KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Twenty-four people from all across the United States have applied for the position of Knox County Schools superintendent. Friday was the application deadline to fill the position vacated by Dr. Jim McIntyre who resigned at the end of last school year. Buzz Thomas has served as interim superintendent this year.
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Knox County Schools provided the applications and resumes of all 24 applicants:
Dr. Catherine Beck
Dr. Beck is currently an assistant superintendent in Summit County, Colorado. She worked as a principal from 2008-2015 in Dillon and Leaderville, Colorado.
A University of Tennessee graduate, Beck started her career in education in 1989 at Lauderdale County Schools. She also worked as a school administrator.
“I have worked as a principal at two turn around schools: an IB [International Baccalaureate] dual language elementary school and a high school with high poverty. Under my leadership both schools not only successfully changed their performance status, but both became award winning schools,” said Beck.
Ronald Blair Jr.
Ronald Blair Jr. is a special education teacher in Lakeland, Florida, but says his education and training give him the experience needed to lead Knox County Schools. He is scheduled to receive his doctorate in higher/post-secondary education in April 2017. He says he was a student in several Knoxville area schools and feels this would be an asset.
“…Returning to Knoxville in such a role would be a career highlight as it would surely impact my family and friends still living in the city,” he said.
Mark Chandler has served as superintendent of schools for Des Moines Municipal Schools in New Mexico since July 2015. He previously served as principal of Twin Lakes Elementary School where he says he turned around low morale among staff, a student activity account with a huge deficit, community distrust and frustration. He also later served for Tohatchi Middle School. Prior to serving as a principal, he was a special education teacher.
“My experiences in schools encompasses a wide variety of circumstances. Including schools that are low to high performing, small to large in enrollment, fiscally sound to unstable, rural to suburban,” he said in his application.
Dr. Susan Compton
Susan Compton is superintendent of three school districts in New Jersey. She previously spent 30 years working in Kentucky’s public schools, but moved to New Jersey to be closer to her son, who has now relocated to another state.
“I have a diverse background in the educational domain: as a former parent, teacher, band director, principal, director of federal programs, director of instruction, assistant superintendent and school superintendent,” she said. “I look forward to being your next superintendent, and plan on meeting those challenges by practicing a participatory management style, presenting a focused clear vision, providing through communication, and demonstrating what is always ‘best for students’ first and foremost.”
Sonia Diaz is chief academic officer of Framingham Public Schools and previously served in a variety of positions in Baltimore County Public Schools, Miami/Dade County Public Schools, New York City Board of Education, Boston Public Schools and others. She says her experience as superintendent in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the largest yet poorest city in the state, helps her match the needs of Knox County.
“I rallied private and public support for significant increases in budget allocations that resulted in improved financial and educational outcomes for the school district,” she said.
Dr. Ronnie A. Dotson
Dr. Ronnie A. Dotson is the superintendent of schools in Carter County, Kentucky. He was previously principal of Southside Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky, and was also adjunct professor at the University of Pikeville and Morehead State University. He earned his doctorate from Morehead State in May 2016.
“Advancing student achievement has been at the forefront of my career. As an advocate for all learners, I take personally the responsibility granted to me to ensure that future generations are prepared to excel academically in order to lead productive and meaningful lives. I believe these core foundations are incomparably shaped through the endeavors of public education,” he said.
Timothy Gadson is executive director of curriculum and schools with Robbinsdale Area Schools in Minnesota, a position he has held since July 2016, and says he has 23 years of experience in education. He previously was associate superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools where he says he increased the 2015 graduation rate in one year to an all-time high of 71.5 percent, up 12.4 percentage points from the previous year. He says he also increased the rate of students with disabilities graduating with general education diplomas and reduced the gap between African-American and white graduation rates.
He earned his PhD in 1997 from Washington State University after earning his Ed.M. the previous year.
“Success is not accidental,” he said. “A superintendent must be a mission-focused leader able to build consensus around the strategic initiatives of the district and community being served. I welcome the opportunity to meet with the board to share how I may contribute to making Knox County Schools a national and international model for educational excellence.”
Dr. Andrei Ghelman
Ghelman currently works as a coordinator for teacher recruitment and retention for Collier County Public Schools in Florida.
Previously, Ghelman worked as a principal, dean of students, programs coordinator and administrator for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. He started his teaching career in 1995 as a math teacher.
“I have a variety of experience that include creating and intricate schedule of classes for over 2,500 high school students, schedules for college classes located on the high school campus and and erasing substantial budget deficits. In addition, I have been directly involved with increasing student achievements on the SAT, ACT and Accuplacer college entrance exams as well as recruiting professional staff and various support programs for teacher retention,” said Ghelman.
