Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson's mid-year update was met with approval by most school board members when he presented it at Thursday night's meeting.
Drastic change was the theme as board members reviewed the work of the former chief academic officer for Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools since he took the helm at Hamilton County Schools in July.
"The reality of it is we are in a season of change," Johnson said.
Since taking over the office, Johnson has reshaped the district's central office, launched a plan and partnered with the state to improve the district's lowest-performing schools, started the process of rebranding the district itself and he has taken a stance against Signal Mountain's possible attempt to break away from the rest of the district.
"It's not about just what we do but about the culture and strategy we establish," Johnson said. "We want intentional, focused, systematic change that moves and transforms our students."
District 2 board member Kathy Lennon acknowledged that some of the changes and issues Johnson and the board has tackled have not been easy.
"We've leaped forward," Lennon said. "Change is hard, but I think we are on the upswing."
In the approach toward budget season, Johnson also expressed some of his priorities for the budget, gathered from community listening sessions he and the district hosted last fall. Those priorities include arts programs, social emotional support, community schools, student safety and STEM programming.
Johnson also shared his goals and what the school system would look like once achieving his tagline: "The fastest improving school district in the state." That criteria would include every student having access to a "great teacher, every teacher having access to a great leader and every teacher and leader having access to great support and instructional resources," according to his presentation.
Most of the school board members, who voted to hire Johnson, expressed support for his work thus far.
"I feel great," District 7 board member Joe Wingate said. "Throughout my time running and my almost year under the previous administration on this board, I wanted drastic change. I was someone who wanted to see that, I felt like we were in a bad spot."
Wingate said he was encouraged by Johnson's ability to jump in and bring about a change in direction.
District 4 board member Tiffanie Robinson agreed.
"I am ecstatic about the drastic changes that Dr. Johnson is making," Robinson said. "He's doing a great job of sticking to his word, and the board is holding him to his task."
In the coming year, some of Johnson's goals include deeper reorganization of the central office and leadership, conducting the next round of community listening sessions, refining a strategic plan and launching the Future Ready Institutes announced earlier this year.
The report came amid efforts to pass the 2018-2019 budget and address ongoing achievement issues in the district, as reflected in last week's State Report Card.
"I think we are making good strides," board chairman and District 9 representative Steve Highlander said. "We have a long way to go Johnson jumped in head first and is making positive strides."
As budget season approaches and the district approaches the end of the first school year under Johnson, some board members said they were already seeing the magnitude of some of the cultural shifts within a district that has seen struggles in recent years.
"We are very fortunate to have Bryan Johnson as our superintendent," District 3 board member Joe Smith said. "You can already see the cultural shift of how staff, board members, and the community see public education, and I think that's due to Bryan Johnson."
This story was updated Jan. 18, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.