Parents shouldn't have to worry about whether their kids are receiving a quality education in Hamilton County Schools, superintendent finalist Bryan Johnson said.
"My job day 1 is to make sure these 44,000 students get what they deserve," Johnson said during his interview with the Hamilton County Board of Education Thursday night.
Johnson has worked in Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools, a large Tennessee school district north of Nashville, since 2008. He started his career teaching and coaching in the school system and was promoted through the ranks and named chief academic officer in 2015.
Johnson was the fourth superintendent finalist to interview in- person this week, and Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly has the last interview today. Each of the five finalists was given the same daylong interview schedule, which started with a tour of the district, meetings with central office staff and some individual board members. During the afternoon the candidates have time scheduled with elected officials, education stakeholders and the community, concluding with an hour-and-a-half interview with the school board.
Name: Bryan Johnson
Job: Chief academic officer for Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
Highest level of education: Doctorate in educational leadership and professional practice from Trevecca Nazarene University, 2010
Friday: Kirk Kelly
The candidates will be available to meet with the community between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. each day at central office, located at 3074 Hickory Valley Road. Following the community meeting the board will publicly interview the candidates.
Hamilton County Schools has a lot of opportunity, Johnson said, listing about a dozen recent accomplishments of students and educators. But any school and district can always be better, he repeated throughout the interview and forums.
Johnson said he wants to have high expectations permeate Hamilton County Schools.
"I believe we've got to build a culture where students can thrive," he said. "And it's got to happen in every building no matter the demographic, no matter the situation."
He said all students should learn from effective teachers, and educators need to have a say in the types of professional development they receive. He also emphasized the importance of the district strategically recruiting a more diverse teaching force and starting an induction academy for new hires.
Johnson said his other top priorities are boosting meaningful stakeholder engagement in every school and ensuring the district is fiscally responsible.
"As a school system, we have an obligation to the taxpayers, and I fully believe the taxpayers have an obligation to us as a system," he said. "The very heartbeat of the continued success of the Chattanooga community runs through Hamilton County Schools."
And problems of inequity need to be addressed, he added.
You just have to drive by the outside of some schools here to realize that things aren't equitable, he said. There are budget restraints, he noted, but that isn't an excuse for students not feeling like their school is a great place and that the district needs to develop a plan to address those problems.
Johnson said he hopes to work with the board and educators throughout the school system to develop a multiyear strategic plan for the district and a roadmap for tackling deferred maintenance. He said it needs to be aligned with the community's objectives and the district's budget to be built off the plans.
Johnson was confident that the district has many opportunities to improve messaging. The district needs to be honest about the challenges it faces, he said, and show by example what outcomes can be attained with more funding.
"The county needs to clearly understand how their [tax dollars] are impacting student achievement," he said. "This system needs somebody that is able to get people to buy in."
Johnson is the youngest of the five candidates to apply. He was named a finalist for the Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools superintendent position last month, but was not selected for the post.
The last two years, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools has been recognized across the state for posting significant academic growth, according to standardized testing data.
Hamilton County Commissioners Sabrena Smedley and Greg Martin met with Johnson during the time set aside for elected officials to do so.
The board plans to vote on a permanent superintendent during its regular board meeting June 15. Five of its nine members need to agree on a finalist for the decision to be made.
Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @kendi_and