Meet the Second Class of Governor’s Academy for School Leadership Fellows

GASL Color

Last month, 25 aspiring principals from across the state began participating in the second Governor’s Academy for School Leadership (GASL). First announced by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in late 2013, GASL is a partnership between the state of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and local school districts to build a pipeline of highly-trained school principals and ultimately improve school effectiveness and performance and unlock educational opportunities for all students. Each assistant principal selected for the one-year fellowship has been paired with an experienced principal mentor. In addition to training sessions one weekend a month, a week-long summer institute at Vanderbilt, and participants will intern three days a month at his/her mentor’s school. Upon completion of the academy, participants will be expected to pursue placement as a school principal in their district or region.

Meet the second class of GASL fellows:

MeetDavid Ayers.

David is the assistant principal at Lara Kendall Elementary School in Lake County. David has a degree in physical education and health, and a master’s degree in education. As a middle school basketball coach, his team won the area championship and he was named coach of the year. David claims his first accomplishment was marrying his wife, and they have two small children.       

Meet, Daniella Beckman.

Daniella is the assistant principal at Forrest School in Marshall County. She has a B.S. in English and secondary education from Austin Peay State University, an M.Ed. in administration and supervision from Middle Tennessee State University, and an Ed.S. in curriculum and instruction from Arkansas State University. One accomplishment that Daniella is most proud of is the opportunity to become an administrator at her high school alma mater. Daniella and her husband look forward to raising a family on their mini-farm.

Meet, Andrea Bledsoe.

Andrea earned a bachelor’s of science and a masters of arts in education from Austin Peay State University and an Ed.S. in educational leadership from Middle Tennessee State University. She was employed as a teacher and academic specialist for nine years in Cheatham County and most recently became the assistant principal at Charlotte Elementary School in Dickson County. Andrea’s teaching career began at Pegram Elementary where she taught first, second, and third grades. She also taught third grade at Kingston Spring Elementary. She also served as the academic specialist at Ashland City Elementary prior to becoming an assistant principal. Andrea has been married for 18 years has four children.

Meet, Ashely Booher.

Ashley is an assistant principal at Gibbs Elementary School in Knox County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in K-8 education and a master’s degree in instructional leadership from Tennessee Tech University. She taught fourth and fifth grades and served as a TAP mentor and master teacher in Knox County Schools before transitioning into the assistant principal role at Gibbs Elementary. She considers becoming a wife and mother to be her greatest accomplishments.

Meet, Joann Bost.

Joann is currently in her third year as an assistant principal at Carter Middle School in Knox County. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in education from Carson-Newman University. She later obtained her Master of Education in administration and supervision from Lincoln Memorial University. Joann has served Knox County Schools in the roles of teacher and numeracy instructional coach. Through the career advancement model of TAP, she advanced from TAP master teacher to assistant principal. During her role as part of the administration team at Carter Middle School, the school went from a level 1 to a level 5 and was awarded “Reward School” status from the Tennessee Department of Education. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Joann is a dedicated wife and mother to two sons.

Meet, Marquis Churchwell.

Marquis is a native of Nashville and a graduate of Metro-Nashville Public Schools. Marquis has a bachelor’s of science degree from Kentucky Wesleyan College, an elementary/middle school 1-8 teaching certification from Fisk University, and a masters in administration and supervision from Grand Canyon University. Marquis was the 2007 teacher of the year at Bordeaux Elementary, and was nominated for the Principal Leadership Academy of Nashville (PLAN).

Meet, Chelsea Spaulding Culbreth.

Chelsea Spaulding Culbreth is currently the assistant principal at Riverdale High School in Rutherford County. She began her educational journey at Middle Tennessee State University where she received a bachelors of science degree in mathematical sciences and a minor in secondary education. Chelsea began teaching math at Riverdale High School and also worked for the Tennessee Department of Education as a math core coach. She was later hired as an assistant principal. Along with being an administrator, Chelsea also served on the recent math standards review committee which will be in place for the 2016-2017 school year. Chelsea is a newlywed, which is her most recent personal accomplishment.

Meet, Cameshia Emerson.

Cameshia is an assistant principal at Bolivar Central High School in Hardeman County. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee at Martin, a Master of Science in education from Freed-Hardeman University, and an education specialist degree in administration and supervision from Freed-Hardeman University. In 2014, Cameshia successfully completed the National Institute of School Leaders (NISL) Executive Development Program. This program allowed her to strengthen her leadership in terms of strategic thinking, understanding the significance of creating an ongoing vision, and the need for an unwavering commitment to drive change.