Dr. Thomas Graves
Dr. Thomas Graves currently serves as an educational consultant for several school systems, including ones in South Carolina, New Mexico, and Lebanon, Virginia. He also previously served as an assistant superintendent in Washington County, Virginia, and a superintendent in Glendive, Montana, among other positions. He is a former national-class track and field athlete.
Graves recently accepted a position at Robeson County Schools in North Carolina, according to WATE 6 On Your Side’s sister station WBTW, after the former superintendent was ousted.
Dr. Cedrick Gray
Dr. Gray worked as superintendent of Jackson Public Schools in Mississippi from 2012-2016. He resigned in 2016 after his school district received an F grade from the Mississippi Department of Education.
From 2010-2012, Gray worked as superintendent of Fayette County Schools. He also worked as a principal in Memphis from 2005-2010.
“As a native Tennessean and former director of schools in Tennessee, i was excited to see an opportunity to apply for a position with the Knox County School District,” said Dr. Gray. “I lead with ah high level of honesty and integrity, serve as a positive role model for our scholars and a positive representative of the school district. What you don’t see on my resume is my passion for work of preparing our scholars for careers and college.”
Stuart Greenberg is chief academic officer of Leon County Public Schools in Florida. He previously served 24 years in Broward County Public Schools, the sixth largest school system in the United States. He says during the last five years in Leon County, he’s seen a dramatic academic increase.
“As multiple roles as an educator, I can attest to the challenges and joys of working with students and schools of all age ranges and socioeconomic backgrounds. Over my career, I have cultivated strong working relationships with all school stakeholders focused on a primary goal of increasing student achievement,” he said.
Dr. Tonya Harris
Tonya Harris serves as superintendent of Preclarus Mastery Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, which is closing later this year. She was previously principal of Earl Nance Sr. Elementary School in St. Louis, an assistant principal in Washington DC, and other positions in the DC area. She earned her Ph.D. from Capella University in 2014.
“It is my goal to lead a group of schools toward eliminating any achievement gaps between identifiable groups of students,” she said. “I sense that my own personal values, along with my professional record, demonstrate my passion and ability for leading change and improving organizational effectiveness on behalf of students.”
Teresa Lance is an assistant superintendent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is currently working toward her doctorate degree. She is also an adjunct professor at Argosy University. Her previous experience includes serving as educational specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and a leadership coach at American Institutes for Research.
“Throughout my tenure in education I have significantly reversed operational inefficiencies of challenged schools. Additionally, I’ve worked in both small and large urban school districts where I was charged with, among many things, working to close achievement gaps.” she said.
Tryvan Leech Sr.
Tryvan Leech Sr. is currently executive director of state and federal programs at Youngstown City Schools in Youngstown, Ohio. He was previously a freshman principal at Princeston City Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio, an educator and interim assistant principal in Mount Healthy, Ohio, and a business educator in Dayton, Ohio. He served in the United States Air Force from 1976 to 1980. He is currently earning a graduate degree at Ashland University.
“Upon becoming your superintendent, I and my team aspire to help establish an environment conducive to student learning and staff development. With team effort, coordinated efforts with parents, family and community business members have assisted students to remain focused and disciplined and receive the necessary attention to meet their needs,” said Leech.
Dr. Dale Lynch
Lynch is the current superintendent of Hamblen County Schools. He previously served as a teacher and later assistant principal at Jonesborough Middle School in Washington County, and as assistant director of schools and later director of schools in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Lynch earned his doctorate from East Tennessee State University in 1997.
“Serving as Superintendent in the Hamblen County School System has been extremely rewarding. The teamwork and collaboration of our entire community has allowed our school district to provide many programs of excellence while meeting the needs of all students. These programs are recognized for their quality and impact on student achievement at the state and national level,” said Dr. Lynch.
Elizabeth MacTavish is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, a position she’s held since this past August, where she teaches undergraduate courses to seniors who have been accepted into the education program. She also supervises interns in Knox County Schools.
Her career began in an inner city middle school in Orlando before she was able to return to Knoxville (after having attended the University of Tennessee) and was offered a position at Farragut Middle School. There she taught seventh grade science and helped design the school’s STEM program. among many other accomplishments.
“I strongly believe teaching is a service profession. In my opinion, service is most critical in the position of the superintendent. My career has provided me with an impressive skill set that I am confident qualifies me for the position of superintendent in the Knox County Schools,” she said.
Dr. Jon Rysewyk
Dr. Jon Rysewyk currently works for Knox County Schools as an interim assistant superintendent and chief academic officer. He came to the school system from Emerald Charter Schools where he served as school director from 2014 to December 2016. He previously held positions with Knox County Schools and taught biology at Oliver Springs High School, where he was also an assistant basketball coach.
Rysewyk was the first leader of Emerald Charter Schools, the first charter school in Knox County. More than 120 students attended last year year. The school saw high demand when opening last July and 334 families completed enrollment forms. For the 2016-2017 school year they added second and sixth grades. During enrollment they saw more than 600 applications come in.
