School Board gives mostly high marks to Supt. Bryan Johnson
As he enters his second year as superintendent of Hamilton County schools, Dr. Bryan Johnson knows how his board members rate him: a 3.68 on a scale of 1 to 5.
Most board members gave Johnson high marks, but two board members, David Testerman and Rhonda Thurman, gave Johnson overall scores of 2.78 and 2.06, respectively. Johnson's highest marks came from Joe Wingate (4.50) and Kathy Lennon (4.44).
Former superintendent Rick Smith received the highest overall evaluation score in recent years, a 4.02 in 2015, just months before he was forced to retire. Smith came under fire in early 2016 for his handling of an Ooltewah High School rape scandal, and accusations of concealing low test scores from board members.
Johnson's highest praise came in these categories: developing a five-year strategic plan, developing a career and technical education plan, and keeping board members informed on issues, needs, and the operation of the school system.
Board members were most critical of Johnson in these categories: initiating an external audit of all facilities, identifying plans for capital needs, and developing comprehensive behavior management training for all new teachers.
Missing from the evaluation are several categories used in years past, including personal appearance, ethics, communication with media, and garnering support from the public.
Thurman had harsh criticism for Johnson's "aggressive recruit plan to attract and retain talented educators." She wrote, "(This plan) is obviously going out of town to hire as many administrators as possible, looking over local talent has been terrible for morale." She continued, "Teachers with good evaluations are let go with no explanation." She also took aim at Johnson's recent central office reorganization, which resulted in the hiring of several "chiefs" from outside the school system. Thurman wrote, "I hate that we do not have people with institutional knowledge in key positions in the administration."
In contrast, board member Tiffanie Robinson had mostly glowing comments about Johnson. Regarding his five-year strategic plan, she wrote, "Bryan recognized this as a high priority, and pulled the board together for a visioning session immediately after starting his position. I appreciate how fast he worked through this, as well as made sure his team began working on an implementation plan."
Board member Karitsa Jones complimented Johnson on strengthening the relationship between the school system and County Mayor Jim Coppinger and commissioners, who approve funding. Jones wrote, "As a fairly new superintendent, he was able to secure $100 million to address deferred maintenance and growth issues and a balanced budget."
Johnson's contract runs through the summer of 2021. The makeup of the school board could change after the August county general election, with five contested races. District 6 representative Joe Galloway, who gave Johnson high marks, is not seeking a new term, and will be succeeded by either Michael Henry or Jenny Hill.
Johnson said, “The board and I have embarked together upon an aggressive agenda for the children of the community to make Hamilton County Schools the fastest improving school district in the state. This is a valuable evaluation point that is beneficial to keep us moving forward as we develop long-term plans for the future.”
He added, “This year was about establishing a foundation that will allow us to build toward the vision of success the board has set for Hamilton County Schools.”