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English signs contract to become director

With the stroke of a pen, John English officially became the Unicoi County School System’s new director of schools. English signed his contract with the Unicoi County Board of Education during a special called meeting on Friday, May 29. He officially assumed his duties as director on Monday, June 1.
The board unanimously chose English during a meeting on May 14.
English has worked in the school system since 1998. His first three years were as an eighth grade math teacher. He then served two years as an assistant principal at Unicoi County Middle School, then served for nine years as the principal there. He moved to the Central Office three years ago and worked as federal programs director until becoming the director of schools.
“In all of those jobs I have had to deal with people, with situations and budgets,” English said. “I think that will help me with this position. I’ve had to deal with stakeholders in all those jobs and deal with the community in all those jobs. Those positions have allowed me to make connections in this community that, I think, will serve me well in this position.”
During his tenure with the school system, English also served as the head Blue Devil basketball coach at the high school – a position he had to give up when he became director.
“The job is just too big to try to do both,” he said. “Coaching competitively and the connections you are able to make with players – I will miss that terribly.”
English said his love of competition will carry over from the court to his job as director.
“I am going to miss competing, but certainly there are things in this job, even though it’s not kept on a scoreboard, that make it a competition,” he added. “Now, the competition goes from the court to the school district. I look at it as our school district is competing with other districts. We want to be the best district around. I think I can take the same competitive drive I had in coaching and apply it to this job.”
English announced on Tuesday, June 2, that Michael Smith will be the Blue Devils’ new head coach.
“We’ve certainly got the right coaches in place to continue the success of the program,” English said.
Being able to support the employees of the school system, from the teachers to the principals and administrators was a key factor that led English to apply for the director’s job.
“I felt like I could bring some things to the table to help our system,” he said. “This is certainly a position where you have a chance to make a huge impact, not just on the school system, but on the community.
“I’ve got to see what our leadership team is about. What our principals and staff are about. Thinking about being able to support those groups through this position was exciting and intriguing for me. I know the hard work those groups do and to think about being in a position to support them was a real draw for me.”
With his contract signed, English has several items on his agenda, including meeting with system employees.
“With the teachers on summer break, it will be hard to talk with them about their ideas until we come back to school,” English said. “I will do that as soon as I can. In the meantime, I want to spend a lot of time meeting our 12-month employees – the principals and administrators – getting their input on their schools and programs.
“We have to formulate a plan of where we go from here,” he continued. “We have a lot of challenges in this system – from test scores to budget decisions.”
English said next year’s transition to TN Ready, which is a new assessment for the system, is an important issue moving forward.
“We have to make sure our teachers are ready for that,” he added. “From a curriculum and technology standpoint, we have to make sure we’re ready for that. Technology is going to play a huge role in that assessment.”
English signed the contract as offered to him by the school board. The details of the four-year contract include an annual salary of $100,700, a $350 monthly car allowance and annual evaluations by the board.