Memphis deputy superintendent Lin Johnson leaving to pursue a doctorate at Harvard

One of two deputy superintendents for Shelby County Schools is leaving to pursue a doctorate in education leadership, the district’s leader announced Tuesday evening.

Lin Johnson, who oversaw finance, human resources, business operations, and information technology as deputy superintendent, will be at the Harvard Graduate School of Education near Boston. His last day is July 12, Superintendent Joris Ray said.

Johnson started in Shelby County Schools in 2015 as the district’s chief of finance under former superintendent Dorsey Hopson. Previously, he was the director of special initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Education and director of finance and operations for the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board. As deputy superintendent in Tennessee’s largest school district, Johnson made $193,800 a year.

During his tenure, Johnson spearheaded the district’s shift to “student-based budgeting,” which allocates more money to schools with high numbers of students who are in poverty, have low test scores, disabilities, or special needs.

Ray, whom the board appointed as superintendent in April, called the move a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for Johnson. The audience gasped at the announcement.

“He’s a guru of finance,” Ray said. “Truly my brother in the work.”

John Barker, the district’s chief of staff, who was hired in February, will take over Johnson’s position. The chief of finance position Johnson left when he became deputy superintendent is still vacant.

School board members also took turns praising Johnson following the announcement.

“We know your leadership has been led through an equity lens,” said board chair Shante Avant. “You superseded my expectations.”