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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / School board member Tucker McClendon listens to a speaker during a school board meeting Thursday. The Hamilton County School Board held a meeting Thursday, August 19, 2021 at the Hamilton County Department of Education.

In a virtual community town hall, Hamilton County Board of Education chair Tucker McClendon and vice-chair Tiffanie Robinson said the district's next superintendent should build on the Future Ready 2023 plan and should have some classroom experience.

Robinson, who was on the board during the last superintendent search, said a candidate with some classroom experience would go a long way and that departed Superintendent Bryan Johnson — who worked as a teacher and administrator before the superintendency — served as a great example.

"What I've come to learn over the past five years of being on the school board is that actually classroom experience is very important, and it's all relative," Robinson said at the Monday forum. "It certainly will elevate the respect that they receive from their employees and the leadership ability they're able to add to our district."

McClendon said it depends on how long ago a candidate worked in the classroom and that each candidate's school leadership experience also played a valuable role.

The top three candidates have all served in leadership roles at their respective districts. Christopher Bernier is chief of staff of Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Jermaine Dawson is chief academic and accountability officer of Birmingham City Schools in Birmingham, Alabama.

Justin Robertson, the one internal candidate, is interim deputy superintendent of Hamilton County Schools.

Both Robinson and McClendon said they wanted a superintendent who would continue the work of the district's Future Ready 2023 strategic plan and propel it forward.

"It's important to note that we still have Future 2023, and that strategic plan has pushed us to where we are today, and I think it's important that a new leader comes in and builds upon that and continues towards those goals that are in there, but also has the ability to look forward past 2023 and what does our next strategic plan look like, what do our new goals look like, how do we keep pushing ourselves," McClendon said.

He said focusing on the backlog of operations needs, such as the project to construct a new Tyner middle/high school, is another quality he looked for in the next superintendent, while Robinson said a quality she looked for was for the superintendent to continue focusing on equitable access to education across the district.

Interviews for the top three candidates begin next week, starting with Bernier on Nov. 30, then Dawson on Dec. 2 and Robertson on Dec. 7. Each will take place at 5:30 p.m. and be livestreamed on the school system's YouTube channel.

Bernier will be in town Nov. 29-30, followed by Dawson on Dec. 1-2 and Robertson on Dec. 6-7. During their visits, McClendon said each candidate will tour four or five schools and hold a meet-and-greet with the community prior to their interviews.

The board will choose the next superintendent on Dec. 9, with a start date of Jan. 1.

One candidate who withdrew his name, Jim McIntyre of the Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, was announced Tuesday as the new dean of Belmont University's College of Education in Nashville.

McIntyre was the only finalist among the candidates with prior superintendent experience, leading Knox County Schools for eight years.

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

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