Hamilton School Board gives superintendent high marks
As Hamilton County schools superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson begins his third year on the job, most of the nine school board members give him high ratings for his performance.
With the exception of some pointed criticism from District 1 board member Rhonda Thurman and District 9 board member Dr. Steve Highlander, Johnson's performance evaluation was filled with high scores and positive comments.
Out of a possible 95 points that could be awarded in categories including strategic planning, student achievement, leadership, business and finance, and board relationship, three board members (Tiffanie Robinson, Joe Smith, and Joe Wingate) gave Johnson an 89. Karitsa Jones and Kathy Lennon were just behind, scoring Johnson an 88, with Kathy Lennon awarding him 87 points, and Jenny Hill 83. Tucker McClendon listed more areas for improvement, grading Johnson a 75. Highlander and Thurman were far more critical, grading Johnson at 65 and 60 respectively.
Four board seats will be on the 2020 ballot, including three (Lennon, Robinson, and Wingate) who are staunch supporters of Johnson. Thurman's seat is also on the ballot. None of the four have formally announced whether they will seek another term.
Thurman was most critical of Johnson's facilities plans, as well as his relationship with the school system's funding body, the Hamilton County Commission. She also criticized the recruitment and retention practices for county teachers.
Hill praised a recent external audit of the system's facilities, writing "I am pleased with the professionalism of the recommended firm, their ordered approach, and their out of the box ideas for finding efficiency within our system." She also said Johnson delivered outstanding academic improvement in the last year." She differed with Thurman on recruitment and retention, commenting "significant strides" during the last year. She praised the Future Ready Institutes that Johnson has created, saying "It can be hard to keep up with all the new opportunities our students have from month to month!"
Highlander cited a need for better behavior management training for teachers, and said that Johnson could do a better job of keeping the board informed about personnel changes. Hill again offered a counterpoint, writing "Dr. Johnson makes the board aware of important issues. He is available to meet as necessary, and is always prepared."
Highlander also listed "concerns for rural underprivileged" as an area in which the superintendent could improve. On the topic of leadership development, he wrote "Local successful educators need more opportunities to advance." Johnson has recently hired more administrators from outside Hamilton County than some of his predecessors. He wrote that Johnson should use "better communication before placing top level appointments."
Tucker McClendon of District 8, at age 24 the youngest board member, called on Johnson to make behavior management training for teachers a higher priority. He also praised the superintendent for "bringing in the business industry to expand career and technical education options," calling it a "major strong point over the past year."
While some board members were specific in their comments, both positive and negative, others merely gave the superintendent numeric ratings. Most of those marks were a perfect "5" on a scale of 1 to 5. The average score was 4.24. Johnson signed a four year contract in 2017.
The board will discuss the superintendent's performance evaluation in greater detail during their regular scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday.