6 candidates announced as search for MNPS director resumes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A preliminary group of six men have been announced for the open Metro Director of Schools position prior to a Board of Education meeting Tuesday evening.

School board member Amy Frogge confirmed the six candidates as Joel Boyd, Jesus Jara, Shawn Joseph, Brad Leon , H. Allen Smith and Kenneth Zeff.

Frogge added there are no clear front-runners for the job yet.

READ MORE: Metro Schools Director Search

Joel Boyd has been Superintendent of the Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS) in New Mexico since 2012. He is a Harvard-trained educator who has worked in the classroom and as a principal. SFPS has roughly 14,000 students and nearly 2,000 employees. Prior to that, Boyd worked in Philadelphia as the Assistant Superintendent.

“It’s an honor to be considered,” Boyd told News 2 by phone Tuesday. “Nashville is a world-class city. There’s a lot of opportunity to do a lot of great work for students.”

Joel Boyd (Courtesy: Metro Schools)
Joel Boyd (Courtesy: Metro Schools)

Jesus Jara is the Deputy Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Florida, which includes Orlando. The district has roughly 187,000 students.

Jesus Jara (Courtesy: Metro Schools)
Jesus Jara (Courtesy: Metro Schools)

Shawn Joseph is Deputy Superintendent of Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). PGCPS is the second largest school system in Maryland, with a student enrollment of 128,937 in 209 schools and centers.

Kevin M. Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS, sent News 2 the following statement regarding Dr. Joseph:

Dr. Shawn Joseph has been instrumental in Prince George’s County Public Schools’ efforts to raise expectations and improve achievement. Over the past two years, we have seen improvement in graduation rates, Kindergarten Readiness, and literacy performance. Dr. Joseph is a proven leader, and we support his decision to explore new opportunities to serve children. Any district would be lucky to have him leading their schools.

Shawn Joseph (Courtesy: Metro Schools)
Shawn Joseph (Courtesy: Metro Schools)

H. Allen Smith is Chief of Schools for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in California. The district is made up of about 49,000 students, both in district-run schools and district-authorized charter schools. Smith is second in command of OUSD.

News 2 spoke to Smith Tuesday night by phone who said he feels like he’s a good fit for the job, adding, “We want to pay teachers more. We want to be engaged with the community around important decisions. We want to turn around the lowest performing schools. And we also want to accelerate those students that are high-performing.”

H. Allen Smith (Courtesy: Metro Schools)
H. Allen Smith (Courtesy: Metro Schools)

Brad Leon is the chief of strategy and innovation in Tennessee’s Shelby County Schools (SCS), which includes Memphis. SCS is the largest public school district in Tennessee and the 22nd largest public school district in the United States. Prior to assuming this role, Brad was Senior VP at Teach for America. He has also taught 8th grade Language Arts and Social Studies in New Orleans Public Schools.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to be a finalist for the Nashville Director position. Serving children, families, and communities is my life’s mission and I have been fortunate enough to serve the children in Shelby County as the district’s chief of strategy and innovation,” Leon told News 2 on Tuesday. “Though I am enthusiastic about engaging in this process, I remain 100 percent focused on the work we have ahead of us in Shelby County to reach our ‘Destination 2025’ goals and feel fortunate that I get to be part of an outstanding team.”

Brad Leon (Courtesy: Metro Schools)
Brad Leon (Courtesy: Metro Schools)

Kenneth Zeff is the Interim Superintendent of Fulton County Schools in Georgia. He was appointed to the position in June 2015 by the school board, and before that was the district’s Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer. As the fourth largest school system in Georgia, Fulton has about 96,200 students and employs more than 7,500 teachers and other certified personnel.

Kenneth Zeff (Courtesy: Metro Schools)
Kenneth Zeff (Courtesy: Metro Schools)

In comparison, the Metro-Nashville school district has nearly 90,000 students, around 73 percent of which are considered economically disadvantaged.

The candidates will undergo a first round of interviews on Thursday beginning at 8 a.m. Second round candidates will be selected on Friday.

Metro Schools’ CFO Chris Henson has been serving as interim director since the position became vacant last year.

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