Sharon Griffin, who has gained national praise for leading school turnaround work in Memphis, was named chief of schools Wednesday for Tennessee’s largest public school district.

Griffin becomes the first person to hold that title in Shelby County Schools. She joins Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s cabinet and will continue to oversee the district’s turnaround work under its heralded Innovation Zone.

As chief of schools, Griffin will supervise and support the district’s principals, while also overseeing teacher coaching, leadership development and virtual schools.

The move was part of a reshuffling of the district’s academic office and will relieve some responsibilities from Heidi Ramirez, whose new title is chief of academics, and Brad Leon, now chief of strategy and performance management. Both Ramirez and Leon are already members of Hopson’s cabinet.

Griffin’s promotion comes almost a year after the iZone’s leadership team was restructured and expanded.

As regional superintendent of the iZone, Griffin oversaw expansion of the initiative to 21 schools since 2012. She has hosted education officials from across the nation, including the District of Columbia and Indianapolis, to learn how Shelby County Schools has posted steady gains at its lowest-performing schools.

“Our secret ingredient is people,” Griffin said in a news release about her new role. “If we become more intentional about targeted support of our educators and give them the resources needed for success, we will see a drastic turnaround in student achievement.”


Read Griffin’s 2016 Q&A with Chalkbeat about her turnaround work.


The iZone model, which costs about $600,000 per school per year, relies on principal leadership, longer school days, teacher bonuses and connecting low-income families to social services to boost academic achievement. Griffin took over the program after overseeing a school turnaround plan as principal of Airways Middle School.

A Memphis native, Griffin is a graduate of LeMoyne-Owen College and received her doctorate at the University of Memphis. She was named Tennessee’s 2015 supervisor of the year.