. On Tuesday, TVA Employees Credit Union also provided a $1,500 grant to support the Academy’s work.

    Cook, the Kelley Academy’s principal, said the ribbon-cutting was a good opportunity to remember the school’s mission of rekindling hope in students who didn’t believe they could graduate.

    “Our purpose is to reach every student where they are, and provide them with what they need to get them to go where they want to go,” she said.

    Ashley Griffin said help from teachers at the Kelley Academy, along with the support of her family, enabled her to graduate.
    Ashley Griffin said help from teachers at the Kelley Academy, along with the support of her family, enabled her to graduate.


    Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy Opens 

    Simon Youth Foundation Education Resource Center in Knoxville Center Mall

    November 1, 2010
    Community leaders, educators and representatives of the Simon Youth Foundation today cut the ribbon on the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy at the Knoxville Center Mall. 

    The Academy, a diploma-granting high school, is an Education Resource Center (ERC) made possible by a partnership between the Simon Youth Foundation and the Knox County Schools. The facility for the 6,400 square foot school is heavily underwritten by the Simon Youth Foundation. Funding has also been provided by the Great Schools Partnership and the Cornerstone Foundation.

    ERCs, like the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy, are designed for students who have found the traditional high school setting challenging for a variety of reasons. ERCs are an educational haven where students can recover credits and set the pace of their education. Located primarily in Simon malls across the United States, ERCs have served more than 19,000 students since the inception of the program in 1998. To date, over 7,000 students have received their high school diplomas, with a cumulative graduation rate of 90 percent. 

    “We are thrilled to be at a point where we can open the doors of this new school to our students in the next few days,” said Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of the Knox County Schools. “This high school will provide multiple pathways for students to succeed and we are extremely appreciative of the support of Simon Youth Foundation, the Board of Education, the Great Schools Partnership, our other benefactors and the broader community to make this a reality.”

    “This dream has become a reality thanks to the leadership with which this county is blessed,” said Dr. Richard Markoff, Executive Vice President of Simon Youth Foundation. “We at Simon Youth Foundation, on behalf of the at-risk and economically challenged youth we serve, appreciate the efforts of the many community partners, including the school system, Board of Education, higher education, philanthropic, Simon Property Group contractors, business contributors, and Knoxville Center Mall." 

    After receiving 99 recommendations from the community, the high school was named the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy after Dr. Paul Kelley, a long-time educator, administrator, and former Board of Education member. The term “Volunteer Academy” was suggested by students of the high school. 

    Each ERC offers courses tailored to meet the specific needs of the student, and each facility accommodates various learning styles and instructional needs. As an additional benefit, the SYF also provides scholarships for graduating students to continue their education, having awarded over 550 scholarships totaling more than $4.3 million in one- time and renewal awards.