Dr. Bryan Johnson (Ed.D. ’10) has served as a teacher, football coach, assistant principal, athletic director, director of high schools—and most recently, chief academic officer for Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools. On Monday, he’ll start a new job: superintendent of Hamilton County Schools.
Last month, the Hamilton County Board of Education selected Johnson to lead the school system after a search and interview process that lasted nearly a year. The district serves roughly 44,000 students in metro Chattanooga and the surrounding areas.
Because of the system’s wide reach, Johnson will lead nearly 3,000 teachers as they seek to meet the diverse needs of their students, including those in urban schools, more rural settings and across a variety of socio-economic statuses.
It’s a job Johnson says he’s ready for.
“I’m very excited and humbled by the opportunity to serve this school system,” he said. “Whether it’s a two year certification or post-secondary degree or a four-year degree at a Trevecca, Belmont or Tennessee State—wherever it is—we look forward to offering those students that opportunity beyond the high school experience.”
As the superintendent, Johnson’s responsibilities include defining and working to implement the vision and mission of the system, recommending policies to the school board, as well as oversight on management and personnel decisions.
Johnson’s top goal is to help the system become on of the top districts in the state, but he realizes this will involve a lot of listening, learning and work.
“I hope to get out and about in the community and see where the district is headed,” he said. “We’ll get a lot of community input and identify specific goals for every area within our system, then benchmark our success and see how we’re performing. We’ll have academic goals, fiscal goals, goals for teacher recruitment and retention, and how we approach our building maintenance and building projects. We’ll build a comprehensive plan that will set us on a trajectory to be the fastest improving school system in the state of Tennessee in student achievement.
“We want to be a lighthouse district,” Johnson continued. “Where schools, leaders, teachers and community members are saying, ‘Hamilton County has a phenomenal school district. Let’s learn from them.’”
While the district is not without its share of issues—including a municipality that wants to break away and low-performing schools targeted for improvement by the state—Johnson says he is ready for the challenge.
“There are some challenges, but every system has its challenges,” he said. “We want to work to be as proactive as possible and anticipate challenges before they arise. It’s a matter of really digging in, figuring out where the gaps are, where we’ve had issues and really making sure that we have a forward-thinking, long-range plan.”
Born and raised in Nashville, Johnson says the diversity of his education background has prepared him well for the challenge of leading one of the state’s largest school districts.
“I’ve worked for a great superintendent who did a lot to train and prepare me for this work,” Johnson said. “I’ve worked alongside great principals, great administrators and, most importantly, I’ve worked alongside some great teachers who have worked very, very hard to make sure students are successful. I’ve come up through the ranks and almost seen [education] at every level. Every experience I’ve had has been for a reason, and it has prepared me very well.”
“I think the moral compass of a leader, the way in which a leader leads is the most important thing that a leader has,” Johnson said, reflecting on what he learned while studying at Trevecca. “The thing I remember about the instructors—all the professors that I had—they were all great servant leaders and really exemplified what it meant to be a servant leader. They really impressed that upon us.
“Leading is more than a title, more than a position or a place on an organizational chart,” Johnson continued. “It’s a privilege, an opportunity, and you don’t take that for granted.”
An educator for 13 years, Johnson has spent the last 9 in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School system. Since 2015, he has served as the chief academic officer of the district. For two consecutive years, 2014-15 and 2015-16, Clarksville-Montgomery County schools were the no. 1 school district for student academic growth in the state.
Johnson and his wife, Candy, have two children. The family is excited about the new opportunity and impending move to Chattanooga.
“I think Chattanooga is a great place, a growing city economically, and it’s a great place to raise a family,” he said. “[This position] is unique opportunity to serve and influence what’s happening, not just for students, but for teachers and leaders.”