Several District Leaders Transitioning to New Challenges
Posted on 07/25/2020
Photo: District Leaders including Dr. Nakia Towns (top left), Penny Murray (top right), Jennifer Bronson (bottom left), and Dr. Sonia Stewart (bottom right).Over the course of this calendar year 2020, Hamilton County Schools has faced unprecedented times with the continuing disruption from COVID-19 and the Easter Sunday tornado that struck our community in April. Our district leadership team has risen to the moment, and now several are poised to take on new challenges.

The School Reopening Task Force worked tirelessly over the summer to plan for students to return to school on August 12. The work of the Task Force is not over, but with the heavy lifting of planning for a return to school in place, some of the key leadership of the Task Force will begin transitioning.

Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) William T. Brooks, co-chair of the School Reopening Task Force, will return to his full-time duty of leading the JROTC program for Hamilton County Schools. Brooks is from Chattanooga and has held a variety of command and staff positions in his career. He served as the senior Army instructor at Chattanooga Central High School and a professor of Military Science at Grambling State University. A graduate of Chattanooga (City) High School in 1979, Lieutenant Colonel Brooks attended Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree. He received his Masters of Public Administration degree from Central Michigan University. Lieutenant Colonel Brooks received his commissioning from the Army ROTC program at Middle Tennessee State University.

Keith Fogleman, co-chair of the Task Force and Chief Talent Officer for Hamilton County Schools, will retire in September. Fogleman came to Hamilton County Schools in January 2018. Before Hamilton County Schools, Fogleman served as an executive human resources consultant providing HR services to major electric utilities in the United States and Japan. Fogleman was the vice president of Human Resources for Entergy until 2013, where he was responsible for providing strategic human resource and labor relations solutions for a multi-state Fortune 500 company with ten business units and 14,500 employees.

Fogleman led the district to revamp teacher recruitment completely and implement a focus on teacher retention to keep our best and brightest educators working with children in Hamilton County Schools classrooms. A teacher mentoring program and new teacher induction program is helping teachers get off to a great start and continue success in the early years of a new teaching career. On his departure, Fogleman said, “I have had the privilege to work with an outstanding senior leadership team and HR team that is focused on making HCS the best school district in Tennessee. Being a part of a district that became the fastest improving district in Tennessee has been exciting and fulfilling. I hope our community appreciates this significant accomplishment by our students, teachers, and school leaders and continues to support public education.”

Penny Murray, director of HR Operations, for Hamilton County Schools, will take over to lead the effort to keep top teaching talent in our classrooms as the new chief talent officer. Murray has worked in the HR Department for Hamilton County Schools since January 2011 and assumed leadership of the department while Fogleman focused on the work of the School Reopening Task Force. She also served as interim assistant to the Superintendent for HR, and coordinator of Human Resources Operations for the school district.

Before coming to Hamilton County Schools, Murray worked with Sears Holding Corporation as the area human resources manager overseeing 58 multi-state units for the company. She also worked for Chattanooga General Services, Inc. as a human resources manager and EPB as a human resources generalist. Murray started her career in human resources as an HR specialist and corporate trainer for U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

Murray earned her bachelor's degree at Tennessee Tech, and she has an MBA from the University of Tennessee. Murray also holds a certificate in human resources development and training from the University of Georgia. She is affiliated with the Chattanooga Society for Human Resources Management, Association for Talent Development, Kappa Delta Sorority alumnae advisor, University of Tennessee Alumni Association Board, Junior League of Chattanooga, and the Tennessee Department of Education Effectiveness Advisory Council.

Jennifer Bronson, a major contributor to the School Reopening Task work this summer, will take over from Brooks and Fogleman to serve as the leader for the district’s COVID-19 response. She will continue the reentry work as part of the senior leadership team. Bronson has been with Hamilton County Schools since July 2019, when she launched the Student Success Planning pilot in partnership with Harvard University’s Education Redesign Lab and the By All Means consortium.

Bronson has a public service background in education and law. She started her career in education, working as a first and fifth-grade teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bronson was also a project facilitator working in talent and leadership development for Clark County Schools in Las Vegas, the nation's fifth-largest school district. Bronson served as an assistant public defender in the Missouri State Public Defender office and was admitted to the State Bars of Wisconsin and Missouri. In addition, she worked with the Wisconsin State Public Defender, Juvenile Unit, and was a judicial intern in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.

Bronson received her bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a master's degree in education from the University of Las Vegas. She earned a juris doctor degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she received the Wisconsin Idea Merit Scholarship, which is awarded to a student who seeks to improve the quality of life for citizens of the state.

