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This story was updated Monday, July 19, 2021, at 7:55 p.m. with more information.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Hamilton County Schools Chief of Staff T. Nakia Towns Edwards speaks during a Hamilton County Schools budget work session on Thursday, March 14, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Towns Edwards was named interim superintendent on Monday, July 19, 2021.

The Hamilton County Board of Education on Monday selected Nakia Towns to serve as interim superintendent. She will take on the role after Superintendent Bryan Johnson's last day Aug. 17.

Towns, John Tharp and Zac Brown were the Hamilton County Schools administrators who applied for the temporary position.

The school board accepted Johnson's resignation at its meeting last week and decided that interested applicants for interim superintendent were required to currently hold leadership roles or administrative positions in the district.

Also, each candidate had to submit a letter of interest to the board's executive assistant by Monday morning ahead of the board's vote Monday evening.

Before the vote, board member Karitsa Jones expressed support for Towns without naming her, and board members Jenny Hill and Tucker McClendon supported her by name.

"I cannot overlook the fact that we have a candidate who is second in charge, she was second in charge, and I want to make sure we understand what that looks like," Jones said.

Board member Rhonda Thurman named Zac Brown as her candidate of choice, and board members Marco Perez and Joe Wingate thanked all the candidates for putting themselves out there for the position.

In its first vote, the board opted for Towns 5-3, with Hill, Jones, McClendon, Perez and Tiffanie Robinson voting for Towns. Joe Smith, Thurman and Chairman Joe Wingate voted for Brown.

The board then voted 6-2 to affirm their selection of Towns, with Thurman and Wingate voting no.

Towns, who served as deputy superintendent, was a finalist for superintendent positions in school districts outside Tennessee including Polk County Public Schools in Florida earlier this year and East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Louisiana in 2020.

"After the year we've endured, I am committed to ensuring that our community experiences a return to normalcy and consistency as we start the new school year. Our teachers and school leaders must be able to focus on welcoming all children back onto campus without the potential stress and distraction that comes from uncertain or unfamiliar leadership," Towns said in her letter of interest to the school board.

Towns joined the district's leadership team in 2017 as chief of staff before becoming deputy superintendent. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University and previously worked in roles at the Tennessee Department of Education and Knox County Schools.

Her letter also stated that she will not pursue the permanent superintendent role. Board policy states that the interim superintendent will not be eligible for the permanent role unless the board makes an exception.

"For family and personal reasons, I will not apply for the permanent superintendent position," she wrote.

Johnson is taking a role at trucking and logistics company U.S. Xpress. The interim superintendent will not be eligible for the permanent superintendent role, according to board policy 5.801 for the Hamilton County Department of Education.

Brown took on the role of director of induction and leadership development for the district in July 2020. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership and professional practice from Trevecca Nazarene University and served in multiple roles for the district, including director of secondary schools, Opportunity Zone and assistant superintendent of school operations.

"I possess strong leadership skills and a diverse range of educational experiences, which have contributed greatly to the success of the various projects, programs and other initiatives with which I have been involved. I am well versed in all facets of education, from student-centric curriculum planning to budgeting and administrative leadership. I am also extremely passionate about blending academia with cost-effective management to optimize administrative leadership efforts that yield positive educational outcomes," Brown said in his letter of interest.

The board will meet on Aug. 12, the first day of school, to discuss expectations for the permanent superintendent position.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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