County Schools Announce Leadership Changes

  • Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Hamilton County Schools announced additional personnel updates, including directors in the areas of Opportunities and Access, Exceptional Education, Teaching and Learning, and Athletics.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Sonia Stewart said the appointment "shows the depth of leadership
within the district and the ability to attract regional and national talent. Strong and effective leadership continues to be a priority for Hamilton County Schools.

"The announcements we are making today are critical to our goal of providing opportunities and access to all students. As we gear up for the start of the 2022-23 school year, we are excited to hire such a great group of leaders, both from within our own ranks and across the nation.”

The following announcements were made today:

Celeste McKenzie has been named the Director of Specially Designed Instruction for Exceptional Education. Since 2016, she has served as Exceptional Education Supervisor for the MidTown and Missionary Ridge learning communities.

With 29 years of education experience, Ms. Mckenzie began her career as an Exceptional Education middle school teacher at East Lake and Hunter Middle Schools from 1993-2007. She transitioned to Cobb County School district in Marietta, Georgia, where she worked as a High School Inclusion teacher, Department Lead, District Lead Co-teaching trainer and Cheerleading Coach. Next, she worked in Shelby County Schools in Memphis, serving as an Elementary Inclusion Teacher, Learning Coach, Department Lead, and Site Coordinator for Partners in Education. She was also a 2016 Teach Plus Policy Fellow.

Ms. McKenzie has earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, an Educational Leadership Master’s Degree from Capella University, and a Leadership endorsement from Bethel University.

With a belief in the power of opportunities, she hopes to make a difference for all stakeholders in support of a child’s education.

“I aspire to influence students, teachers and parents to form deeper cultural connections while improving achievement,” Ms. McKenzie said. “Educational opportunities foster growth and success for all.”

Christina Moore has been named the Director of Compliance for Exceptional Education. She has worked in Hamilton County Schools since 2005, serving as the Exceptional Education Supervisor for Elementary Schools since 2014. Ms. Moore has worked across all grade levels and served as the Autism Consult for seven years. She has experience as an Inclusion Teacher and a Development Classroom Teacher. Prior to entering education, she worked in the medical field for 12 years.

Ms. Moore has earned a Bachelor of Special Education Degree from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, and a Master’s of Education Degree from Trevecca University of Nashville.

“My passion for special education is evident in my academic, professional, and personal life, as I am driven to enhance the quality of life for those with a disability,” Ms. Moore says. “My interest in the field of special education was not innate, as life experiences have shaped the way I view and interact with others. I aspire to construct environments where all ability levels are embraced.”

Dr. Arica Austin has been named the Director of Eligibility and Evaluation for Exceptional Education. A Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist, Austin has worked in a variety of roles in school districts over the last 10 years, including school districts in Boston and New York.

Austin worked as a school psychologist for the Brentwood School District in Long Island, New York, for four years, where she conducted individual therapy, group therapy, and assessments for students across age groups. She has also consulted with teachers, administrators, and outside agencies to assist students with obtaining the best level of support possible. Her primary role was determining eligibility for special services through assessments and
evaluation. As a school psychologist, she has worked with a diverse student population with numerous challenges, and she is committed to providing students with high quality support, assessments, and referrals to address the mental health and academic disparities in the community.

Austin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the State University of New York Stony Brook, a Master of Arts degree in Child Development from Tufts University, a Master of Arts degree in Professional Psychology from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, and a Doctor of Psychology degree from William James College. She also holds a Doctor of Psychology in Re-specialization in School Psychology from St. John’s University.

According to Dr. Austin, the work she will do in Hamilton County is more than just a job.

“I am deeply passionate about working with young people who face various adversities and helping them discover the resiliency already inside of them,” said Dr. Austin. “I am excited about my new position and the possibility of assisting students in accessing the supports they need to be successful.”
 
Terrilyn Ladd has been named the Director of Related Services for Exceptional Education. Ms. Ladd has worked in Hamilton County Schools since 2009 after moving from Atlanta, most recently as the Exceptional Education Supervisor for Related Services since 2019. In that role, she has supported work in speech/language, audiology, deaf education, visual disabilities, assistive technology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and TennCare Reimbursements.

From 2011-19, Ms. Ladd served as Exceptional Education Lead Teacher after spending two years as a Speech- Language Pathologist. Prior to moving to Chattanooga, she worked in an Atlanta area school system for 10 years.

