Memphis principal and turnaround leader to leave Shelby County Schools

Antonio Burt, the Memphis principal who gained national attention for helping to turn the academic trajectory of one of Tennessee’s worst-performing schools, is taking another job.

Burt will leave Ford Road Elementary School on March 13 to join The New Teacher Project, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based nonprofit organization that works with schools, districts and states to recruit, train and place effective teachers for students in high-need districts. He will  coach turnaround principals across the nation.

“He’s an outstanding principal,” said Sharon Griffin, regional superintendent for Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone, or “iZone,” which seeks to turn around district schools ranked academically in the bottom 5 percent of schools. “We’re really sad to lose him. But we’re excited he’s afforded the opportunity to coach turnaround principals.”

Burt began his education career with the former Memphis City Schools in 2003 and took the helm at Ford Road in 2012. Using flexibility allowed by state law under the iZone initiative, he required all teachers to reapply for their jobs and rehired a select number. He also created a data room where teachers regularly examined students’ academic status. By the next year, Ford Road students had achieved a 20 percent gain in math and double-digit gains in several other subjects on state standardized tests.

In recent years, Burt has been an outspoken champion for principal autonomy.

Shelby County Schools is under contract with The New Teacher Project to hire better-performing teachers and improve its professional development, but the contract ends this year.