TDOE names 52 school leaders for Rural Principal Network

State creates opportunity to develop school leaders in rural communities around state

NASHVILLE—Several Upper Cumberland principals were selected to serve in the inaugural class of the Tennessee Rural Principals Network. Serving from the Upper Cumberland will be Cannon County’s Angela Cossey, Cumberland County’s Justin Whittenbarger, Fentress County’s Sheri York, Macon County’s Kristen Hix, Warren County’s Michelle Lewis, Mike Mansfield and Carol Prater, and White County’s Farrah Griffith.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today the 52 principals who will serve in the inaugural class of the Tennessee Rural Principals Network, one part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Transforming School Leadership Initiative, which is a comprehensive approach to improve the preparation, retention, and development of Tennessee’s principals. The department is also providing funding for scholarships to support professional development for up to 200 additional rural principals.

Principals in rural schools are often unable to take advantage of leadership development due to the cost of registration and travel and have few networking opportunities to learn from other school leaders. To address this need, the department is implementing a two-prong approach by creating a professional network for 52 rural principals, who will also receive funding to attend state-led conferences and training opportunities, and by providing scholarships for up to 200 additional rural principals to attend state-provided training opportunities.

“We must ensure that every school, no matter where it is located in Tennessee, is led by a principal who is supported and developed to his or her fullest potential and able to guide our teachers and students to success,” said Commissioner McQueen. “The Tennessee Rural Principals Network is an innovative approach to meet the unique needs of school leaders in our rural communities and allow them to grow professionally and learn from one another to ultimately benefit our students.”

The department and school districts have supported school leaders in part by implementing an effective evaluation system and offering robust professional learning; however, opportunities for school leaders in rural communities are still limited. Addressing Tennessee’s broader leadership challenges involves making sure that the state is also targeting rural school leaders with access to high-quality professional learning.

The participants selected for the Tennessee Rural Principals Network will receive funding to support their attendance and learning at five events during the 2018-19 school year designed to provide them with professional learning aligned to help address those challenges that are unique to rural leadership.

The Tennessee Rural Principals Network recognizes the importance of providing a sustained opportunity for rural principals by providing them the ability to participate in:

  • Ongoing professional learning from state and national experts on evidence-based strategies that improve educator effectiveness and student outcomes in a rural setting
  • Opportunities to exchange ideas, strategies, resources, and common challenges with peers in a safe and supportive setting
  • Opportunities to work with a smaller group of peers in a community of practice focused on a common challenge to identify best practices currently in use and to reduce isolation

The Transforming School Leadership Initiative was announced by Gov. Bill Haslam in March 2018 and leverages both state and private dollars to improve leader pipeline programs, reward and retain individuals effectively leading our state’s lowest performing schools, and provide networking opportunities and support for principals in our rural communities. Gov. Haslam has dedicated more than $3.5 million in this year’s budget to advance this work, and additionally, the Ayers Foundation, Scarlett Family Foundation, and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) have invested a combined $600,000 to the efforts.

A full list of members of the Tennessee Rural Principals Network is below. For more information on the network, please contact Hank Staggs, director of governor’s academy for school leadership, at For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast, director of communications, at and (615) 532-6260.

Name School District School
Karri Hobby Anderson County Norwood Elementary
Beth Roeder Anderson County Andersonville Elementary
Brooks Rawson Bells City School Bells Elementary School
Teresa Robinson Blount County Lanier Elementary
Sandi Wilson Campbell County Homer A. Rutherford Learning Academy
Angela  Cossey Cannon County Woodland School
Diana Bowers Carter County Unaka Elementary
Melinda Broyles Cheatham County Ashland City Elementary
Melissa Brock Claiborne County H.Y. Livesay Middle School
Sharon Tolliver Claiborne County Midway Elementary School
Justin Whittenbarger Cumberland County Stone Elementary
Lenita Click Dyersburg City Schools Dyersburg Intermediate School
Linda DeBerry Dyersburg City Schools Dyersburg Primary School
Kim Worley Dyersburg City Schools Dyersburg High School
Sheri York Fentress County Pine Haven Elementary
James  Hughes Gibson Co Special School District Gibson County High School
Ginny McElhaney Grainger County Washburn School
Jack Evans Greeneville City Schools Greeneville Middle School
Patrick Fraley Greeneville City Schools Greeneville High School
Shelia Newland Greeneville City Schools Highland Elementary
Mitch Cantwell Hancock County Hancock County Middle/High School
Cameshia  Emerson Hardeman County Bolivar Central High School
Carmen Blankenship Hardin County West Hardin Elementary
Renee Bernard Hawkins County McPheeter’s Bend Elementary School
Mary Ann Davis Hawkins County St. Clair Elementary
Scott Jones Hawkins County Church Hill Middle School
Keri Hanes Hickman County East Hickman Intermediate School
Melanie Simpson Jefferson County Piedmont Elementary School
Teresa Stansberry Johnson County Doe Elementary
David Ayers Lake County Lara Kendall Elementary
Gamble Snyder Lake County Margaret Newton Elementary
Patty Franks Lawrence County Summertown High School
Michael Casteel Loudon County Greenback Public School
Kristen Hix Macon County Lafayette Elementary School
Kimberly Shurett Marion County Jasper Elementary
John Bush Marshall County Marshall County High School
Michael Ford Maury County Randolph Howell Elementary School
Laura Bunch Morgan County Petros Joyner Elementary School
Greg Barclay Obion County Obion County Central High School
Kimberly Jackson Obion County South Fulton Middle and High School
Chip Gray Paris Special Schools Paris Elementary
Tamra Lanning Polk County Polk Innovative Learning Academy
Scott Calahan Roane County Harriman High School
William Childers Sequatchie County Griffith Elementary School
Sabrina McClard Sumner County J.W. Wiseman Elementary
Paul Pillow Trenton Special School District Trenton Rosenwald Middle School
Michelle Lewis Warren County West Elementary
Mike Mansfield Warren County Hickory Creek Elementary
Carol Prater Warren County Eastside Elementary
John McKinney Washington County South Central Elementary
Rachel Price Washington County Grandview Elementary School
Farrah Griffith White County White County Middle School


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.