“Knoxville is home to my family and the Knox County School System deserves the credit for my career that spans nearly 20 years in education,” he said.
Dr. Andy Spears
Dr. Spears is currently the president of Spears Strategy, a public affairs firm that specializes in public education. He is co-founder of the Tennessee Education Report, an online journal of education policy.
In 2012 he also started Strong Schools, an advocacy non-profit focused on school funding in Sumner County. He was also the director of policy and outreach for Tennessee stand for children and press secretary for the Tennessee State Senate.
“As Knox County Schools seeks to offer an excellent education to every child, the system needs a thoughtful, collaborative leader,” said Spears. “I’m prepared to bring a service-focused approach and inclusive leadership style to your system. Additionally, I’ve been actively engaged in public schools as a coach and mentor.”
Stoddard is principal of Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, a position he’s held since 2013. He was previously held several other positions within the same school system, including assistant principal, principal and curriculum director. Stoddard earned his superintendent license from Ashland University after getting his masters from Xavier University and his undergraduate degree from Mount St. Joseph University.
Stoddard says he has been able to lead Oak Hills High School to increase the number of students who graduate with college credit, the number of Advanced Placement opportunities for students, the average ACT score and other academic improvements.
“It is my ultimate goal to become a school superintendent. I feel that is a position in which I can harness all of my leadership potential and make decisions that will benefit the students, staff, parents and ultimately the community at large,” he said.
Since 1990 Thomas has served as an assistant superintendent for Knox County Schools. He also serves as the chair of Knox County Schools administrative team for the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act and executive director for the Distinguished Professionals Education Institute.
Thomas also worked as a supervisor and personnel specialist for Knox County Schools. He was assistant principal and principal for Rule High School from 1982-1985 and taught at Bearden High School and Bearden Junior High School from 1973-1982.
“I have devoted my entire career to public education in Knox County and have demonstrated that I am a person of integrity, honesty and trust. I believe in leadership that is participatory, collaborative and situational,” said Thomas. “Throughout my career, I have shown that I am a good listener who is willing to consider and have compassion for others with differing views.”
Dr. Robert Vick
Dr. Robert Vick serves as principal of Parrottsville Elementary School in Cocke County. He previously served as a principal, teacher and coach in Jefferson County Schools. He earned his masters degree from Lincoln Memorial University in 1996 and his doctorate in education from East Tennessee State University in 2003.
“As a confident and self-assured leader, I would foster the district’s interests in meetings, activities and projects that reflect the school system’s educational program and operations,” he said.
Williams has been a unified services director with the Tennessee Education Association since 2014. He previously held other positions with the association. He was also an assistant principal and later principal at Cosby School in Cocke County, after having served as a county-wide literacy coordinator. Williams earned his doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee after obtaining his masters at Lincoln Memorial University and his undergraduate degree at Maryville College.
Williams says while in Cocke County, he says he transformed a struggling school into a highly regarded learning center that was named one of the top eight percent of high schools in America by U.S. News and World Report. He also provided a list of goals for Knox County Schools, including improving teacher morale, working to improve ACT scores, improving access to technology, holding community “town hall” forums and more.
“America’s schools are not broken but they do need vision, innovation and a workable plan for continual growth. The Knox County School System can continue to grow in these areas. We need to focus on people – not just policies – to reach greater heights in education,” he said.
Andrè L. Wright
Wright is currently the Director of Learning Community Schools in the Aurora Public School System in Aurora, Colorado. He was named director in July 2014.
Prior to that role, he was appointed Area Executive Director for the Northeast Learning Community in the Fulton County School System in March of 2012. Fulton County Schools is an urban Atlanta-area school district. A graduate of Covenant College and Lincoln Memorial University, Wright has also worked as a principal and principal in Fulton and Dekalb County School system. He began his teaching career as a middle school language arts teacher.
“My professional experience in Fulton County Schools as both a principal and area executive director provided me with the opportunities to lead in a highly impacted community and a highly affluent community within the district. Those experiences taught me how to produce high academic achievement results in both communities, leeading a distinguished Title 1 School as well as supporting four large comprehensive high schools with a 96% four year cohort, on-time graduation rate,” said Wright.
Young has served as Superintendent of Agape Charter Schools since July 2015.
Before that, Young worked as a dean of students and administrator for Houston ISD and Fresno Unified School District. She was also principal of Fuller Elementary School with Chicago Public Schools from 2009-2012, data analyst. She started her teaching career as an early childhood teacher in Austin, Texas.
“For over a decade, I have earned progressively increasing responsibilities overseeing operations managing budgets and implementing educational programs in a variety of school environments across the country. This has given me a unique perspective about the possibilities presented when leaders are fearless about changing the educational landscape and not bound to linear thinking or ‘the way things have always been done,'” said Young.