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KCS Cabinet shop builds shelves, cabinets and lasting relationships with students

Bill Breeden, foreman, and Paul Waldrop test the position of a lighting strip being installed on a radio broadcast cabinet for Fulton High School station WKCS-FM 91.1.
Paul Waldrop prepares shelves are painting in the paint room at the Knox County Schools cabinet shop.
Building life-long relationships with students and schools is another product of the cabinet shop crew. Here is a 'thank you' note from one of 'their' students.
They have over a hundred years of experience in their line of work, but they go quietly about their business behind the scenes in the Knox County Schools system where their talents save thousands of dollars in custom shelving and furniture and serve hundreds of children with special needs. They are the skilled craftsmen of the cabinet shop in the KCS maintenance department.

“We are fortunate to have such a talented group of men in our cabinet shop,” said Chris Towe, Supervisor of Skilled Crafts. “We have only five employees in that department, but they have the skills to build almost anything that we feel is needed in our schools.”

Their work is most often found in new school libraries, in renovation projects, and in custom-made conference and office furniture throughout the system. High-grade bookshelves made of cotton core birch grade plywood are a staple product of the crew. Comparable shelving bought commercially would cost the system 3-4 times as much. Their crafts grace the superintendent’s conference room in the central office.

But the crew builds more than just furniture. Bill Breeden, shop foreman, who has been with the school system since 1972, steps from the spotlessly clean shop area into his small office and brings out a thick stack of letters that the shop has received from handicapped kids over the years. “This is what it is all about,” he says as he begins to flip through the carefully scripted letters often graced with art from the students. Each letter is a thank you for a customized project that the crew has built for a student.

“They do a wonderful job building things for students who require adaptation for seating or positioning to access their regular or special education curriculum,” said Regina Jenkins, Supervisor of Occupational and Physical Therapy for the system. “They have built special desks to accommodate power wheelchairs and made things that meet the special needs of students.”

Breeden said that often times as the student grows, they have gone back and made the adaptive equipment bigger as well. “These kids are special to us,” he beams.

Regina points out that there have been many cases where commercially purchased equipment has broken and the cabinet shop has manufactured the parts for repair. “They can design just about anything we need,” she said.

Members of Breeden’s crew are Scott Hill, Tony Ridenour, Ronnie Campbell, and Paul Waldrop.

The crew usually builds all the library shelving for new school construction projects and for renovation projects thereby saving the system thousands of dollars in furniture costs. In these times of tight budgets, their labor translates into several positions that might have otherwise been cut due to costs.
Scott Hill, Bill Breeden, and Tony Ridenour show some of the special projects the shop designs and manufactures for students all across the county. Their skills have saved the system thousands of dollars in cabinets, furniture, and have provided many 'one of a kind' products to help handicapped students.
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