NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The finalists were named and Thursday the Metro School board began interviewing Director candidates. Dr. Jesse Register retired on June 30, 2015 after serving six and a half years with the district.
Despite notifying the board of his intentions last fall, it wasn’t until this spring that the search for his replacement began in earnest. The process included meetings with board members, educators and the community to identify key qualities necessary in the candidates.
Monday, after a nationwide search consultants with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA) unveiled the list of four finalists; Dr. Barry Shepherd, Dr. Mike Looney, Dr. Angela Huff and Dr. John Covington.
After more than seven years Dr. Shepherd retired on April 1, 2015 from Cabarrus County Schools , NC. He’s been in education for 30 years that began as a teacher before working his way up to administration.
Dr. Shepherd has been credited with leading the system with unprecedented growth, opening eight new schools and implementing programs aimed at keeping students in the public school systemversus choosing other options. However, Cabarrus County Schools has 31,000, less than half of Metro’s 85,000. According to Cabarrus County Schools website, it’s population of students in poverty, and English Language Learners also pales in comparison to Metro Schools numbers.
Dr. Mike Looney is well known as the Director of neighboring Williamson County Schools. The district is the highest performing in the state with composite ACT score of 23.7 indicating that a majority of graduates are college and career ready. Dr. Looney served in the Marine Corps, then spent a few years in sales before embarking on a career in education. He’s been the Director of Williamson County Schools since 2009. The district also has fewer than half the amount of students as Metro. Williamson County is known for its affluence and lack of diversity with only 12 percent of students being economically disadvantaged compared to Metro’s nearly 73 percent, two percent of students are English language learners in 2013-2014 according to the Tennessee Education Report Card.
Dr. Angela Huff is a Metro Schools graduate who currently serves as the Chief of Staff of Cobb County Schools, Georgia. Her father, Rev. W.C. Dobbins was appointed Pastor of Clark Memorial United Methodist Church which brought the family to Nashville when Dr. Huff was in the first grade. She began her career in education straight out of college as a teacher in Gwinnett County Schools.
In her current position as the Chief of Staff she serves as the Legislative Liason, oversees the Cobb Education Foundation, the district’s Communications Department, Policy, Planning and Student Support. The Marietta Daily Journal called into question assistance a teacher gave Dr. Huff during school hours regarding a power point presentation for Huff’s dissertation defense. According to the paper, no action was taken by the district and Huff was promoted shortly after.
Dr. John Covington was recruited by HYA to apply for the position. He’s currently self employed as an educational consultant that’s currently executing a contract entered into with the Eli and Edith Broad Foundation with the school district in McComb, MS. Before that he served as the first ever Chancellor of Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (EAA). Similar to Tennessee’s Achievement School district, the EAA is charged with turning around more than one dozen of Detroit’s lowest performing schools.
While critics question student improvement, in his application Dr. Covington cited 68 percent of students achieving at least 1.5 years of growth in reading and 64 percent growth in math. He left the job abruptly last year abruptly the EAA was embroiled in controversy concerning questionable spending. In his Metro Schools application Dr. Covington cited the “failing health of mother” as reason for his quick departure with one more year left on his contract. Before Detroit, Covington was the Superintendent of Kanas City Schools, hired to improve the troubled school system. His resignation was also viewed as abrupt and stunning.
NewsChannel 5 reporter Aundrea Cline-Thomas will have a complete recap coming up on NewsChannel 5 at 4, 5, and 6 p.m.