UPDATE: Hamilton County school board members are getting to know the candidates for superintendent.

In the first set of interviews, they heard from two of the eight candidates via Skype on Monday.

Some of the big topics talked about included keeping Hamilton County Schools together, student achievement, and money.

School board members interviewed both candidates for less than an hour each.

"What is the most significant hurdle facing our system?," Kathy Lennon, a school board member asked.

"One of the largest, most obvious hurdles for the county is the divisiveness," Dr. Natasha Baker, a superintendent candidate replied.

Dr. Baker was referencing the idea that some schools want to break off from Hamilton County and form their own district.

"For someone like me to be able to have the opportunity to connect with the communities, to be in the schools, but also to connect with the state," Dr. Baker said.

She's the only female candidate going for the job.

Dr. Baker is the state reform officer for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. She identifies schools in the bottom 5% and turns them around.

Board member Joe Smith asked a hypothetical question to the other candidate, Stuart Greenberg.

"My daddy's in prison and the electricity is turned off. Mom is smoking dope. How are you going to get me in the morning to concentrate on algebra?," Joe Smith, a school board member asked.

"I think the first thing you have to do is build relationships. Students need to know that they're cared for when they come to school," Stuart Greenberg, a superintendent candidate replied.

Greenberg is the chief academic officer for Leon County Public Schools in Florida. Some of his top priorities include improving student achievement, fixing facilities, and working with the community. 

"Something that I've done here that I would bring to the district is not only looking at proficiency but providing a report for teachers and administrators on state assessments how many students were about 10 points away from being proficient," Greenberg said.

Board members weren't afraid to express the harsh reality that money is also an issue for the school system.

"You're going to be fighting for every dollar that you get. I want to know are you prepared for that?" David Testerman, a school board member asked.

"I understand the political and the policy aspects of budgeting. It is very hard, but with a talented team, folks who are focused, folks who know how to tap the community and tap the right influencers at every level in the system, we can make it happen," Dr. Baker replied.

"I think the more you can be transparent, the more that you can turn to the community on a regular basis and have these dialogues, the county commission included, the more that people will understand what are the needs of the district," Greenberg said.

School board members will interview the remaining six superintendent candidates over the next two Mondays.

That includes Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly who will also be interviewed through Skype.

PREVIOUS STORY: Eight candidates are still in the running for the top job in Hamilton County schools, including interim superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly. The school board recently hired a search firm, Coleman Lew and Associates to solicit applications and identify qualified candidates. Skype interviews have been scheduled for three consecutive Mondays in May.  The interviews will be conducted from the Superintendent's conference room, and will be open to the public.On

May 8th at 5:00 p.m. Stuart Greenberg will be interviewed, followed by Natasha Baker.     

On May 15th at 5:00 p.m. Wayne Johnson will be interviewed. Clifford Davis will follow at 6:00 p.m. and then Bryan Johnson at 7:00 p.m.

On May 22nd at 5:00 p.m. Jack Elsey will be interviewed.  Kirk Kelly will follow at 6:00 p.m., and then Timothy Gadson at 7:00 p.m.

The listing of the eight remaining candidates includes:

  • Natasha Baker: state school reform officer for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. Previously, Baker was the deputy superintendent and state school reform officer in the division of education services for the Michigan Department of Education.
  • Clifford Davis, Jr.:  chief of staff for Knox County TN schools, previously served as the Supervisor for Secondary Education and as the Principal for South-Doyle and Karns High Schools.He joined Knox County Schools in 1990 as a mathematics teacher at Farragut Middle School, and also served as an assistant principal at Bearden Middle School from 1994 until his appointment as Principal at Cedar Bluff Middle School in 1999.Prior to joining Knox County Schools, Dr. Davis taught high school mathematics in Marengo County, Alabama. Dr. Davis holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics Education from Alabama A&M University, and Master of Mathematics, Education Specialist and Doctor of Education degrees from the University of Tennessee.
  • Jack Elsey, Jr.: chief schools officer for the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan. Prior to this, Elsey was the chief officer of innovation and incubation for Chicago Public Schools. From 2005-2011 he was the managing director of public affairs and school relations for Teach for America, New York.
  • Dr. Timothy Gadson: executive director of curriculum and schools in Robbinsdale, Minnesota since last June, Previously, he worked as the associate superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools. He also has experience as an educator and administrator in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Austin, Texas, and two school districts in Florida (Broward County and Palm Beach County)..
  • Stuart Greenberg: A thirty-year educator who is chief academic officer and former director of school accountability for Leon County Public Schools in Florida. He has also been the executive director for Reading and Early Learning for the Florida Department of Education. Greenberg has previously applied for superintendent jobs in Knox County, Metro Nashville, and in two Florida school districts.
  • A. Wayne Johnson: chief executive and executive managing officer of First Performance Corporation, described as a startup financial technology company in the Select program of Georgia Tech's Advanced Technology Development Center.. He has also been CEO of Reunion Financial Services Corporation and a managing partner at Global Education Partners. According to his bio, he obtained his Bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and his MBA from Emory University, and is pursuing a PhD in Higher Education Leadership from Mercer University. He has been in the business field for more than thirty years
  • Dr. Bryan Johnson: chief academic officer for Clarksville-Montgomery County School System in Tennessee. He began working in the district in 2007, serving as a principal and director of high schools for the district. He earned his doctorate from Trevecca Nazarene University.
  • Dr. Kirk Kelly: interim superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. Kelly has been an educator in Chattanooga City and Hamilton County Schools for more than thirty years as a teacher, coach and principal. For the past several years, he has served as assistant superintendent for accountability and testing. He was selected tl serve as interim superintendent after the sudden retirement of Rick Smith in 2016.

The top candidates would be invited for in-person interviews later this spring.  Some board members have expressed their support for Dr. Kelly, while others have said the district needs new leadership.  If an agreement can be reached, the permanent superintendent would begin in July.