There has been a change at the top, at Brainerd High School.  For several years, the school has endured high teacher turnover and low student performance, landing in the bottom five percent of Tennessee schools. 

Hamilton County school officials are hoping a first time principal can give Brainerd a boost.

Chris James began his career in the private sector, but education soon came calling. He worked his way up the ladder from teacher, to assistant principal, and now principal in a new city, at Brainerd High.  He says he knows his life is about to change, but he’s up to the challenge.

The Louisiana native is an Eagle Scout, a former teacher of the year in Cobb County, Georgia, and was a school administrator in Knox County, Tennessee.  He began his career in 2002 at SIATech Charter High School, an accelerated dropout recovery program supporting at-risk students in Atlanta  He developed a study skills program to help students with academic achievement, credit recovery, behavior and social skills while a special education teacher at R.L Osborne High School. He obtained his bachelor of arts in music at Mississippi Valley State University, holds a masters of arts in education from the University of Phoenix, and an education specialist in educational administration from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Many of Brainerd’s students deal with problems outside of school, so James wants to make the most of his limited time with them, in the building.  Although he’s only in his third week, he’s gotten their attention. Students say he frequently interacts with them during lunch period, and is meeting with various groups to come with ideas on how to challenge students to improve.

James wants to be a friend, but understands he also has to administer discipline when necessary.  He’s hoping his blend of kindness, compassion, and structure will enable him to achieve his goals at Brainerd High.

In addition to more rigorous classroom studies, James has plenty of other goals for Brainerd, including a state championship in at least one sport, and improved career and tech classes, including the school's new Future Ready Institute of Aviation.