Schools announces McGavock, other principal appointments

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 12:09pm

Out-of-town principals have been hired to take the reins of McGavock and East Literature Magnet high schools, Nashville’s public school district has announced. Hires have also been made for two new high schools for non-traditional students, as well as for some of the schools being “fresh-started” by Director of Schools Jesse Register.

A national search led to the hiring of McGavock’s new principal, school district officials say. Robbin Wall, formerly the principal of the Academy High School in Irving, Texas, has been hired for the job. The Academy has a diverse group of 1,700 students, and was named among the top 5 percent of American high schools by Newsweek magazine. The Academy has a well-developed system of smaller learning communities.

The hire marks the fourth principal at McGavock in the last two years. Last summer, the Tennessee Department of Education replaced former McGavock principal Mike Tribue with interim Mildred Saffel-Smith, and DOE accountability chief Connie Smith recommended at the time that a national search be conducted for a new principal. Saffel-Smith stepped down and retired over the winter, and former Hillwood principal Karl Lang took her place.

Lang finished up the school year at McGavock, and has been appointed by Register as principal of Whites Creek High.

“Karl has done a tremendous job of starting the turnaround at McGavock High in the few short months he has been at that school,” Register said in a statement. “We consider him a turnaround specialist and look forward to seeing the results of his work at Whites Creek.”

For East Literature Magnet High, Register has hired a principal he worked with in Hamilton County, Tenn. Stephen Ball, principal of Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS), will take the place of retiring East Literature principal Fran Stewart.

“Steve is a top-notch principal and we are lucky to have him in Nashville,” Register said in the statement. “I know Steve well and I know the staff and students at East will benefit from his expertise and his commitment to providing high quality instruction to students.”

The district has also announced principals for two new adult high schools, and new principals for three middle schools.

Larry Saunders, principal of Cohn Alternative Learning Center, has been named principal of the Adult High School opening this fall near Opry Mills Mall. And Elaine Fahrner, principal of Martha Vaught Middle School until that school was closed this summer as the result of the district’s new rezoning plan, is the new principal of the Adult High School to be located in the Old Cockrill building.

Tonya Dennis, former principal of Isaac Litton Middle School, has been named the new principal of John Early Middle, a school that is being ‘fresh started’ by the district as it moves from a magnet school offering the Paideia method of instruction to a zoned middle school. Mary Nollner, former principal of Joelton Middle and Whites Creek High schools, has been appointed principal of Antioch Middle. And Jeanna Collins, principal of Ewing Park Middle until that school was closed by the rezoning plan, has been named principal of Oliver Middle School.

Though Register has said publicly that he hopes to keep most principal placements in the district as stable as possible this year, Metro Nashville Public Schools is in the midst of big personnel shifts due to the implementation of the rezoning plan, the fresh-starting of several schools, a reorganization of the central office, and other shifts. Register has said he hopes to announce most personnel changes by the end of June.