Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson, Ph.D., shares his perspective on leadership and how community members can support our students and future workforce.
Trend: Has someone in your life exemplified leadership for you? How did that impact you moving forward?
Johnson: Outside of my parents, the most impactful leader in my K-12 experience was Mr. Willi Scruggs. Mr. Scruggs is now deceased, but he was a great servant leader. He was my seventh-grade science teacher as well as my football and basketball coach in junior high. Not only did he challenge my teammates and me academically and athletically, but he also exposed us to opportunities beyond high school. So many evenings, Mr. Scruggs gave of his personal time to invest in my peers and me. During this valuable time for me as I was growing, we discussed academic achievement, career success and life in general. He had a wife and family, and he sacrificed time to invest in the children he worked with each day. Mr. Scruggs exemplified the selflessness that so many Hamilton County Schools educators personify in our schools daily.
Trend: What can Hamilton County residents do to help students succeed?
Johnson: Everyone in the community plays a part in preparing children in our schools for the future. Everyone is impacted by how well we prepare our children because the young people in our schools today will be our leaders of the future and determine the success of our community. We have individuals who are personally involved and volunteer in our schools to work with children, or volunteer through community organizations committed to children. Others support children and schools by providing the resources schools need to help our children envision a brighter future. Both types of assistance from the community are vital for the success of our schools and our children.
Being an informed citizen about our community’s schools is important for Hamilton County residents, and you can do that through the district’s website, newsletters, social media, visiting schools and getting involved. It is also important to the school district that we are focus on the wishes of the community as we prepare children for success after graduation. We plan opportunities throughout the year to gain community feedback to understand better the community’s expectations of our schools and how we can meet those expectations.
Trend: What is the most practical way for the business community in Hamilton County to support students?
Johnson: Sharing expertise and business and industry experience with the students in our schools is an important way the business community can be involved in our schools and the success of graduates. Finding ways to provide students with exposure to the expertise of business and industry and the professionals in those organizations is important to graduating future-ready students. Whether a business becomes an internship sponsor in a program like STEP-UP or a business representative visits a school to speak during career day, our students need the opportunity to engage and learn from those who are working today. Please contact Kate Skonberg at [email protected] or 423.498.7188 to learn more about ways in which you can connect.
Leadership Hamilton County Schools, modeled after the Chamber’s successful Leadership Chattanooga program, began this past year with a great group of participants to help these community leaders have a better understanding of how our schools operate. Such leadership programs are a great way to broaden community leaders’ knowledge of the school district, increase the number and effectiveness of education advocates in the community, equip community leaders to respond to the challenges faced by Hamilton County Schools and public education and provide connections to community leaders. The program provides a deep-dive into our school district and even includes an opportunity for participants to become a “principal for the day.” Applications are open, and the next program begins in Sept. 2019. Find more information here.
Trend: Why is it important in our community to have programs like Leadership Chattanooga?
Johnson: Leadership Chattanooga gives those in leadership roles and others who aspire to have more significant influence a deeper understanding of this great community we call home. Leadership programs provide an opportunity for people to see the successes and challenges experienced by the different sectors of the community and to better understand the inner workings of those organizations important to the overall success of the Tennessee Valley. Participants also get to work collaboratively with other citizens and determine paths towards the continued success of Hamilton County.
Leadership Chattanooga has been a collaborative partner with Hamilton County Schools for many years. Not only do participants spend a day learning about our school district, but their members also work together on projects that support our great teachers, leaders, students and schools. It is important for leaders in Chattanooga to have a deep understanding of how our district operates, our successes and our challenges to work together for a brighter future.
Trend: What does leadership mean to you?
Johnson: Leadership means service. I believe a leader’s most important function is to determine how they can assist and elevate those around them to be more effective in their roles. A leader is someone who cares enough about those around them to make sure they are successful. It is vital to celebrate the wins and accomplishments of those who work alongside you. Leaders must also minimize the challenges and the impact of losses to encourage their team to take on difficult tasks that will move the organization forward. Good leaders are protective of the team who give of themselves daily for the common benefit of the organization. Leadership provides opportunities for team members to see issues that prevent the organization from moving forward in their work area and successfully address the issue to advance toward goals in the strategic plan. Successful leaders are focused on the successes that come as a result of individual sacrifice for the benefit of the organization and in our case, the benefit of the children of the community.
Bryan Johnson, Ph.D., is a native of Nashville and a proud product of public schools. He attended Austin Peay State University where he majored in business administration and played football. He holds a master's in teaching from Belmont University and a doctorate in educational leadership from Trevecca Nazarene.
Johnson has served as a teacher, school administrator, director of secondary schools, chief academic officer and now our superintendent.
He has made tremendous strides to improve Hamilton County Schools. In less than two years, he started the Opportunity Zone to address rapid school improvement in 12 of the district’s low performing schools.
He launched Future Ready Institutes in our high schools to make learning more meaningful for today’s teens and provide future-ready graduates who are prepared for success after graduation. The program was so successful in the first year that it was awarded the Urban League of Chattanooga’s Community Impact Award.
Schools in Hamilton County are making great strides in technology under Dr. Johnson’s leadership. Middle schools became 1-to-1 technology schools this year by providing each student with an electronic device to open a new world of knowledge for children and teachers. Plans are to expand into high schools next year with 1-to-1 technology.
The district developed a comprehensive five-year action plan called Future Ready 2023 to provide a roadmap to Johnson’s vision of Hamilton County Schools as the fastest improving school district in Tennessee.