Ms. Ladd earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of South Alabama in 1996 and a Master of Science degree in Speech and Hearing Science from Tennessee State University in 1998. She became a licensed and nationally certified speech-language pathologist in 1999 with experience in the diagnosis and treatment of speech and language disorders in both children and adults. In 2014, Terrilyn received an Educational Specialist degree from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2014.

“I feel extremely fortunate to do the very important work of appropriately supporting students,” Ms. Ladd said. “All students deserve access to an education in the least restrictive environment, where appropriate related services are applied and inclusive practices are maintained. I am dedicated to helping students reach their full potential.”
 
Jennifer Allison has been named the Director of Access, Transition and School Support for Exceptional Education. She has worked for HCS since 1993, most recently as Exceptional Education Supervisor for Secondary Programs.

From 2010-20, Ms. Allison served as Exceptional Education Lead Teacher for Secondary Schools. She began her career as a Special Education Teacher at Soddy Daisy High School in 1993, a position she held for 17 years. During her time at Soddy Daisy, she spent eight years as the Department Chair.

Ms. Allison has earned a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Special Education, both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She was a
member of the 2015-16 Cohort 17 of the Public Education Foundation Leadership Fellows program.

Ms. Allison believes her new role will provide students with the supports necessary to prepare them for life after school.

“I feel that all students should be empowered to follow their areas of interest to prepare them to pursue competitive integrated employment after high school,” Ms. Allison said.

Rachel Gordon has been named as the Director of Behavior for Exceptional Education. An 18-year education veteran, Gordon comes to HCS from Knox County Schools, where she most recently served System-Wide Behavior Liaison - Team Lead for elementary schools.

Ms. Gordon began her career as a Special Education Teacher in 2004, a position she held for six years. In 2010, she joined the Behavior Liaison Team with Knox County Schools as a System-Wide Behavior Liaison, where she was in the secondary schools and alternative school until 2018.

She has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Saint Mary’s College, a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of Tennessee, and an Education Specialist’s Degree in Instructional Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University.
 
In addition to her education experience, Ms. Gordon brings a focus on students to her new role in Hamilton County.

"Having been in education for the past 18 years, I am committed to supporting student achievement and working together to provide opportunities and access for all students in a positive learning environment that is supportive of each student,” Ms. Gordon says. “I am excited to be joining Hamilton County Schools and look forward to collaborating in order to support students, classrooms and teachers to provide access and supports needed to promote student success.”

John Rice has been named Middle School Director for Hamilton County Schools. An educator since 2005, Mr. Rice comes to Hamilton County Schools from the Cedar Rapids Community School District in Iowa, where he has served as the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning since 2018.

Before moving to Iowa, Rice began his teaching career as a middle school English and Social Studies Teacher in 2005. This phase of his career included stops in Jacksonville, Florida, Daegu, South Korea, and Washington, D.C. He was named the Director of Blended Learning for D.C. Public Schools in 2012, and became the Director of Educational Technology in that district from 2015-17.

Mr. Rice has earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education from Trinity Baptist University in Jacksonville, Florida, a Master of Arts Degree in English and a Master of Education Degree in Secondary Education, both from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He is currently working on a Masterof Arts in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate in Education Policy and Leadership Studies at the University of Iowa.

A native of Chattanooga who moved to Florida while in elementary school, Rice says his return to Hamilton County gives him joy on several levels.

"I'm delighted to return to my roots in Chattanooga to serve middle school students and staff, as well as the broader Hamilton County Schools community,” Mr. Rice says. “I am looking forward to working with our team to create pathways to bright futures for all Hamilton County students."
 
Jim Boles has been named Director of Access and School Choice for Hamilton County Schools. An educator in Hamilton County since 1993, he is moving to his new role after serving as Executive Principal at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS) since 2013.

Mr. Boles served as a Social Studies Teacher at CSAS from 1993-2000, when he was named an Assistant Principal there. He gained additional experience from as an Assistant Principal from 2001-05, for one year at East Ridge High School and three years at Hixson Middle School. He returned to CSAS in 2005, where he served as Assistant Principal for the Upper School until being named Executive Principal in 2013.

Mr. Boles has earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and a Master of Science Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville along with an Ed S. Degree in K-12 Administration from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville.

