ROGERSVILLE - With two highly qualified candidates, the Hawkins County Board of Education was faced with a difficult decision Tuesday in picking the system's new leader.
After interviewing both candidates Tuesday morning, the BOE chose the candidate with more experience, naming Charlotte Britton to replace Director of Schools Clayton Armstrong when he retires in July.
Britton, who has 32 years of experience in education - half of which was in the Central Office - was chosen over Hawkins County Schools Technology Supervisor Ray Hatfield, who has 15 years of experience in education.
Board member Charles Fuller said after the meeting it was a difficult choice. Fuller said if there was one issue that helped make up his mind, it was to Britton's performance in helping map out the plan that led to Hawkins County's upward swing in academic performance in recent years.
Currently Britton is the Title One federal projects director, K-8 testing coordinator, and writing assessment coordinator. She was also chairwoman for the District Improvement Planning Committee which has been credited with much of the district's state testing improvements over the past several years.
Britton was approved by a vote of 6-0.
"We had a couple of really good candidates to interview this morning, and from my point of view we went with the most experience," Fuller said. "Mr. Armstrong always says we're all a piece of the puzzle for overall success of the school system, and by losing him we're losing a big piece of the puzzle. But Mrs. Britton has been a pretty big piece of the puzzle too, and I felt she can pick up where he left off."
Fuller added, however, that the district is also fortunate to have Hatfield on the Central Office staff.
"He's a very knowledgeable person, and I don't doubt that he could make a good director," Fuller said. "He's a young man, and his time will come."
When the BOE meets again on April 5 it will consider a three-year contract for Britton. Assuming that it is approved, she would take over immediately as "director-elect" working beside Armstrong until his retirement takes effect July 1.
Britton said she looks forward to continuing the progress that was started under Armstrong's term.
"Mr. Armstrong has been an excellent director of schools, and my goal is to continue the plan that was put into place by him and continue improving," Britton told the Times-News. "First and foremost I believe the director needs to be an educator - the instructional leader - strong in the state curriculum standards and the accountability aspect of the testing. I will also be a communicator because the board will constantly be talking to the County Commission, the community, Central Office staff, local business leaders on what we can do to continue moving forward and improving.
"I've got to be a motivator because it takes everyone pulling in the same direction to make that happen."
She said her competitive nature will also play a key role because she wants Hawkins County to rank at the top of educational systems statewide in every category.
Armstrong has described Britton, and the entire Central Office staff, as workaholics, and he said Britton will be a great role model in continuing that strong work ethic.
One question asked during the interviews was where each director candidate saw the school system being in the next 10 years. One area Britton noted was the implementation of the phase three building project and ensuring that Hawkins County students have good learning facilities.
She also noted that implementation of technology into the curriculum is going to be a major task over the next decade.
"Technology is really the difference between the haves and the have-nots right now," Britton said. "We have to keep up with those trends and move away from our traditional classrooms with rows of students. If we're behind the times with our technology, our students are going to be behind the times when they leave our system, and that's not what we want.
"We're preparing students for the work force or for higher education, and that means updating our technology to keep up with what's happening in the outside world."
One board member asked Britton if she ever dreamed of being the director of schools when she began her career in the classroom 32 years ago.
She replied, "Absolutely not, but I believe that it is time."