Three finalists for Nashville School Director search highlight diversity
Nashville’s three finalists include one Hispanic, two African Americans

ll-r Shawn Joseph, H. Allen Smith and Jesus Jara

(l-r) Shawn Joseph, H. Allen Smith and Jesus Jara

The Nashville Metro School Board has narrowed its finalists down to three: Shawn Joseph; H. Allen Smith; and Jesus Jara. Joseph and Smith are African American males, and Jara is Hispanic.

Joseph is the Deputy Superintendent of Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools. Smith is Chief of Schools for the Oakland Unified School District in California. Jara holds the position of Deputy Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Florida.

Mayor Megan Barry and Shannon Hunt, executive director of the Nashville Public Education Foundation, released a statement regarding the selection by the School Board of three top-tier candidates to move forward and engage with our community to be the next Director of our Metro Nashville Public Schools:

“Two hundred and twenty-four days ago, this city embarked on a journey to restart the search for a new Director of Schools. The Mayor’s Office, the Nashville Public Education Foundation and the Board of Education agreed to work together to ensure a thoughtful and rigorous process that resulted in a strong leader to carry our schools forward.”

“We were very pleased with the slate of candidates the search firm brought and the candidates the board ultimately selected today as their finalists. It represents a diverse set of experiences and approaches and perhaps most importantly: represents the youth, energy and vision of what public education of the future can look like.

“We are also thrilled it is the single most diverse slate of candidates this city has seen in recent history for this position, including two African Americans and one Hispanic. “We should be very proud of that as a community.”

The second round of interviews took place this week as well as several community forums where a panel of representatives asked questions of the finalists directly. Hundreds of audience members were able to submit questions for use by the moderator at each forum. Additionally, online questions were drawn at random each night for candidates to answer.

Tuesday night at Maplewood High School, Shawn Joseph’s community engagement took place. Joseph’s comments seemed to center on a specific theme, collaboration and community engagement—something he seemed to appreciate here in Nashville.

“I really have appreciated my time here in Nashville,” he said. “This is a wonderful city and we have an extremely engaged community. I would be extraordinarily engaged, and extremely pleased to serve as your next director. We have an opportunity here to do extraordinary things on behalf of the children, city, state, and the country.”

The second and third community forums for Metro Nashville Public Schools Director occurred Wednesday and Thursday, where the community got to meet H. Allen Smith and Jesus Jara.

Late last year, the board, mayor and Nashville Public Education Foundation partnered to begin the process with a deep examination of what the city wants and needs in a new Director. The examination was led by a 17-member Search Advisory Committee representing parents and educators, as well as business, community and civic leaders.

The board is expected to make an offer to one candidate Friday during a board meeting.