With his years of experience and a vision for the future, Boles has set high goals for his new role.
“I'm excited to be working with the entire district to reduce barriers for all students,” Mr. Boles says. “My goal is to build a culture that accepts all people, no matter zip code, socio-economic status, or academic ability. I want to help build a stronger community that believes all students can learn, and learn at a high level.”

Grant Knowles has been named as Director of Innovation and Fine Arts for Hamilton County Schools following a three-year stint as Innovation Coordinator for the District.

Mr. Knowles began his teaching career in 2005 in Tucker, Georgia, where he served as a Classroom Teacher. From 2010-13, he was a Classroom Teacher and Elementary Science Department Chair for Harare International School, an International Baccalaureate World School in Zimbabwe. Grant joined HCS in 2013 when he began work as a VWeLab Specialist, Project/Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Coach, and Classroom Teacher at Normal Park Museum Magnet School. He remained there until becoming Innovation Coordinator for HCS in 2019.
 
Mr. Knowles has earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from the University of West Georgia, and he is currently working on his Master of Arts Degree in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Technological University.

With a goal of instilling a joy of learning in Hamilton County students, Mr. Knowles believes that innovation and the arts will play a role in making that goal a reality.

“I believe wholeheartedly in our district’s Just Cause, where ‘all students thrive and experience a future without limits,’” Mr. Knowles says. “I look forward to continuing our work in designing with schools, teachers, students, and stakeholders to bring innovative, artful learning opportunities for all students, regardless of circumstances. I’m excited for innovation and arts to play a part in ensuring that each student finds joy in learning and looks forward to learning each day.”

Dr. Yvette Stewart has been named the Director of Elementary Learning and K-12 Literacy for Hamilton County Schools. She is a lifelong educator who has served public education for over 25 years, most recently as Director of Elementary Learning.

A native of North Carolina and a proud alumna of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Dr. Stewart began her career in education in North Carolina in 1996 as a Kindergarten teacher. She served 13 years in Durham Public and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school systems as an elementary teacher, elementary assistant principal, middle school assistant principal and principal. Prior to joining HCS in 2018, she worked for ten years with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction as a Professional Development Consultant, Race to the Top (RttT) Project Coordinator for Professional Learning, and Assistant Director for the Educator Effectiveness Division.

As Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning and K-12 Literacy, Dr. Stewart will be responsible for strengthening the use and the fidelity of the implementation of the literacy curriculum in grades K-12.

According to Dr. Stewart, “I love the classroom, and I am extremely passionate about curriculum.” Known as an agent of change, she brings her skills as a connector and collaborator to her new role with the goal of building a sustaining system that promotes literacy collaboration across learning communities.
 
Tim James has been named as Athletic Director for Hamilton County Schools. James comes to his new position from East Ridge High School, where he has served as a teacher, Future Ready Coach, Director of Athletics, Head Football and Track Coach, and Assistant Principal at various times since arriving in 2016.

Prior to returning to his native Hamilton County, Mr. James served as a Social Studies Teacher and Head Football Coach at Heritage High School in Ringgold, Georgia, from 2008-14 and a teacher and football coach at Lafayette High School in Georgia from 2014-16. His 30 years in education includes stops at Loftis Middle School, Chattanooga Central High School, and 10 additional years at his alma mater, East Ridge High.

Before entering the education field, Mr. James served in the 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army from 1983-86.

Mr. James has earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with a concentration in Social Studies from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a Master’s Degree in Education Leadership from Tennessee Technological University, and an Educational Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, also from Tennessee Tech.

As he takes over his new position, he believes that athletics plays an important role in the education of Hamilton County students.

“It is a great honor to be selected to serve Hamilton County students at the highest level,” Mr. James said. “It is my mission to make HCS athletics second to none in every respect as we provide opportunities for healthy competition along with physical, emotional, and intellectual growth to the youth in our community.”

HCS Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson believes the announcements made today will pay dividends in the classroom very quickly.

“Leadership matters at every level of our District,” Dr. Robertson said. “Today’s announcements include positions that will help ensure we continue to put student opportunities and access at the forefront of everything we do. As we round out our team, it is imperative that we keep moving forward so that all our students thrive and have an educational experience that lifts them to their highest potential. These leaders will help us achieve that from day one.”


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