Movers & shakers

McQueen selects new chief of staff from State Board team

PHOTO: TN.gov
Candice McQueen is introduced in December 2014 as Tennessee's new education commissioner by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Laura Encalade is the new chief of staff for the Tennessee Department of Education, Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Monday.

Laura Encalade

Encalade isn’t moving far. The director of policy and research for the State Board of Education since 2015, she led projects including the state’s standards review process for math, English, science and social studies and the redesign of Tennessee’s teacher prep report card.

A native of Memphis, Encalade previously worked at the Department of Education as deputy director for the state’s $500 million Race to the Top grant and the director of educator talent. Prior to living in Nashville, she taught seventh- and eighth-grade social studies in St. Louis.

Encalade begins her new job on Feb. 27 and replaces Jayme Place Simmons, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s special assistant for strategy and policy.

Movers and shakers

Memphis Raleigh-Egypt principal will return to Bolton High School

PHOTO: Daarel Burnette II
James "Bo" Griffin, who became principal of Raleigh-Egypt High School in 2014, will return to Bolton High School as its leader.

A principal who shepherded academic growth at a high-profile Memphis school will return to the school where he previously served as assistant principal.

James “Bo” Griffin has been tapped to lead Bolton High School after completing this school year at Raleigh-Egypt Middle-High School, a spokeswoman for Shelby County Schools confirmed Wednesday.

District leaders have not yet announced his replacement at Raleigh-Egypt, which is set to enter the Innovation Zone this fall. Schools that join the district’s turnaround program often undergo major leadership and staffing changes.

Griffin took the helm of Raleigh-Egypt High in 2014 just as the state-run Achievement School District announced it would take over the high school because of chronically low test scores. Within the year, the school boasted some of the biggest gains in the district, sparing it from eligibility for state intervention.

Last fall, he led the school as middle school grades were added in response to the ASD’s takeover of the adjacent Raleigh-Egypt Middle. The changes created a unique campus with two schools run by separate districts.

Griffin was an administrator at Bolton High before coming to Raleigh-Egypt. His return there was decided before the district’s decision to transition Raleigh-Egypt to the iZone, said spokeswoman Natalia Powers.

He replaces Bolton High Principal Chad Stevens, whose removal sparked parent and student protest.

familiar face

Former interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather ‘discussing’ new role in Detroit district under superintendent Nikolai Vitti

New Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti greets principals and job applicants with former Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather at a district job fair.

When Nikolai Vitti worked a teacher hiring fair Tuesday night, the new Detroit superintendent brought a partner — a familiar face — to stand beside him.

It was Vitti’s first full day running the Detroit Public Schools Community District. And although he was the new guy in a room full of school principals, administrators and job applicants, he stood side-by-side with someone more well-known: Alycia Meriweather, the district veteran who served for 14 months as interim superintendent until Vitti took over this week.

Whether Meriweather’s presence at the hiring fair suggests a permanent role for her in Vitti’s administration hasn’t yet been decided, she said. “We’re discussing that right now. He has made it clear that there is a position for me and, right now, it’s just a matter of me having further dialog with him about what that might look like and figure out if it’s a good fit for me.”

The news of Meriweather possibly staying on in the district could be comforting to the teachers and staff who strongly urged the school board to consider Meriweather for the permanent post. Teachers circulated petitions and protested outside a board meeting during a finalist interview after Meriweather was dropped from consideration.

For now, Meriweather is officially a senior advisor to Vitti — a role that will last at least until the end of June.

“My main focus right now is making sure this transition is as smooth as possible,” Meriweather told Chalkbeat. “Dr. Vitti and I have had really good conversations. I think we see things very similarly and he’s made it very clear that his intention is to build on the work that’s been done, which is very affirming and encouraging.”

For now, Meriweather, who is a graduate of the district and has worked in Detroit as a classroom teacher and administrator throughout her career, said she’s focused on a smooth transition.

“I really, at the heart of hearts, just want the district to continue to evolve,” she said. “I need him to be successful because if he’s successful, the district is successful, which means my kids are taken care of.”