Meet, Patty Franks.

Patty is the current assistant principal of Summertown Elementary School in Lawrence County. Patty began her career with the Lawrence County School District in 1996 as a special education instructional assistant. She then accepted a position as the attendance secretary and continued to work until completing a bachelor’s degree in education. Patty taught at SES while completing a master’s degree in administration before becoming the library media specialist at Summertown High School, and then the RTI coordinator at Ethridge Elementary School. Patty is most proud of her three children and her first grandchild.

Meet, Sarah Gray.

Sarah is the assistant principal at Mosheim Elementary School in Greene County. Sarah began her career teaching third grade at Mosheim Elementary School and later taught seventh grade math. During her time in the classroom, Sarah earned a master’s degree in administration and an Ed.S. in curriculum and instruction from Lincoln Memorial University. Sarah also served as a Tennessee core coach and a Greene County School District learning. Sarah resides in Mosheim, TN with her husband and two daughters.

Meet, Celia Jolly.

Celia is an assistant principal at Overton High School in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Prior to becoming an assistant principal, she was a dean of students and classroom teacher. Celia earned a bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, a master’s degree from Trevecca Nazarene University in educational leadership, and is currently pursuing a doctorate of education at Trevecca Nazarene University. Celia has been an educator for 16 years and was chosen as teacher of the year at Stratford High School in both 2009 and 2012. Other highlights of her career include: Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee Teacher of the Year, OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Coordinator, and United Way Giving Campaign Coordinator at the top contributing school in the district.

Meet, Holly Kidder.

Holly serves as the assistant principal at Sweetwater Junior High School. She has worked for the Sweetwater City School system as a teacher for seven years and in her current role for two years. Holly’s educational background includes earning a bachelors of science degree from Tennessee Wesleyan College with an emphasis in history, a master’s of education from Lee University with an emphasis in classroom teaching, and an Ed.S from Lee University with a dual emphasis in classroom teaching and school leadership. Holly has been recognized as the American History Teacher of the Year by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Teacher of the Year for Sweetwater City Schools, and was accepted as a member of the Higgins Honors Society for Exceptional Leaders while at Tennessee Wesleyan College.

Meet, Krista Mann.

Krista is the assistant principal of Rogersville Middle School in Hawkins County. She graduated from East Tennessee State University with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 2010 and her Master of Arts in Teaching in 2012; in 2016, she completed her Educational Specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University. After graduating with her master’s degree, Mann began teaching AP literature, English II, and speech communication at Cherokee High School. She served as the teacher leader for Cherokee High School during her last two years of teaching and co-developed the high school English curriculum for the county during the summer of 2015. Last school year, Mann was selected to participate in the Tennessee Digital Learning Project, a cohort of teachers who curated and archived digital content to help better prepare students to compete in an ever-growing digital world.

Meet, Emma McWeeney.

Emma is the dean of culture at LEAD Southeast, a middle school within LEAD Public Schools in Nashville. Prior to this role she taught fifth grade science. Emma began her teaching career at Coleman Middle School in Greenville, Mississippi where she taught seventh grade science. She is originally from Northern Virginia and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia. Emma is proud to be a Nashville resident with her husband and their dog, Daisy.

Meet, Candice Miller.

Candice is the assistant principal of culture at Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. Her education career spans 14 years and includes a variety of positions including senior research associate/enrollment coordinator for Head Start, research analyst for Jackson Public School District, and career development manager for Job Corps. Prior to joining the Georgian Hills Achievement team & family, Candice was the manager of student membership and access for the Achievement School District, where she managed enrollment, discipline, alternative education, homeless services, EL services, and migrant services for all of the schools within the district. Candice holds a B.S. from Alcorn State University and an M.S. from Jackson State University.

Meet, Sandra Paschall.

Sandra began her career with the Henry County School System shortly after completing a Bachelor of Science degree from Murray State University. During her time in Henry County, she was a classroom teacher, team leader, instructional leadership team member, reading interventionist, and TEAM evaluator. Sandra completed a Master of Arts degree at Nova Southeastern University, and holds a reading specialist endorsement. She later completed a second master’s degree in instructional leadership at Bethel University. Sandra was a member of the first Teacher Leader Council for the Tennessee Department of Education. Sandra is currently participating in the Leadership Pipeline with the Paris Special School District (PSSD) where she has been serving as assistant principal since 2014. She was just named principal at the Rhea Elementary school in Paris, TN in January of 2017.