Dr. T. Nakia Towns, chief of staff for Hamilton County Schools, will continue her support of the district as its deputy superintendent. This position reflects a change in her job function to provide supervision support to the superintendent, helping to lead and manage different departments across the school district. In her prior role, Dr. Towns supported all department heads in Hamilton County Schools to impact academic opportunities and achievement for children. Her leadership was instrumental in the district’s ability to reach the goals outlined in the Future Ready 2023 plan and become the fastest improving district in Tennessee. In 2018, Dr. Towns was selected by Chiefs for Change as a Future Chief, a national talent identification program for executive educational leadership. She was also recognized as a national expert peer reviewer for the 2019 Promise to Practice assessment of ESSA state plans.

Over the past decade, Dr. Towns has a proven track record of raising the bar for all children, narrowing opportunity gaps, increasing graduation rates, and improving postsecondary readiness. She joined Hamilton County Schools in February 2018 from the Tennessee Department of Education, where she served as assistant commissioner of data and research. Before her work at the Tennessee Department of Education, Dr. Towns served as chief accountability officer, director of human capital strategy, and interim executive director of Human Resources for Knox County Schools in Knoxville.

Dr. Towns also has experience in the business sector, serving as vice president at Wells Fargo, investment banking associate with Bank of America, and senior product specialist at IBM. Dr. Towns holds an engineering degree and MBA from Duke University and a doctorate in education from Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Sonia Stewart joins Hamilton County Schools as the community superintendent for the MidTown Learning Community. Dr. Stewart is an educator, speaker, leader, and visionary. For the past two decades, her commitment to young people and the desire to spend her life invested in improved learning outcomes for students has directed her into areas of education and community revitalization. She has led and taught at the high school level in both the public and private school settings. During her six-year tenure as the Executive Principal of Pearl-Cohn High School, she was named Principal of the Year by both Metro Nashville Public Schools and The Academies of Nashville. Her commitment to excellence is evidenced through the local, regional, and national recognition that Pearl-Cohn received. Those accolades included the school being named a National School of Excellence by the Coalition of Community Schools, recognized as a model in urban education by the Institute of Urban Schools, and the school was featured on Edutopia's "Schools That Work" series.

While most recently serving as the executive officer for organizational development with Metro Nashville Public Schools, Dr. Stewart extended her reach by designing the MNPS Leadership Framework rooted in leadership standards, built robust leadership identification and development frameworks, collaboratively advanced work related to talent acquisition and retention, and enhanced district-wide equity frameworks. Stewart is passionately committed to providing just and equitable opportunities for youth who are deprived of the education, resources, and support that they need to reach their potential.

Dr. Stewart has a doctorate in education, leadership, and policy from Vanderbilt University, a master's in educational leadership from Trevecca University, and a bachelor's in mathematics from Biola University.

Brent Goldberg, chief financial officer, is leaving Hamilton County Schools to return to the private sector. Goldberg came to Hamilton County Schools in November 2018 and is responsible for streamlining the budget process for the district and moving toward multi-year budget planning. He is a product of Hamilton County Schools, having attended Lakeside Elementary, Brown Middle School, and Central High School.

Goldberg came to Hamilton County Schools from Lee-Smith, Inc., Lync America, LLC, and Idealease of Chattanooga, where he served as the chief financial officer and vice president. He was responsible for accounting and finance for the companies as well as the management of day-to-day operations for Lync America. He previously served as the chief operating officer for the city of Chattanooga. The district will immediately begin recruiting Goldberg’s replacement, and he will provide transition support over the next several weeks until his successor is hired. Goldberg reflected, “Hamilton County Schools has one of the most talented, cohesive and high performing leadership teams that I have ever worked with in my career. It has been my privilege to serve students as a part of this administration. While the discord around public education in our community sometimes loses focus, the teachers, staff, and leaders are always 100% focused on what matters most - what is best for students.”

Tim Hensley, Communications Officer, will retire from the district in December. Hensley came to Hamilton County Schools in 2017 and worked with Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson and the Communications Department team to build a communications program to strengthen the relationship between the school district and the community. The work became aligned to the district's Future Ready 2023 goal of an Engaged Community.

Hamilton County Schools was recognized by the National School Public Relations Association with a Golden Achievement Award in communications for the “I Am Hamilton” campaign to recognize staff, students, volunteers, parents, and alumnae for their efforts to prepare children in Hamilton County Schools for a bright future.

“I saw Hamilton County Schools as a diamond in the rough with tremendous potential for positive change, and that is what attracted me to Chattanooga,” said Hensley. “It has been rewarding personally and professionally to work alongside a great team focused on the future of every child and to see the school district begin to realize the extraordinary possibilities for success that can be reached when the community works together for children.”

Hensley spent more than 32 years in school communications in Georgia and Tennessee. He was elected president and Southeast Region vice-president of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) by his peers during his career. He was the recipient of the 2016 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award from NSPRA. The district will begin to recruit Hensley’s replacement to lead the communications function for Hamilton County Schools.