School turnaround leader promoted to oversee all academics in Memphis schools

After nearly two years without an academic chief, Shelby County Schools has promoted a longtime expert in improving low-performing schools to the position.

Antonio Burt returned to Memphis last summer to oversee some of the lowest performing schools in the state as an assistant superintendent. In his new position as chief academic officer, Burt is responsible for creating goals for schools, training and recruiting teachers and principals, and overseeing academic strategy to meet state academic requirements. The chief academic officer reports directly to the superintendent.

During his first stint in Memphis, he was principal at Ford Road Elementary School under the district’s Innovation Zone, which has boosted test scores in underachieving schools.

“Throughout his tenure as a transformational school leader, Dr. Burt has shown tenacity in removing educational barriers for all children and a deep understanding of teaching and learning,” Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said in a statement Tuesday.

His hire completes a long search to replace Heidi Ramirez, who resigned in February 2017. Since then, the position’s responsibilities have been shared between Burt, Angela Whitelaw, interim chief of schools, and Joris Ray, assistant superintendent for academic operations.

Read our Q&A with Antonio Burt from when he first returned to Shelby County Schools

Since returning to Memphis last summer, Burt reorganized school leadership teams to coach teachers in subjects such as reading, math, science. He has also overseen the addition of two schools to the district’s Innovation Zone.

Burt previously worked for the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit organization that helps to recruit, train, and place effective teachers in high-need districts, and was briefly employed by the state-run Achievement School District, according to his LinkedIn page. He later was the director of school transformation at Florida’s Pinellas County Schools.

Chalkbeat reached out to Burt for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.