published Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Vocational principal to lead Bledsoe County schools

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    Bledsoe County Director of Schools Jennifer L. Terry.

Longtime Bledsoe County Vocational School principal Jennifer L. Terry was picked from a field of five this week as the county's next director of schools, replacing retiring schools leader Phil Kiper.

Terry said Wednesday that she was "really surprised" when she got the nod in a 6-2-1 vote Monday night.

"I had some really good competition," she explained.

Four of the five applicants for the job came from within the school district, and the fifth lives in Marion County, Tenn., records show. Kiper will leave his post at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

The field of applicants included former Pikeville Elementary School Principal James R. Ellis, Bledsoe County High School vice principal and athletic director Greg Harwood, Bledsoe High band director and music teacher Frank Hudson and South Pittsburg High School Principal Allen Pratt, records show.

Board Vice Chairman Bobby Angel said the pick was a good one and the main reason the vote was split was because the field of candidates was strong.

"She was the only person whose name was brought to a vote," Angel said. He said Terry and the school board will "make a very successful team as we move forward."

Bledsoe County hasn't had a woman director of the schools since Terry's aunt, Vera Wallace, held the post about 40 years ago, Terry said.

"I have a lot of educators in my family; my grandmother and aunts have all taught," she said. "It's kind of what I've done my whole life."

Terry said she looks forward to working with the school board but believes she still "has a lot to learn" about elementary education as she prepares to take the helm of the six-school system.

"I look forward to working with Phil Kiper [through the transition] and he's done a lot of good things that I hope to continue," she said of the outgoing director.

Terry, principal and the vocational and technical education director for the county's ninth- through 12th-grade vocational school, also worked at the facility as a counselor, marketing instructor and GED counselor since 1992, records show.

She says she'll miss her job of 19 years.

"We're a small staff and we're all very close. It's been a great group," she said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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