Staff file photo / Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson gives a "State of the System" address at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Chattanooga.

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson has been named Southeast Tennessee Superintendent of the Year by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.

The recognition makes Johnson one of eight finalists for Tennessee Superintendent of the Year. The 37-year-old superintendent was selected by his peers for leadership in learning, communication, professionalism and community involvement, according to a news release.

"It's a tremendous honor to be selected by your peers who are themselves doing such great work for children each day," Johnson said in a statement. "The selection is a true testament to the hard work of our great teachers, leaders and community that come together to bring to life the vision of excellence our school board has for the children of the community."

Johnson has been at the helm of Hamilton County Schools for three years after serving as chief academic officer for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. He was hired in July 2017 and, in February, the Hamilton County school board approved a contract renewal locking Johnson down for another four years — and making him one of the highest-paid superintendents in the state.

Since Johnson took over leadership of the school district, which was in the midst of recovering from the 2015 Ooltewah rape scandal and the fatal 2016 Woodmore bus crash, his team has approved a five-year strategic plan, is in the process of creating a 10-year facilities plan and pushed — unsuccessfully — for a 34-cent property tax rate increase to benefit public education in 2019.

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The district was also recognized as a Level 5 district, the highest ranking on a five-point scale, for student academic growth by the Tennessee Department of Education in 2019.

Board member Jenny Hill of District 6 congratulated Johnson on the recognition during a board meeting on Monday, May 18. She later told the Times Free Press that she attributes much of the district's improvement to the superintendent.

"Hamilton County Schools and our upward trajectory are the envy of the state. I am pleased but not surprised that Dr. Johnson has been honored by his peers," Hill said. "The board has lots of work ahead of us to improve education in our community. This is yet another confirmation that Dr. Johnson is an excellent leader to have at the helm of our system."

In February, Education Week, a national education news organization, recognized Johnson as one of its Leaders to Learn From for 2020. Education Week honored Johnson "for leadership in career and technical education, his vision to bring Future Ready Institutes to Hamilton County Schools and the impact those have on preparing graduates to be ready for future success," according to a news release.

In recent years, school leaders of neighboring districts also have been honored by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. Linda Cash, superintendent of Bradley County Schools, was a regional finalist in 2018 and Russell Dyer of Cleveland City Schools was a finalist in 2019.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.