Hamilton County superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson was mostly positive, even congratulatory, during his annual “State of the Schools” address. After meeting-goers were serenaded by a middle-school jazz band, he began his breakdown of the past year. Dr. Johnson stressed the amount of growth the county schools has seen in the last few years. He did so while shifting the audience’s focus to a few years prior.
“I’d like you to go back to wherever you were in July of 2017. What did you think of the state of your public school system in 2017?” he asked the collection of faculty, citizens, and media. One person said, “Inconsistencies,” while another spoke of the lack of transparency, while yet another said they remembered the low test scores students had.
In 2017, Dr. Johnson’s PowerPoints slides showed, dismal scores across the board in literature, mathematics, and other subjects for Hamilton County Students. The county was ranked 130th out of 144 school districts.
In 2019, Dr. Johnson said, the story is different. Hamilton County’s schools are developing at a much faster rate than initially expected. It is now ranked as the second-fastest growing district in the state, with Williamson County being the only one ranked above.
He said one important focus of the county is making sure teachers are supported.
“One myth is that if you’re at the bottom, it’s easier to move up,” said Dr. Johnson, “But do you know who beat us? Williamson County. You can achieve at a high level and grow at a high level.”
Throughout the presentation, the superintendent addressed a student in the crowd, using him as an example of a student who has been in the school system throughout the last few years.
“The most important person in your day to day is your teacher,” said Dr. Johnson to a student in the jazz band, “Every teacher has access to an excellent leader. And it’s important you have access to excellent resources. It’s important you’re in great buildings and great resources. It’s important to us that you have those.”
When he was asked about how he plans on unifying different schools, with their various needs and ideals, he asked for the audience to remember who schools exist for. Whenever a decision is made, he said a certain group should always be the first thing on their mind.
“We’re going to need to focus on the one thing that we’re all here for. The kids,” said Dr. Johnson, “That’s the only reason we are here. That’s what I work for. I work for them, every day. That is what this work is about.”
He said, “We are here for the children. Our focus is on children. Our focus isn’t on political parties or partisanship. Everything we’ve done, we’ve done transparently. We feel strongly that every child deserves an excellent teacher, and every school deserves an excellent leader, and every school deserves access to excellent resources.”