Tennessee educator named sole finalist for Atlanta Public Schools superintendent job

Dr. Bryan Johnson (Atlanta Public Schools)

The Atlanta Board of Education has its pick to be Atlanta Public Schools's next superintendent.

On Tuesday morning, the board named Dr. Bryan Johnson, the executive vice chancellor and chief strategy officer at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, as its sole candidate for the job.

"The Atlanta Board of Education is thrilled at the prospect of collaborating with someone as accomplished as Dr. Bryan Johnson," said ABOE Chair Erika Y. Mitchell. "His diverse leadership roles throughout his career will be a tremendous asset, as he helps propel our District by pushing students toward success while advocating for the District’s needs."

If approved on July 8, Johnson will replace interim Superintendent Dr. Danielle Battle, who is set to remain in the position until the end of August. 

"It has been my pleasure to serve Atlanta Public Schools during this period of transition, and I have full confidence that the district will continue to progress under Dr. Johnson's leadership," said Dr. Battle. "With his impressive background, I know he will provide the necessary guidance to advance student achievement."

Who is Dr. Bryan Johnson? 

The board says that Johnson has dedicated much of his career to public education and spent four years as the superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. During that time, officials say the district became the fastest-improving school district in the state.

Johnson was named the 2021 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, was a National Superintendent of the Year finalist, and was listed as a "Superintendent to Watch" by the National School Public Relations Association. 

"I am honored to be selected as the sole finalist for this role," said Dr. Johnson. "I deeply appreciate the Board's unwavering focus on children and excellence throughout the search process. That same unwavering focus will be reflected in our efforts to catapult our urban school district to one of the top school districts in the country, with initiatives focused on literacy, STEM and workforce development. I look forward to partnering with Team APS and our community to make this a reality."

Along with his time in education, Johnson has also worked as the chief transformation officer for U.S. Xpress Enterprises, a trucking company.

Search for a new Atlanta Public Schools superintendent

Dr. Lisa Herring (left) will transition from superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools to a consultant as Dr. Danielle Battle (right) moves into the interim superintendent role by the end of August 2023.

Dr. Lisa Herring (left) transitioned from superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools to a consultant as Dr. Danielle Battle (right) moved into the interim superintendent role by the end of August 2023. (Atlanta Public Schools)

In June 2023, the board surprised many around the city when they announced they would not renew then-Superintendent Lisa Herring when her contract ended in 2024.

Herring, who had previously been superintendent of the Birmingham, Alabama, school district before she was hired in Atlanta in 2020, was herself surprised. She said in her own statement that board members had graded her work well, saying, "My desire to lead Atlanta with this work is still strong and present."

"In December of 2022, I received my last performance evaluation and satisfactory feedback with emphasis on the focus of additional engagement and stronger communications efforts," Herring said. "I have worked diligently to honor the work and expectations of our board and community."


Two months later, Herring announced that she would leave the position 10 months early and instead act as a consultant for the school system.

The board planned to have a superintendent in place by July 1 with Battle, a principal and associate superintendent, remaining in the position until that time. In April, the board announced that it was extending the search process as well as Battle's time in the position until December. 

What is APS looking for in a new superintendent? 

The right fit will have to manage all the moving parts that make up the massive A.P.S. system - and its $1.7 billion budget. 

"As a whole, we’re looking for a superintendent that’s focused on literacy and equity," board chair Erika Mitchell told FOX 5's Rob Dirienzo in May. " A chief communicator that knows our city and moving pieces because we have a lot going on in Atlanta." 

The board has previously said it is committed to a "deliberate, transparent, and inclusive search process."

"We want to be able to really thoroughly look at these candidates and not just go down a list," she said. "We look at every piece of information that we receive." 

The 50,000-student Atlanta district is Georgia’s sixth-largest school system and confronts the same inequalities as the city does. Less than half of the city’s population is Black, compared to 72% of public school students in Atlanta. And while overall income levels in the city are higher than in Georgia as a whole, so are poverty levels, reflected in a school system where nearly three-quarters of children qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.