New Superintendents Named in Memphis, Albuquerque and Dayton; Longtime Leader to Step Down in Fresno

  • After embarking on a national search, Memphis-Shelby County Schools recently selected Marie Feagins to lead the 100,000-student school district. Feagins is the chief of leadership and high schools for the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

    Feagins, who will succeed interim superintendent Toni Williams, will begin her tenure as superintendent of Tennessee’s largest school system after the close of the 2023-24 school year.

    New Mexico’s Albuquerque Public Schools didn’t have to look far to choose its next superintendent. Gabriella Blakey, the district’s chief operations officer, was recently selected to lead the 68,000-student school system, the largest in New Mexico.

    A graduate of the Albuquerque school district, Blakey has held a variety of positions in the school system, including teacher, assistant principal, principal, and associate superintendent.

    Blakey will succeed Scott Elder, who is leaving the district as superintendent when his contract expires on June 30.

    Ohio’s Dayton Public Schools also didn’t look very far to select its new superintendent. David Lawrence, who has been serving as interim superintendent since July, was chosen to lead the school district.

    A graduate of the Dayton school system, Lawrence has held various positions in the district, including principal, mathematics associate director, chief of school innovation, and business manager.

    Two Longtime Leaders Stepping Down  

    After nearly seven years at the helm, California’s Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Bob Nelson has announced that he is stepping down at the end of July to accept a tenure-track faculty position at California State University, Fresno.

    During Nelson’s tenure, the 69,668-student school district improved its fiscal strength and ratings, successfully averted two teacher strikes, and built new and improved facilities including a new elementary school, as a result of the passage of two bond measures. Under Nelson’s leadership the district expanded its career technical education programs, including a state-of-the-art heavy truck maintenance facility, and pioneered an innovative dual enrollment program with a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

    “I am grateful for Superintendent Nelson’s leadership and the stability he brought to FUSD over the past seven years,” said Fresno school board president Susan Wittrup. “…His replacement has big shoes to fill. Superintendent Nelson built a foundation of financial health and strong student supports that sets the stage for a district in need of transformation.”

    Another longtime urban schools superintendent is stepping down. After nearly seven years at the helm, Minnesota’s St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard is leaving the district to lead the Madison Metropolitan School District in Wisconsin. Gothard is a graduate of the school district and began his teaching career in the city.

    Under Gothard’s leadership in St. Paul, the 33,000-student school system instituted a required Critical Ethnic Studies course for 10th graders and used federal relief funds to launch and implement 75 strategies to address long-term student outcomes impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Gothard was recently named the 2024 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

    “Dr. Gothard has been a strong leader for SPPS, and we are grateful for his nearly seven years of service to this community,” said the Saint Paul Public Schools Board of Education in a letter posted on the district website. “At the same time, we are excited he has the opportunity to continue his career and return to his hometown with his family.”

    Interim Leader Named in Las Vegas

    Brenda Larsen-Mitchell was recently named the interim superintendent of Nevada’s Clark County School District. She will succeed Jesus Jara, who resigned from the district he has led since 2018. Larsen-Mitchell is a recent graduate of the Council of the Great City Schools’ Michael Casserly Urban Executive Leadership Institute for Superintendents.