Meet, Vicki Perry.

Vicki is an assistant principal at Humboldt Junior Senior High School in Humboldt City Schools. She earned a B.S. in education from the University of Memphis, and an M.A. and Ed.S. from Union University. She has served as a special education assistant, classroom teacher, school librarian, and administrator during her career. She enjoys traveling, running and spending time with her family and friends. Vicki and her husband have lived in Tennessee for 26 years and are proud parents of two boys.

Meet, Melanie Simpson.

Melanie is the assistant principal at Piedmont Elementary School in Jefferson County. She earned a Bachelor of Music in music education with a major in piano and minor in voice. Her master’s degree is in educational leadership from Carson-Newman University. Melanie has served as a TEAM trainer in East Tennessee. She also had the opportunity to be observed by well-known speaker and educator, Dr. Marcia Tate, at an administrator’s conference.

Meet, Lindsay Starnes.

Lindsay is the assistant principal at Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy in Hamilton County. Lindsay received her undergraduate degree in elementary education from Carson-Newman University and a graduate degree in urban education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Lindsay is currently pursuing a doctorate in education from Carson-Newman University and is expected to graduate in December 2017. Some of Lindsay’s accomplishments include being named Hamilton County’s Teacher of the Year, as well as being selected as a participant in the Leadership Fellows Program and Principal Leadership Academy through the Public Education Foundation.

Meet, Nathan Wade.

Nathan is an assistant principal at Union County High School in the Union County Public School District. He received his bachelor’s degree from Brevard College in environmental science and master’s degree from Lincoln Memorial University in educational administration and supervision. Union County High posted the highest ACT growth in the state of Tennessee for the 2015-2016 school year. He is an avid outdoorsman engaging in hiking, climbing, hunting, and fishing. He has climbed 32 of the 40 6,000 foot peaks in the Southern Appalachian Mountains in his quest to become a member of the Beyond 6,000 Club. He lives in Oak Ridge with his wife and two children.

Meet, Dr. Shavoncia Watts.

Shavoncia is an instructional leader at E.A. Cox Middle School in Maury County. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tennessee State University, and her doctorate from Trevecca Nazarene University. Shavoncia serves students with an intense focus on promoting literacy and is proud of the school-wide literacy program that she began at E.A. Cox Middle. In addition to her rewarding career as an educator, she is most proud of her loving husband and daughter.

Meet, James “Jim” Wernke.

Jim is an assistant principal at Ross N. Robinson Middle School in the Kingsport City School District. He holds a bachelor’s degree in art from Lincoln Memorial University, master’s degree in education from Milligan College, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis at East Tennessee State University.


Meet, Dr. Courtney Lowe Whitehead.

Courtney is the assistant principal at Carpenters Middle School in Blount County. She is also an adjunct professor at Lincoln Memorial University. She graduated from Maryville College with a B.A. in child psychology, and Tennessee Tech with her M.A. and Ed.S in school leadership. She was the first doctoral candidate at Carson-Newman University to earn her Ed.D in administrative leadership. She was the 2013 middle school teacher of the year in Blount County. Courtney is a graduate of William Blount High School which is in the district in which she serves. She enjoys traveling with her husband and son and spending time with her dog.

Meet, Justin Whittenbarger.

Justin serves as assistant principal at Homestead Elementary in Crossville. He holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education and a Master of Arts in instructional leadership from Tennessee Tech University. He is currently enrolled in an Ed.S. Educational Leadership program at Arkansas State University. Justin spent sixteen years as a high school English teacher before accepting an administrative role at Homestead. He has also worked as a core coach for the Tennessee Department of Education. Justin views his successful transition from a high school to an elementary school setting and having an effective impact across all grade levels as a significant administrative accomplishment.

Meet, Bethany Wilson.

Bethany is an assistant principal at West Wilson Middle School in Wilson County. She holds a B.A. in English education from Trevecca Nazarene University and an M.A. in educational leadership from Lipscomb University. Two accomplishments she is very proud of are overseeing fifth to sixth grade transitions, discipline, RTI, and curriculum for over 400 students and being a parent to her two sons.