TDOE Announces Leadership And Work Alignments To Support District Needs From COVID-19

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Tennessee Department of Education on Tuesday announced a realignment of specific department leaders and divisions to further elevate support for districts and students across Tennessee to be responsive to the challenges presented by COVID-19.  

Effective June 1, Sam Pearcy, currently chief operating officer, will be promoted to deputy commissioner of operations; Chief Eve Carney will oversee Special Populations; Chief Jean Luna will lead the Whole Child initiative with expanded purview; and Chelsea Crawford, currently assistant commissioner of Strategic Communications and Engagement, will be promoted to chief of staff. 

“Support for our students, teachers, and schools is paramount, and helping our districts navigate a new normal in these uncertain times requires even more alignment and coherence from the department,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “The work of the department and our Best for All strategic plan sets a vision to put all students on a path to success. As we look to the future and as district and school leaders anticipate the types of supports that schools and students will need, the Tennessee Department of Education is strategically aligning and orienting our work to those needs to help overcome challenges presented in a COVID-19 reality." 

As deputy commissioner of operations, Mr. Pearcy will continue overseeing divisions supporting district operations, finance, information technology, internal operations and procurement, as well as supporting the work of the department overall. The Office of Strategy and Data will be added to his portfolio of work. He will also oversee the department’s performance management division, tasked with ensuring strong planning, implementation, and monitoring of all department workstreams with an outcomes-oriented approach.  

In recent months, Mr. Pearcy has been instrumental in overseeing federal waivers, revised processes, and new supports for districts’ nutrition programs during times of school closure and, as part of the department’s COVID-19 response, will help oversee and further operationalize school nutrition and physical health, as well as enhanced IT and connectivity supports for districts in his new role.  

A native Tennessean, Mr. Pearcy joined the department in 2013, leading the close-out of the state’s Race to the Top grant before transitioning roles to focus on improving the efficiency of state operations in support of districts.  

Mr. Pearcy previously worked for the District of Columbia Public Schools, managing the district’s IMPACT team to support human capital strategy. As the son of a public-school teacher, Mr. Pearcy began his career as a high school English teacher in Charlotte, N.C.

As chief of Districts and Schools, Dr. Eve Carney oversees all federal programs and will now also oversee the department’s Special Populations division, which will unite TDOE’s work on U.S. Department of Education programs, policies, funding, and compliance under the Office of Districts and Schools. The Office of Districts and Schools also includes School Improvement, the state’s Achievement School District, Federal Programs and Oversight, School Models and Programs, and State Special Schools. 

As part of the department’s COVID-19 response, Dr. Carney has led the work to secure multiple federal waivers to provide further support for our districts and is the department’s lead to administer the federal CARES Act to provide one-time relief funding to districts. Because CARES Act funding will be available for districts to utilize for the next two years, through 2022, this alignment of federal programs will optimize efficiencies within the department and enhance federal funding and compliance supports to districts.  

Since joining the department in 2008, Dr. Carney has administered federal education grants including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act programs. Dr. Carney has also focused on the area of school improvement supporting school districts in the implementation and oversight of federal and state funds to support turnaround work and our most at-risk students. She led the development and implementation of ePlan: Tennessee’s electronic planning and grants management system through which over $6 billion in state and federal funding flows to districts.  

Prior to joining the department, Dr. Carney taught ninth and eleventh grade English in Tennessee public and private schools and worked in finance and accounting in the private sector. 

Dr. Jean Luna, currently serving as chief of College, Career, and Technical Education, will oversee an expanded portfolio as the chief of Programs and will oversee the whole child initiative which, in response to COVID-19, will also include CCTE.  

District leaders have identified whole child supports and child well-being as top considerations in the work ahead, knowing children at every age will have varying experiences and will require different supports to be prepared for their next steps, whether in education or in life.  

As a result, the department is aligning work on personal counseling and well-being with career awareness and preparation as part of a continuum from early ages through high school, in order to help provide more cohesive support to districts as they help students navigate life experiences and evaluate options for their future. 

In October 2019, Dr. Luna joined TDOE as assistant commissioner of CCTE and was promoted to chief of CCTE in December 2019.  Prior to joining the department, Dr. Luna built an extensive record of service in education in the state of Tennessee over the past 14 years, including serving as Director of High Schools in Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, principal of Clarksville High School, and assistant principal at Kenwood High School and Clarksville High School. 

Chelsea Crawford, currently serving as assistant commissioner of Communications and Engagement, will be the new chief of staff. Ms. Crawford will continue to lead the department’s communications operations as well as oversee strategic and engagement functions of the department.  Prior to joining the department in January 2020, Ms. Crawford served as vice president for a public relations and public affairs firm that supported dozens of education organizations across the state. She will replace Rebecca Shah, who is returning with her family to Texas after fulfilling a 15-month commitment to serve Commissioner Schwinn and TDOE.  

"Over the past few months, the education community in Tennessee has faced unprecedented circumstances that require our department to develop all-new, refined, or improved supports for districts,” said Mr. Pearcy. “This new structure and alignment of work presents great opportunity for our department to continue delivering strong service for districts for the benefit of students and schools in Tennessee.”  

For additional information on the department’s COVID-19 related resources, please visit

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