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Eleven new elementary and middle school principal assignments made for 2015-16

Metro Schools are a few weeks away from closing out the 2014-15 school year, which means preparations for the 2015-16 school year are already underway. To give every student in every school the best chance for success, some schools will have new leadership to start the new year, including 11 principals named today. “Today’s principals must be instructional leaders, student leaders, personnel leaders and so much more,” said Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jay Steele. “It is an awesome responsibility, particularly with the autonomy they now have to design instruction, staff their schools and write their own budgets. We know they are the driving force behind school and student success, and that’s why transformational leadership is one of the central pillars of our district’s strategic plan.”

Of the new principals named today, nine are current principals and assistant principals from within the district and two come from outside Tennessee. By naming them to their new schools now, they will have the chance to review and make any needed changes to next year’s budgets and hire any needed teachers or staff.

“We consider each principal assignment very carefully, giving every school the right leadership at the right time to meet changing student and family needs,” said Dr. Steele. “Luckily, we have a strong corps of educators right here in the district and a consistently strong pool of outside applicants from which to choose. It’s a great time to work in Metro Schools, and we are very proud to have this group on our team.”

The principals and their assignments are:

  • Alex Green Elementary School – Robyn Beard
  • Amqui Elementary School – Dr. Lance High
  • Antioch Middle Prep – Celia Conley
  • Fall-Hamilton Elementary School – Mathew Portell
  • Glencliff Elementary School – Dr. Carlos Comer
  • Glengarry Elementary School – Ricki Gibbs
  • Glenn Elementary School – Dexter Adams
  • Haynes Middle Prep – Dr. Canidra Henderson
  • JE Moss Elementary School – Anthony Febles
  • Robert E. Lillard Elementary School – Derek Sanborn
  • Warner Elementary School – Candace Cook


About the Principals

Alex Green Elementary School – Robyn Beard Ms. Beard comes to Metro Schools with a wide range of skills learned from eight years in the classroom and another eight as an assistant principal. She has experience in special education and intervention for students who have fallen behind. She is a curriculum expert, a data analysis expert and a leader in educational technology, even serving in the technology department at Texas Woman’s University. She also brings a wealth of experience in working with parents and building community partnerships to support schools. Ms. Beard is fully decorated with degrees, and will soon add to them when she completes her Ph.D. in educational leadership. For the time being, she holds a master’s degree in administration, an educational specialist’s degree in leadership, a bachelor’s degree in special education and even an MBA.

Amqui Elementary School – Dr. Lance High Lance High is a product of Metro Schools and part of a far-reaching legacy of great educators in Nashville. He is the son of Junior and Donna High, both long-time MNPS educators, and his brother Chad is the principal of Granbery Elementary. For his own part, Lance has already served as assistant principal at Julia Green and A.Z. Kelley Elementary Schools, as well as taught third and fourth grade at Warner, Percy Priest and Stratton Elementaries. He is a graduate of the Principals’ Leadership Academy of Nashville, an integral part of the leadership pipeline available to educators in the district. Dr. High majored in elementary education at Lipscomb University, where he also earned his master’s in administration and was a member of the inaugural class in the educational doctorate program.

Antioch Middle Prep – Celia Conley Ms. Conley has served as a leader in South Nashville high schools for nearly eight years, from a leader in special education, dean of students and then assistant principal at Glencliff High School to assistant principal at Antioch High. She will now make the short – but significant – move to Antioch Middle, where her experience in guiding young people to success in high school will come in especially handy. At Antioch High, she was the data leader for teachers, led the special education department, worked with English learners and increased parent involvement, among many other accomplishments. She holds a bachelor’s in special education from Tennessee State University, an educational specialist’s degree from Tennessee Tech, and a master’s in special education from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. 

Fall-Hamilton Elementary School – Mathew Portell Mathew Portell isn’t just a teacher of students. Up until he was named assistant principal at Glencliff Elementary in 2014, he spent five years as a coach and mentor for teachers focusing on English learners, literacy and developing new teachers. In his time at Glencliff, he built leadership opportunities for classroom teachers, helped lead the school’s data analysis and instructional planning, brought parents together for a new PTO and much more. Mr. Portell holds a bachelor’s in elementary education and a master’s in curriculum from Tennessee State University, and completed the year-long New Teacher Mentor program at Trevecca Nazarene University.

