Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson could have cashed in to the tune of $15,000 in bonus money, after the district scored the maximum "5" in each category of state testing last week. Instead, he is using the money to establish scholarships to honor his late mother LaBrenda Johnson. 

Mrs. Johnson passed away in Nashville in June 2017 at the age of 64, following a long battle with heart disease. Just days later, Dr. Johnson signed a four-year contract as superintendent in Hamilton County. Among the contract details was an incentive that would reward him with $7,500 for a level 4 designation, and an additional $7,500 for level 5.  The county met both benchmarks this year, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.

Dr. Johnson said, “My mother would have enjoyed this," before pausing to say, "and I know she is. She raised her children to serve, and press toward excellence. These scholarships will allow her legacy to live on."

Dr. Johnson credited the students, teachers, leaders, staff, parents, and community for the success of Hamilton County Schools. 

District 9 School board member Dr. Steve Highlander helped negotiate the contract in 2017 as board chairman. He said, "When Dr. Johnson told me his intentions, I thought it was a very honorable thing to do.  This will help a lot of our students."  Current Board chairman Joe Wingate said, "Some of us, including me, didn't think these goals were achievable within the four years of his contract.  And it's happened in two years.  It's remarkable."

Dr. Johnson wouldn't say whether he was surprised to have reached the goals so quickly, but said, "I just believe when you give children the right things, they can exceed expectations."

The scholarship fund will be administered through the Fund for Excellence and provide one scholarship for a senior in each learning community in the school district.  The recipients will be announced at the Superintendent’s Honors Banquet scheduled for April 2020.  The banquet honors the top 10 percent of students in the district’s graduating class.  Dr. Johnson said it has not yet been decided if the scholarships will be awarded based on need, or academic achievement.

Detailed criteria and the application process for the LaBrenda Johnson Memorial Scholarship will be shared with high schools and seniors in the next few months.