Kronick’s Chronicles: Program of all programs

Bob KronickFeature

I left off last week writing about public education and politics. Education and politics don’t mix but they are currently inextricably connected. I firmly believe that if one values public education, then one needs to search for answers to the issues surrounding public schools today.

I started the University Assisted School model in 2003 by bringing together students, faculty and staff from the University of Tennessee and a faculty member from Pellissippi State Community College who helped us with the gardening program at Pond Gap Elementary.

The garden served many purposes besides the obvious. It became an adjunct site for “counseling.” Several gardeners provided exceptional leadership through their organization and operation of this garden.

The beginning years of these programs were educational challenges in challenged schools, in challenged neighborhoods and we operated on a totally volunteer basis. Jamie Cobble, a nuclear engineering student at the time, was the program coordinator. She was a exceptional leader. Today she a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee.

The principals involved during the evolution of the program were Blenza Davis, Gussy Cherry, Elisa Luna, Mamosa Foster and Susan Espiritu. All were critical to having it merge successfully within the current school framework as are the principals who have followed and continue to carry it forward.

My motivation is simple. My two children went from Sequoyah Elementary to Bearden Middle, graduating from West High School. I wanted all kids to get the same opportunities that my children did. Some people with power to give that have understood and some have not.

Superintendents in Knox County were a mixed bag. Charles Lindsey gave me carte blanche and we started during his tenure. Jim McIntyre was a supporter of community schools, but was misunderstood by some teachers who faulted his lack of classroom exposure.

Role of founder Boyd

The role of Randy Boyd as an early contributor and supporter of the UACS. This was prior to his role at the University as well. We collaborated for 10 years, meeting often. The UACS worked closely with schools in Cincinnati, the University of Pennsylvania, Indiana-Purdue University. Visitors came to see our community schools in action, and a visitor from New York City said our program surpassed theirs.

Failed Memphis visit – or was it?

State Rep. Gloria Johnson, two students and I went to Memphis. Their central office refused to meet with us, yet 18 of their teachers and staff came to Knoxville to visit our UACS program at Pond Gap. One guest thought Pond Gap must be a private school.

The school has been a success because of the staff. The staffs have been exceptional. In fact, the principal of Pond Gap, Susan Espiritu, represented the state of Tennessee in Washington D. C. as the 2012 Principal of the Year. She credited her staff for their willingness to go above and beyond to take on new programs to support students and families, naming the UACS as one of the key programs.

 Bob Kronick is professor emeritus University of Tennessee. Bob welcomes your comments or questions to


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