Fourteen candidates are competing to be named superintendent of the Hamilton County School System.

Educators, businessmen, a state employee and current interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly are among the hopefuls.

Kelly is the only internal candidate to apply. He has been in the position since former Superintendent Rick Smith resigned in the wake of the Ooltewah High School hazing and rape case.


Below are highlights from the candidates’ résumés and cover letters.

-Natasha Baker from Michigan has experience at charter schools in New Orleans and public schools in Detroit, where she served as assistant superintendent for the public school system. She’s worked for the Michigan Department of Education and has been a dean, principal and chief academic officer.Currently, she works for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

-Alan Coverstone from Nashville started his career as a substitute and then landed a full-time teaching job. He was promoted to serve as the academic dean of Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. He’s served as an executive director for charter and private schools, and is currently an assistant professor of education and director of graduate programs in education at Belmont University.

-Clifford Davis from Knoxville has a variety of professional experience in the education field. He’s been a math teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal. He’s also served on the district levelin a number of positions, such as the supervisor of secondary education, executive director of secondary education and now chief of staff for Knox County schools.

-T. Nakia Towns Edwards, who currently serves as the assistant commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Education in Nashville, has also worked in Knox County schools, where she was chief accountability officer. She also has a business background. She was a vice president at Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America.

-Natalie Elder went to college in Murfreesboro and Nashville, and currently serves as director for school improvement and professional development for Stamford public schools in Connecticut. She has 34 years of experience in public education. She said she has expertise in developing a curriculum aimed at preparing students to become independent learners.

-Jack Elsey Jr. is currently chief schools officer at Education Achievement Authority of Michigan and has worked in public school systems in Chicago and Detroit. He served through Teach for America in New York City and said he has the skills needed to lead large school systems, transform struggling schools and adopt innovation.

-Timothy Gadson has more than 23 years of experience in education and currently holds leadership roles with Robbinsdale-area schools in Minnesota. He highlighted his leadership skills, commitment to improving academic achievement and experience working in high-poverty urban school districts. He also served as associate superintendent for Atlanta public schools.

-Kevin Gaffney is a Chattanooga resident with a career in the television business. He founded The Gaffney Consulting Group in 2005 and was CEO of Houston Regional Sports Network Inc. before that. He’s also worked for Turner Broadcasting Systems. He said he has a passion for children and learning, and wants to impact the system by helping students succeed beyond high school.

-Stuart Greenberg is currently chief academic officer for Leon County schools in Florida. The district has nearly 35,000 students. Before working in Leon County, he served as executive director for reading and early learning for the state of Florida. He has a Master of Science in educational leadership and a three-decade career in the field. In his cover letter, he said he’s committed to a students-first philosophy.

-Bryan Johnson from Clarksville, Tennessee, is a lifelong educator who wants every student to have a “world-class” educational experience. He’s currently the chief academic officer for Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, where he aims to ensure success for 32,600 students. He said that the district he’s working in mirrors Hamilton County demographics and helps put him in the position to execute the local district’s strategic plan.

-Arthur Wayne Johnson is a businessman from Georgia who said he’s been passionate about education, work and service his entire life. He’s spent his career building companies, creating jobs and serving his community. He highlighted his energy, drive, and ability to collaborate and formulate concepts for change and growth.

-Kirk Kelly is a 35-year veteran educator and administrator for Chattanooga city and Hamilton County schools. He started working for Chattanooga public schools in 1982 as a high school math teacher. He’s served as an adjunct at Covenant College, an assistant principal, and director of accountability and testing for Hamilton County schools.

-Verna D. Ruffin is currently the superintendent of Jackson-Madison County schools in Tennessee. She’s also been superintendent of Tulsa public schools in Oklahoma, where she oversaw 19 schools. She’s also been an educator and leader in several other school districts. She highlighted that schools’ academic yearly progress improved under her leadership.

-Andre L. Wright, a Colorado resident and Covenant College graduate, is also an educator. He’s served as a teacher, principal and director in Aurora public schools. He’s been responsible for leading and implementing the learning community model for 10 schools and a team of 15 program specialists. He cited an improved graduation rate under an initiative he’s leading.