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Superintendent candidate Stuart Greenberg speaks to the crowd gathered for a public meet-and-greet at Hamilton County Schools' central office on Tuesday, June 6, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Greenberg, an educator for 35 years, is one of five finalists for the superintendent position.

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Candidate for schools chief emphasized importance of community involvement

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When it comes to education, Stuart Greenberg believes the community and school district must work as partners.

"Schools are a part of a larger community," Greenberg said several times during his interview with the Hamilton County Board of Education on Tuesday night.

Greenberg has more than 35 years of experience in education and is the chief academic officer for Leon County Public Schools in Florida, a district of about 34,000 students, about 10,000 fewer than Hamilton County. Before that, he was executive director for Reading and Early Learning for the Florida Department of Education.

He was the second of five superintendent finalists scheduled to interview in-person for the job this week, spending the day touring the district and meeting with central office staff. Each of the finalists also has time scheduled to spend with elected officials, education stakeholders and the community throughout the afternoon, concluding the day with an hour-and-a-half interview with the school board.

Fast facts about Stuart Greenberg

Job: Chief academic officer for Leon County Public Schools

Highest level of education: Masters of Science in Educational Leadership from Nova University, 1988

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No elected officials came to meet with Greenberg on Tuesday.

During the public meetings and interview, Greenberg said the community needs to be involved in everything from decisions about special education to equity and conversations about more revenue for the school district. He said as superintendent he would do a lot of listening, and was somewhat vague about strategies he would implement.

If named superintendent, Greenberg said, he'd have the district budget around a vision, and would be sure the community bought into the vision. The budget conversation should start long before a decision is made about local funding, he said, and the district should do more than complain that it needs more revenue.

Instead, the district and board members need to explain what will be accomplished with more funding, projecting both the district's vision and budget for years ahead, he said.

When asked how he'd address Signal Mountain potentially launching a separate school district with three of the county's top-performing schools, Greenberg said he'd start by listening to the reason the community wants to leave the district.

"I'd ask: 'What is it we are not doing?' he said, adding that the answer could show ways the municipality could be encouraged not to leave.

Greenberg said he'd ask that same question to families attending the district's poorest and lowest-performing schools, as he wants to hear from them about what is needed to improve student outcomes.

Upcoming Interviews

Wednesday: Timothy Gadson

Thursday: Bryan Johnson

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.

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But Greenberg said schools cannot be expected to change communities alone and provide all the resources students living in poverty may need, arguing that community involvement is crucial in a school and district's success.

"Unequal resources are needed to meet the unequal needs of kids," he said several times during the more than five hours of meetings and interviews.

Greenberg also praised the role academic coaches play in schools, saying he wouldn't be where he is if he didn't have an academic coach helping him as a young teacher. The district needs to emphasize and clearly define the role of its academic coaches, he said, as they are not evaluators and should be working with principals to help teachers improve.

He added that every educator needs ongoing professional development.

"And that doesn't mean [simply ordering educators] to do what the district says," he added.

The board did not ask Greenberg about why he has been a finalist in at least six other superintendent searches in the past two years, including in Knoxville and Nashville, and not been chosen. Last month, Greenberg was a finalist for superintendent of Clarksville-Montgomery Schools, a district smaller than Hamilton County north of Nashville.

In an interview with the Times Free Press, Greenberg said he couldn't say how many searches he's applied for in the past couple years.

"It's the point in my career where I'm ready to be a superintendent," he said. " This is the point where I believe I [am] ready to take on a role that is so important. A superintendent and a school board set a tone for the community, the community trusts us with their most important asset — their children."

Greenberg told the Times Free Press that his background leading at both the state and district levels prepares him for the job, as he has experience boosting student achievement and supporting teachers.

The board plans to vote on a permanent superintendent during its regular board meeting June 15, needing five of its nine members to agree on a finalist for the decision to be made.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at krainwater@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @kendi_and.

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