The County School Board voted 5-4 on Thursday afternoon to name Bryan Johnson from Clarksville, Tn., as the new Hamilton County school superintendent. He is the chief academic officer for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System;
Voting for him were Rhonda Thurman, Tiffanie Robinson, Joe Smith, Joe Wingate and Chairman Steve Highlander.
Voting for Dr.
Kelly were Kathy Lennon, Karitsa Mosley Jones, Joe Galloway and David Testerman.
Arthur Wayne Johnson, a businessman from Georgia who had been considered one of the top candidates, dropped out Thursday afternoon just before the board was to make its choice.
That left Interim Supt. Kirk Kelly and three others in the race.
Other finalists included Stuart Greenberg, chief academic officer for Leon County schools in Florida and Timothy Gadson of Minnesota.
The board discussed the candidates at 5 p.m., then voted at the start of the regular 5:30 p.m. session.
Dr. Kelly has been with the city and county schools for 35 years, starting as a high school math teacher in 1982. He has been an assistant principal and director of accountability and testing for Hamilton County schools.
Dr. Johnson has been with the Clarksville-Montgomery Schools since 2008. He began his career as teacher and director of education at Oak Plains Academy in 2004. He received his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Professional Practice (Ed.D.) from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2010.
"I am honored to come into Hamilton County Schools and am proud to work with the teachers and leaders who are working to move the district forward. I definitely want to recognize the community and the work that they are doing to improve student achievement. My family and I are just elated to become a part of the community," Dr. Johnson said following the vote Thursday evening.
Dr. Highlander said he "was delighted, that after the transparent and diligent search that included community input and interviews with nine excellent candidates, the board decided Dr. Johnson has the vision to move HCDE forward. We had great candidates. I am appreciative for all of the five who interviewed with us. I am also appreciative of the service Dr. Kelly has given, and hope he will continue to do so.".
County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he was pleased with the selection. "I look forward to working with Superintendent Johnson. Now is the time for my office and the superintendent to work closely together to show Hamilton County residents progress in the schools and results that will elicit community support."
The formal start date for the new superintendent will be announced once it is finalized.
Wayne Johnson said afterward, “Tonight was a significant night for Hamilton County schools, and I commend Dr. Bryan Johnson for reaching this milestone in his career. He inherits a group of dedicated educators, community partners and elected officials seeking leadership and direction. I believe Bryan will do an excellent job.
"The school board of Hamilton County worked diligently over a lengthy period of time to reach tonight's decision. These fine people deserve a round of applause after working through a series of difficult issues over the past 18 months. Now, they can go forward and grow as a team with Dr. Johnson’s guidance. Congratulations Hamilton County. I will watch you on your journey."
Ms. Thurman said Wayne Johnson was her top choice, but she felt Bryan Johnson would "be a great asset." She said, "He has a nice family. He was very realistic. I liked a lot of what he had to say."
Ms. Lennon backed Dr. Kelly, citing his wisdom and experience. She said he had started to move the district forward. She said principals were pleased that Dr. Kelly had spent so much time in the schools. She said most of the emails she received were for Dr. Kelly. On Signal Mountain, she said, Dr. Kelly was the top choice by far.
Mr. Smith said there were "five great candidates." He said he hopes "we leave here with a spirit of unity and excitement."
Ms. Robinson praised the process for selection. She said she had been able to have lunch with each oft the contenders.
Ms. Jones called it a difficult process. She said a better one needs to be developed in the future. "It could have been done better," she stated. She said she had received a lot of support for Dr. Kelly and for Bryan Johnson.
Mr. Galloway said the board has been diligent in the process. He said, "I had a good time talking with five fine men." He added, "We need to be 100 percent behind whoever gets this." He said the candidates emphasized "that we need to listen to our principals and teachers." He said they are overwhelmingly in favor of Dr. Kelly. "They do not want the momentum to go away." He also said, "Everybody wants change, and change has already come."
Mr. Wingate said all board members would work with the choice. "We want to see excellence," he said.
Mr. Testerman said, "This process has been a lot of pain and a lot of growth."
Dr. Highlander said he has had extensive contacts with those who have worked with the contenders. He said, "We have done our due diligence."
The board afterward voted to offer Dr. Johnson a contract up to four years. A motion to limit the contract to three years failed 5-4. In favor of the three years were Ms. Thurman, Ms. Robinson, Joe Galloway and Joe Smith.
Ms. Thurman said she did not want to go beyond two years, saying she did not want to face another superintendent buy-back situation. Ms. Robinson said she did not want to go beyond three years.
Mr. Testerman said, "This man, if he is not offered a four-year contract, may turn this thing down. It would be foolish to offer less than four years." Prior superintendents have had four-year terms.
Board attorney Scottt Bennett said there would be performance benchmarks built into the contract.
The board is to have a work session outlining the specific performance benchmarks to be placed in the contract.