Hamilton County school board narrows superintendent search to five candidates

Here's some background about the candidates:

Bryan Johnson: chief academic officer for Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Tennessee. Before being named to that position, he served as the director of high schools for the district. Timothy Gadson III: superintendent designee and executive director of curriculum and schools for Robbinsdale Area Schools in Minnesota. From 2014 to 2016, Gadson worked as the associate superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools. Stuart Greenberg: chief academic officer for Leon County Public Schools in Flordia. Prior to that, Greenberg was the executive director for Reading and Early Learning for the Florida Department of Education. Greenberg was one of the six finalists in Knox County's recent superintendent search. Arthur Wayne Johnson: founder and chairman of First Performance Corporation. Prior to that, Johnson was the CEO of Reunion Financial Services Corporation and a managing partner at Global Education Partners. He lives in Georgia. Kirk Kelly: interim superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. Kelly has been an educator in Chattanooga City and Hamilton County Schools for 35 years, starting as a math teacher and moving up to assistant superintendent for accountability and testing, before being selected to serve as interim superintendent.

Find a list of how school board members voted at the end of the article.


And then there were five.

The Hamilton County Board of Education on Thursday narrowed its list of eight candidates for superintendent, trimming three prospective applicants from the final pool.

Among the final five is Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly, who narrowly made the cut for the final spot after a runoff vote against Jack Elsey Jr. He is joined by Bryan Johnson, Timothy Gadson III, Stuart Greenberg and Arthur Wayne Johnson.

During Thursday's brief meeting, the school board members were asked to list individually their top five candidates. Each nod from a school board member was worth a single point, and the five candidates who received the most points proceeded to the next round.

Bryan Johnson was the only candidate listed by all nine board members, while Gadson, Greenberg and Wayne Johnson received eight, six and six votes, respectively.

Kelly and Elsey both received five votes, forcing another round in which the board members voted between the two for the fifth slot. Kelly triumphed in a 5-4 vote with board members Tiffanie Robinson, Joe Smith, Joe Wingate and Rhonda Thurman throwing their support behind Elsey.

The remaining candidates will each visit Chattanooga from June 5-9 for in-person interviews and school visits. The finalists will have another interview with the full board and also have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with board members.

It has been 14 months since the district's previous superintendent, Rick Smith, stepped down, but the board hopes to name his successor at its June 15 meeting after conducting final interviews.

Following Thursday's vote, the board launched into a short work session to discuss how to organize the candidates' time in Chattanooga around the interviews and meeting educators, elected officials and community leaders.

Robinson expressed worries that the board may not have allotted itself enough time to interact with the candidates and said she would even be willing to pick candidates up from the airport to discuss with them.

"I'm just concerned that this is going to be too much to pack into three days," Robinson said. "I will make time in my schedule on those three days if it's on their itinerary."

The board also agreed to submit questions they may ask the candidates in order to better organize the interview process.

Board members have until noon on June 1 to submit questions and, although not all of them may end up being asked, the list will serve as a base to guide conversation. School board Chairman Steve Highlander said there will likely be community input on those questions, given what interest he's already seen in his own district.

"I've already had people calling me and texting me with things they want to know," he said.

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.

How They Voted

Round one Joe Galloway Timothy Gadson Stuart Greenberg Bryan Johnson Wayne Johnson Kirk Kelly Steve Highlander Timothy Gadson Stuart Greenberg Bryan Johnson Wayne Johnson Kirk Kelly Karitsa Jones Natasha Baker Clifford Davis Timothy Gadson Bryan Johnson Kirk Kelly Kathy Lennon Jack Elsey Timothy Gadson Stuart Greenberg Bryan Johnson Kirk Kelly Tiffanie Robinson Natasha Baker Jack Elsey Timothy Gadson Bryan Johnson Wayne Johnson Joe Smith Jack Elsey Timothy Gadson Stuart Greenberg Bryan Johnson Wayne Johnson David Testerman Natasha Baker Jack Elsey Timothy Gadson Bryan Johnson Kirk Kelly Rhonda Thurman Clifford Davis Jack Elsey Stuart Greenberg Bryan Johnson Wayne Johnson Joe Wingate Natasha Baker Timothy Gadson Stuart Greenberg Bryan Johnson Wayne Johnson Round two How the school board members voted in tie-breaker round Kirk Kelly votes Joe Galloway Highlander Jones Lennon Testerman Jack Elsey votes Tiffanie Robinson Joe Smith Rhonda Thurman Joe Wingate