After a 30-year career with Blount County Schools, Steve Stout’s retirement lasted about a month.
He painted the house, worked in the flower beds and took a vacation with his wife. Then he took a job as operations coordinator at Cherokee Millwright, but this spring he saw the Blount County Education Foundation planned to hire an executive director for the first time since 2010. He was hired and is back working to support students.
“Education has been my calling,” Stout said. “I’m ready to get back involved.”
The students, teachers and administrators in Blount County Schools have been family to Stout, who attended Porter and graduated from Heritage High School in 1983.
Stout began his teaching career at Montvale Elementary School in 1988. He’s been an administrator at Friendsville, Middlesettlements and Porter elementary schools, as well as Heritage middle and high schools. He became principal at Townsend Elementary in 2011, a position he held until retiring in 2018.
He’s seen firsthand the difference even a few hundred dollars can make to students and schools.
At Townsend, for example, grants from the nonprofit foundation for Blount County Schools supported efforts from tutoring to classroom technology.
The foundation, created in 1990, has operated without an executive director since 2010, when P.J. Silver left the position.
While BCEF raises about $100,000 for the county’s 21 campuses annually, Stout said, “We can do so much more. We can be better; we can help in more ways.”
With many aunts, uncles, grandparents and even great-grandparents raising students today, he knows a relatively small amount can support a student going to a competition, and with connections throughout the community, the foundation can draw in volunteers, too.
Right now BCEF is preparing for its annual “Stuff the Bus” event during the upcoming tax-free shopping weekend. Volunteers will collect school supplies and monetary donations at the Alcoa and Maryville Walmart stores, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 27, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday, July 28.
Stout will have an office at Mary Blount Elementary School, which had an available spot, but he doesn’t plan to spend a lot of time there.
“I want to be in the schools,” he said, and expect to see him during open houses. He’ll also be meeting with businesses, calling alumni and doing more to discover the needs and resources that the foundation can bring together.
Although he has served on nonprofit boards before, this is Stout’s first time as an executive director, and he plans to learn from others in the area during this first year, including the other education foundations.
He’s also served as a coach for track, basketball, baseball and football, so he admits to a competitive spirt. “I look forward to a challenge,” he said.