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New Leaders Named in Nashville and Norfolk; Baltimore CEO to Remain, Austin Leader to Leave

  • Adrienne Battle Tennessee’s Metro Nashville Public Schools decided they didn’t have to go far to select a new leader. The school board recently cancelled their search for a director of schools and named Adrienne Battle, who has served as the district’s interim director for the past 11 months, to lead the 86,000-student school system. She succeeds Shawn Joseph. 

    Battle is the first woman to take the reins of the school system and was praised at a recent school board meeting for bringing stability and a sense of security to the school district while guiding it through its recovery from the March 3 tornado and leading the response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

    “She’s stepped up to the plate and made those tough decisions, all the while keeping MNPS students, families and employees in the forefront,” said Board Chair Anna Shepherd. 

    Before becoming interim superintendent, Battle served as one of the district’s four community superintendents. She has also held positions as an executive lead principal for priority and elementary schools and a principal at two high schools. She is a graduate of the Nashville school system.  

    “This isn’t just a job for me,” said Battle. “As you all know, I am a native Nashvillian, I am a product of Metro Nashville Public Schools, I have served in this district for many, many years. So this is not a stepping stone for me. This is home, this is family, and I intend to act as such.” 

    New Leader in Norfolk 

    Sharyn Byrdsong Virginia’s Norfolk Public Schools also didn’t go far to select a new superintendent, recently naming interim superintendent Sharyn Byrdsong as the leader of the 33,000-student school district. Byrdsong succeeds Melinda Boone, who resigned from the district in June.  

    Byrdsong has served several roles in the district, including senior director of alternative options; executive director of secondary schools; executive director of human resources; assistant superintendent of human resources; chief of staff; and executive director of interagency collaboration and wraparound services. 

    Baltimore Leader Contract Renewed 

    Sonja Santelises Baltimore City Schools chief Sonja Santelises has won a four-year contract renewal on the strength of improved student performance and gains in graduation rates in the 80,000-student system.   

    “We know that we have a lot of work to do, but we do think we have the right team on board,” School Board Chairman Linda Chinnia told The Baltimore Sun. 

    “Now we are going for the big prize and that is systemic chunks of achievement,” Chinnia added. 

    Santelises’ signature initiative is called Blueprint for Success, a three-pronged approach with an emphasis on literacy, staff leadership and student “wholeness” that takes into account students’ needs and concerns beyond school grounds. 

    The Sun called Santelises’ tenure “remarkably calamity-free” compared with predecessors who faced financial crises, chronic principal turnover, enrollment declines, low graduation rates and stagnant test scores.  

    She is the ninth Baltimore schools CEO and only the second to win contract renewal since a 1997 restructuring of the system. She previously served as the district’s chief academic officer.  

    Paul Cruz to Leave Austin Post 

    Paul Cruz has announced he will step down as superintendent of Texas’ Austin School District after six years to take a teaching position at the University of Texas.  

    Cruz will serve as co-director of the Cooperative Superintendency Program in the College of Education, beginning with the fall term, according to the university. 

    Cruz was the first Latino to be named Austin schools chief on a permanent basis. He has served 14 years in Austin in various roles, including one year as interim chief before taking the helm five years ago.  Paul Cruz

    During his tenure, the district passed a $1.05-billion bond measure in 2017 to begin modernizing the district’s 130 schools and an increase in pay for teachers and other staff last year.  

    In a statement, Cruz thanked supporters, saying, “I can confidently say that, as a team, we have transformed the urban school experience – one cutting-edge initiative at a time.”