Innovation, school choice and continued success in the Opportunity Zone are the focus in school district changes
Posted on 04/25/2019
Photo of Jill Levine.

The more than 40 choices available to parents in the community and the innovation those choices inspire will continue to expand and grow in Hamilton County Schools with a renewed focus on possibilities for children announced today by the district. Two experienced leaders will step up to lead the efforts in innovation and school choice and the continued progress in the Opportunity Zone in Hamilton County Schools. Jill Levine will lead innovation and school choice while Stephanie Hinton will continue the efforts making a difference for children in the Opportunity Zone.

Jill Levine, current chief of the Opportunity Zone, will serve as chief of innovation and choice. Levine will look to continue the work started with the introduction of “My Future Schools” earlier this year. My Future Schools emphasized choices to better inform parents of the options they have in our public schools. Magnet schools feature elementary schools with arts-based learning; multiple intelligences programs; a science and environment focus; Paideia-focused programs; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and hands-on, active learning. Middle and high school magnets feature programs with a fine arts focus; Paideia-focused programs; a liberal arts program with foreign language as part of each child’s core curriculum; museum-quality exhibit galleries; and nationally recognized science, technology, engineering and math programs (STEM).

The focus on innovation and choice are vital to reaching goals in the district’s action plan Future Ready 2013 and the community’s vision Velocity 2040. Both seek excellent educational opportunities for all children in the community with a school system leading the way to Chattanooga and Hamilton County becoming the smartest community in the South.

Levine led the improvement efforts for 12 of the district’s schools in the infancy of the Opportunity Zone effort. The focus effort to create a “district within a district” in the Hamilton County Schools to accelerate school improvement for children has been a huge success. The impressive work in the 12 schools, led to the state to propose a partnership for school improvement with Hamilton County Schools to continue the progress local leadership had put in place with the formation of the Opportunity Zone. The early work in the Opportunity Zone also led to a restructuring of schools across the district into learning communities to inspire a sense of community and better serve children, parents, and the community.

Before her role in the Opportunity Zone, Levine served as the Chief Academic Officer for Hamilton County Schools. She was the principal at Normal Park Museum Magnet, an assistant principal at Calvin Donaldson Elementary, and taught at White Oak Elementary in Hamilton County Schools. She also taught in New Orleans Public Schools for five years before coming to Chattanooga.

Levine is no stranger to the impact of innovation and school choice with her work in magnet programs. She has led the transformation of low performing schools into innovative, exciting and challenging places of learning. While at Normal Park, the school won the Ronald P. Simpson Award, Magnet Schools of America’s highest honor and a J.F. Kennedy School of Distinction. The George Lucas Foundation featured Normal Park’s innovative teaching practices on their Edutopia website. Levine received the 1st place award for three consecutive years from the Educational Consumers Foundation for Normal Park earning some of the highest value-added test scores in Tennessee.

“Jill Levine understands the impact of innovation and school choice on the young learner and is the perfect selection to move efforts forward in this important area for our school district and the children we serve,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “Making sure our graduates are future ready, a primary action area in Future Ready 2023, is directly linked to innovation and providing choice to ignite the passion for learning in our students.”

In 2009, Levine was appointed by Governor Bredesen to serve as one of fifteen members on the Tennessee Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee. This committee was an integral part of the Race to the Top initiative to improve teacher evaluation. She also served on the Tennessee First to the Top Advisory Committee. In 2009, Levine was named a Chattanooga Woman of Distinction. In 2012, she was named National Principal of the Year by Magnet Schools of America. During the 2014-2015 school year, she served in the Obama administration as the first full-time Principal Ambassador Fellow at the United States Department of Education. In that capacity, she worked closely with Secretary Arne Duncan to increase the department’s focus on the importance of school leadership.

Stephanie Hinton, a veteran school administrator, who has filled the role of director of teaching and learning in the past year, will take over for Levine and Photo of Stephanie Hintoncontinue the school improvement efforts as the executive director of the Opportunity Zone. The organizational structure of the Opportunity Zone will change slightly to mirror the other learning communities in the district, but the focus on improvement efforts for children in the 12 schools will be as strong as ever. Hinton will also continue efforts with the State Partnership Network to move the academic performance of the children and schools forward.

“My experience in urban and suburban schools serves to strengthen my belief that a strong positive culture has a great impact on student achievement,” Hinton said. “I will now work with schools in the Opportunity Zone to increase achievement and provide all students in the schools with opportunities to learn and be successful.”

Hinton has more than 17 years of experience successfully leading schools in the area. She spent six years as principal at East Side Elementary School, and seven years as principal at Red Bank Elementary. Under Hinton’s leadership at East Side, the school earned Reward status from the state twice. Student growth at East Side was in the top 5 percent for the state of Tennessee during her time at the school. Hinton was also an assistant principal at both East Side Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary. Extensive experience in the classroom has also been an important part of Hinton’s career in education as she taught special education at Mountain Creek Elementary and Rivermont Elementary. Hinton was selected the 2016 Principal of the Year for Hamilton County Schools and received the 2011 NAACP Image Award as “Educator of the Year.”

In the past year, Hinton has worked to ensure the improved Teaching and Learning section of the district website includes all curriculum maps, resources and an overview for parents for all grade levels. She has worked closely with academic coaches to develop a new and more effective coaching model to assist teachers and raise expectations while ensuring the implementation of changes in instruction to improve academic performance across the district. Hinton has also worked to support the new structure of the learning communities in the district to share innovative instruction practices and has developed a partnership with SECORE, the Southeast region of the Tennessee Department of Education’s Centers of Regional Excellence.

“Stephanie Hinton has a wealth of experience and knowledge on how to positively impact teaching and learning for children, and this will help us to continue the great work being done in the Opportunity Zone,” stated Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “She will be a strong influence on academic growth for children in the Opportunity Zone.”