Chris Earl – The Howard School
Students walking into 16 Hamilton County schools this fall will be greeted by new principals after district leaders announced new appointments Thursday.
"The more challenging the circumstance, the more leadership matters," said Hamilton County Schools Chief Academic Officer Jill Levine. "There are great challenges in our schools, but our central office team is ready to work alongside these leaders and support them as they create positive change for students and teachers."
The future of Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis was made unclear Thursday after it was announced that Signal Mountain Middle/High Principal Robin Copp will be replacing him.
Jarvis has been under scrutiny since the rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman, allegedly by three of his basketball teammates in December. Central office staff said Thursday afternoon they had not received a retirement notice from Jarvis, but said they could not confirm if he would take a position as an assistant principal.
It is expected that the list of assistant principal appointments will be released today.
Levine said she thinks Copp is the right leader for Ooltewah right now and is eager to see how the community supports her in this role.
"Her positive leadership and ability to build a team of strong leaders around her and bring positive change into a school is undisputed," Levine said. "[Copp] has a proven track record of success."
Copp's replacement at Signal Mountain, Todd Stinson, is the only principal this year to come from outside the Hamilton County school system.
Stinson is currently the principal at Merrol Hyde Magnet School, a high-performing school in Hendersonville, Tenn., where he has been for two years. Previously, he worked as an instructional coach for Sumner County Schools and also was an assistant principal in Williamson County for five years.
Merrol Hyde is a K-12 school with a graduation rate of 100 percent and an average ACT score of 29.7. Signal Mountain Middle/High's average ACT score is 23.9, significantly above the county's average of 18.9.
Both Merrol Hyde and Signal Mountain have similar student demographics — a small portion of students at both schools come from economically disadvantaged homes.
Levine said she is excited to have Stinson join Hamilton County Schools, adding how important it is for the district to look within and outside the county for the best talent.
"We feel Todd Stinson is one of the very best and understands the demands of a community that expects excellence," she said.
A majority of the district's iZone schools, which are schools performing in the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, will have new principals this fall.
Leadership changes are underway at Dalewood Middle School, Orchard Knob Middle School and Woodmore Elementary. Only Brainerd High School and Orchard Knob Elementary will have the same principals.
In January, the Tenenssee Deparment of Education sent a report to Hamilton County school leaders criticizing the lack of academic progress made at these five schools over the past three years. The report threatened that Hamilton County may have to surrender these schools to charter schools or the state if things don't turn around.
Since being appointed interim superintendent last month, Kirk Kelly has repeatedly said improving these iZone schools is one of his top priorities.
"We are always trying to make improvements so we made some adjustments in the iZone," he said Thursday afternoon.
Kelly noted that Chris Earl, principal at Dalewood Middle School, will be moving to The Howard School, which is a school on the cusp of joining the iZone because of low test scores.
Earl will be replacing Zac Brown, who is the district's new assistant superintendent of operations.
"Chris is a good fit for Howard," Kelly said.
Cheri Grant-Guerdon, principal at Woodmore Elementary, will be moving to Rivermont Elementary and is being replaced by Ooltewah Elementary School Assistant Principal Brenda Cothran.
Tiffany Earvin, an assistant principal at East Ridge High School, will take over at Orchard Knob Middle School; and Arielle Hayes will move from her post as an assistant principal at Orchard Knob Middle to become principal at Dalewood Middle School.
Kelly said each of these assistant principals has demonstrated strengths in their roles and has actively participated in professional development. He noted that Hayes and Cothran both graduated from the Public Education Foundation's Principal Leadership Academy, and Earvin has demonstrated good work in a diversity of positions within the district.
Kelly previously appointed several principals to high-ranking positions at the district's central office, creating vacancies at The Howard School, Normal Park Museum Magnet and Red Bank High School.
Blake Freeman, principal at Soddy-Daisy Middle School, will take over at Normal Park, replacing Levine who was recently appointed Chief Academic Officer. Red Bank High School Assistant Principal Elaine Harper will replace Justin Robertson, who is now the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
In a press release addressing each of the 16 new principals, Kelly stated school leadership is essential to student success.
"Great school leaders are the key to ensuring there is an excellent teacher in every classroom," Kelly said. "We are confident that these principals will provide outstanding leadership in their new placements."
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at 423-757-6592 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.