School board, mayor joins hands in effort to land topnotch director of schools

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The Board of Education and Mayor Megan Barry announced today a path forward on the director of schools search with a joint goal of an aggressive, national search for top talent to take the public school system to the next level. As a first step, the Mayor’s Office and the Nashville Public Education Foundation will co-chair a 12-week community task force charged with guiding the search and recruitment effort.

The 17-member task force will work on an expedited timeline to collect and aggregate data about comparable districts and “bright spots” of innovation in the areas most critical to MNPS’ progress and improvement. They will subsequently make recommendations to the Board of Education as to an effective profile and process for aggressively recruiting a high-caliber director of schools to lead the district forward.

“We are committed as a Board to finding the best and brightest leader the country has to offer to lead our district forward by leaps and bounds,” said Dr. Sharon Gentry, the chairwoman of the Board of Education. “While the Board must ultimately make the hiring decision, for us to successfully hire the kind of leader we all want, we must put our collective best foot forward as a city and a community.”

“I applaud the Board’s decision to engage the full community in this search. I am optimistic that this diverse group of community leaders can work closely together to identify, recruit and hire a game-changing leader who will catapult the city’s public schools forward,” said Barry. “The only way we will be successful attracting and landing the kind of leader we need and want is to have the full support and attention of school, city and community leaders.”

The community advisory committee will be co-chaired by the Mayor’s Office and the Nashville Public Education Foundation. Members of the search advisory committee will be:

  • David Briley, Vice Mayor
  • Sheila Calloway, Juvenile Court Judge
  • Bill Carpenter, Chairman and CEO, LifePoint Health
  • Rev. V. H. Sonnye Dixon, Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship
  • Marc Hill, Chief Policy Officer, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Shannon Hunt, President and CEO, Nashville Public Education Foundation
  • Erick Huth, President, Metropolitan Nashville Education Association
  • Kristin McGraner, Founder and Executive Director, STEM Prep
  • Janet Miller, CEO, Colliers International
  • Rich Riebeling, Chief Operating Officer, Mayor Barry’s Office
  • Mark Rowan, President, Griffin Technology
  • Renata Soto, Executive Director, Conexión Américas
  • Stephanie Spears, President, MNPS Parent Advisory Council
  • Rev. Ed Thompson, Nashville Organized for Action and Hope
  • Robbin Wall, Principal, McGavock High School
  • Ludye N. Wallace, President, NAACP Nashville
  • David Williams, Vice Chancellor, Vanderbilt University

“So often these searches turn into resume-intake operations that net less than the best candidates,” said Board vice chairwoman Anna Shepherd. “Instead, we’ve made a decision as a city to be smarter about the way we’re going about this. I’m proud of this Board for having the forethought to approach the search in this way and honored the Mayor’s Office and Public Education Foundation have pledged their willingness to support the Board’s efforts in such a meaningful way.”

“There is no issue more important to Nashville’s long-term success than addressing the challenges in our public schools,” said Nashville Public Education Foundation president and CEO Shannon Hunt. “We’re hopeful this re-booted process will produce a caliber of candidate we have not yet seen to lead our schools forward in a big and bold way.”

The advisory committee’s work is expected to begin later this month and culminate in recommendations to the Board in January. From there, the second phase of the search will begin where the formal search apparatus will be formed and active national recruiting efforts launched in full force. The intent is to name a new director of schools by summer so that he or she is able to ensure a seamless transition to the new school year.

The group is being asked to focus on three core areas:

  1. What does Nashville need? What are Nashville’s biggest challenges? How do we stack up against other cities/districts? What does this point to in terms of the profile of an effective director of schools?
  2. Who might fit that profile? Are there “bright spots” around the country in terms of districts or systems achieving significant gains or innovations in these areas? Are there others outside districts who bear further discussion?
  3. Are we competitive enough to attract high-caliber candidates? How does our compensation package compare to like-minded or -sized districts? Are there other things we can do to make the position more attractive?

Simultaneous with the work of the committee, efforts are underway to map out the best course for the second phase of the search, which will include active recruiting of potential candidates and recommendation of a slate of finalists for the Board of Education to interview. The Board, Mayor’s Office and NPEF have agreed to work together over the next several weeks to determine the best structure and identify what resources are needed to make the second, more formal phase most effective.