Glencliff Elementary School – Dr. Carlos Comer Dr. Comer has spent 19 years with Metro Schools, including 12 years as an elementary school principal. Since 2009, he has served JE Moss Elementary, where more than half the students receive English learner services. He is an expert in the fields of social and emotional learning, curriculum development and teaching English learners. He has done extensive academic research on the needs and capabilities of new teachers and is an adjunct professor at Cumberland University, Trevecca Nazarene University and Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Comer earned his doctorate from Trevecca and both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at MTSU. He also completed the Principals’ Leadership Academy at Vanderbilt University.

Glengarry Elementary School – Ricki Gibbs Mr. Gibbs brings nine years of relevant experience to Glengarry. In fact, he has only worked in Metro elementary schools, starting in 2006 as a teacher at Paragon Mills and then serving as an assistant principal at three different schools since 2010. Mr. Gibbs is always student-focused and committed to mentoring and developing the teachers in his building. He believes that every child can be successful in school through quality instruction and a collaborative and stimulating learning environment. He is currently working on his doctorate in organizational leadership and already holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tennessee State University.

Glenn Elementary School – Dexter Adams During his twenty years in Metro Schools, Dexter Adams has worked in many varied areas, from classroom teacher to technology coordinator to interventionist and school leader. For the last four years, he has served as principal at Alex Green Elementary where he put his team’s focus on relationship building with students to drive achievement. Mr. Adams has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University, an education specialist’s degree from Tennessee Tech and is currently working on his doctorate in administration from Tennessee State University.

Haynes Middle Prep – Dr. Canidra Henderson During Dr. Henderson’s time as a principal, she has worked in both Nashville and Memphis, bringing a focus on curriculum development and school improvement planning to each school she led. She is currently principal at Antioch Middle, where she has overseen academic growth among a very diverse population, including a significant English learner population. She was one of just a few district trainers during the transition to Common Core, responsible for training and implementation of the K-12 literacy standards, and has led a significant increase in parent involvement at Antioch. Dr. Henderson earned her doctorate from the University of Memphis, as well as her master’s in administration, English and journalism. Her bachelor’s degree comes from the University of Mississippi, where she studied broadcasting and public relations. 

JE Moss Elementary School – Anthony Febles Mr. Febles came to teaching through music. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and even spent several years as a professional conductor. He then taught music for several years, eventually deciding to move into school leadership and earning a master’s in administration from Middle Tennessee State University. Currently the principal at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School, he previously served Haywood Elementary as an assistant principal and was named Teacher of the Year at Neely’s Bend Elementary during his time there in 2010. Mr. Febles has further developed his leadership capacity by graduating from the Principals’ Leadership Academy Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Robert E. Lillard Elementary School – Derek Sanborn Derek Sanborn is in the unique position of being both a licensed teacher and a licensed attorney. He started his career in education, but then earned his law degree in 2006. He practiced law for three years in Middle Tennessee, working mainly in family and juvenile law, as well as for the Tennessee Department of Human Services. He returned to education in 2010, first in Abu Dhabi and then here in Metro Schools. His specialty is technology, which is a set of skills he put to very good use at Buena Vista Elementary, where he has served as assistant principal since 2012. At Buena Vista, he was responsible for the rapid academic improvement of a challenging population of students. In addition to his law degree, he holds a master’s degree in administration from Middle Tennessee State University and a bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Central Florida.

Warner Elementary School – Candace Cook Ms. Cook is new to Metro Schools, having come from Fayetteville, North Carolina. She is currently the principal at a diverse elementary school just outside of Fort Bragg, where she has lead significant increases in student achievement. She believes in shared leadership among school faculty, with quality instruction tailored to the needs of each individual student. She has extensive experience in teacher development and coaching, as well as instructional development. Ms. Cook has been teaching for 15 years, also serving as an assistant principal, instructional coach and classroom teacher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Middle Tennessee State University and did graduate work in administration at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.