Interim superintendent's new hires to work closely with Hamilton County principals, teachers

Kirk Kelly
Kirk Kelly

As changes are being made to top posts in the Hamilton County Department of Education's central office, Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly said he wants the new hires to focus on supporting schools.

"If we are a good support team, our principals and our teachers are going to get better," Kelly said.

On Monday, Kelly announced that two high school principals will be filling the new assistant superintendent positions and reporting to Jill Levine, the district's recently named chief academic officer.

Zac Brown, principal at The Howard School, will be the district's new assistant superintendent of operations and work hand-in-hand with Justin Robertson, the new assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Robertson now is the principal at Red Bank High School. He said he looks forward to transitioning this summer into his new role. Initially, Robertson said, he plans to focus on improving literacy in kindergarten through third grade, which is a district-wide objective Kelly has put in place.

"The literacy piece is foundational to what we do," Robertson said.

Before serving at Red Bank, Robertson was a principal at Brown Middle School and Lookout Valley Elementary and an assistant principal at Normal Park Museum Magnet. He said these experiences helped prepare him for his new role, but he is also eager to listen to what school leaders across the district say they need.

He said a main appeal of the job is being in schools on a daily basis and helping principals succeed in their jobs.

"I want principals to hold us accountable to being in their buildings and supporting them in what they're doing," Robertson said.

Likewise, Brown said he thinks his job leading the district's operations works in direct collaboration with Robertson, saying the district's curriculum and instruction should drive its operations.

Brown said the district and community expect a lot from principals, and he is eager for this team to support them. Before taking over at Howard, Brown served as principal of East Ridge High School.

Brown said a large focus of his job is identifying which schools are performing well, while also helping educators think creatively and collaboratively to address problems.

Success for Brown is seeing all schools succeed, he said.

"All of our kids deserve great teachers and a great staff," he said. "All of our schools must be successful."

Both principals said it will be difficult to leave their schools, but they see an opportunity in their new roles to impact the 43,000 students of the school district.

Levine said the focus now is not on what hasn't worked in the past, but looking ahead to what can be accomplished. She said she plans for this team to listen to teachers and principals and work alongside them, and not take a top-down approach to leadership.

She applauded Kelly's quick action in creating and enabling her team.

"The children of Hamilton County can't wait for us to move forward," she said.

Kelly said he is glad the group is in place and is confident in the depth of experience and diversity in background each person brings.

"I've got all the confidence in the world they'll do a great job," Kelly said. "They're proven winners."

Kelly restated Monday that all the changes made to this point in the central office are budget neutral, as the assistant superintendent of innovation and testing and accountability positions have been eliminated.

Brown and Robertson are splitting many of the responsibilities of the previous assistant superintendent of education and leadership support.

Robert Sharpe, the former assistant superintendent of education and leadership support, was moved Monday to become the director of secondary school operations, replacing Steve Holmes, who is retiring.

Keri Randolph, who was hired last year to the be the assistant superintendent of innovation, is now the district's director of technology.

Kelly also announced that Becky Coleman will be the new director of pre-K programs, and Aimee Randolph is the new coordinator of teacher recruitment.

Kelly said principal and assistant principal assignments should be decided Friday.

Once staffing changes are settled, Kelly said, his next big focus is going to be placed on professional development and training principals and teachers this summer and into next school year.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at 423-757-6592 or Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.

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