June 2022 District and Principal Appointments

District and School Leadership Appointments
Posted on 06/30/2022
Collage of district leaders

As MNPS prepares for the upcoming school year, several appointments have been announced by Dr. Adrienne Battle to fill key roles within the district to serve and support the students, staff, and families of Metro Schools.

Human Resources

Lisa SpencerLisa Spencer will be serving as Interim Chief of Human Resources, taking over for Melissa Roberge, who has rejoined the Metro Law Department to lead its federal litigation division. Lisa joined the MNPS Human Resources department in 2017, where she has served in leadership roles focused on HR operations and services.  Her career has spanned more than 30 years of enhancing the way public- and private-sector organizations achieve results through the design, implementation, and enhancement of a wide array of business and human resources systems and programs. Lisa is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources, an alumna of LEAD Tennessee and the Tennessee Government Executive Institute, and holds a Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources Leadership from Tennessee Technological University.

James WittyDr. James Vince Witty is a veteran Metro Nashville Public Schools leader joining the Division of Human Resources as Interim Executive Officer. Witty most recently served as an Executive Director within the Division of Schools, where he supported and led high schools while also working to develop, enhance, and streamline systems, structures, and supports for schools. Throughout Dr. Witty’s career in public education, he has worked with and on behalf of students as a teacher, state director, executive principal, and executive director of schools. Dr. Witty holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Middle Tennessee State University, as well as a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Tennessee with a focus on organizational development. He is a licensed attorney with a Doctor of Jurisprudence from The Nashville School of Law.


Research Assessment and Evaluation

Tina StensonDr. Tina Stenson will take on the role of Executive Director of the Department of Research, Assessment and Evaluation (RAE). Dr. Stenson most recently served as the Director of Research and Evaluation in RAE. In this and previous roles, she oversaw state accountability appeals, the Research Review Committee, District Surveying, and analyzed/reported on assessment, survey, graduation, attendance, and other district data. Prior to her 15 years in MNPS, Dr. Stenson worked in higher education at Volunteer State Community College and at the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association. She earned her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University and her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. Dr. Paul Changas, the Executive Officer for RAE, is retiring after many years of service to students at the local and state level, helping to establish systems for collecting, reporting, analyzing, and providing data to schools and families alike.

Executive Directors of Schools 

Damaris LunaDr. Damaris Luna will be joining Metro Schools as an Executive Director with the Schools of Innovation. She brings a wealth of experience in education as a high school teacher and a principal of middle and high schools. She most recently served as a Principal at West Creek High School in Clarksville.

She earned her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University. She also holds an Education Specialist degree in Learning Organizations and Strategic Change from Lipscomb University, a Master of Science from Austin Peay State University, and a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from University of Phoenix.

KC WinfreyK. C. Winfrey will serve as an Executive Director for School Support after serving 10 years as Executive Principal of Cora Howe School. During his time as an MNPS principal, Mr. Winfrey has led many district-level efforts in developing best practices in academic and behavioral delivery for those with the most severe exceptional needs. He has served on the MNPS Principal Advisory Group, where he advocated on behalf of students with disabilities.

Winfrey has worked in education since 1999. He graduated from Western Kentucky University in 1998 with a Bachelor of Education. He earned his Master of Education in Educational Leadership in 2011 from Middle Tennessee State University.

Justin UppinghouseJustin Uppinghouse has been appointed Interim Executive Director of Schools within the Schools of Innovation. He recently completed his eighth year as the Executive Principal at Whitsitt Elementary School. Mr. Uppinghouse was hired as a turnaround principal for a school that had been named on Tennessee’s priority schools list in 2014. Uppinghouse quickly began developing structures and processes that focused on increasing student achievement data, building instructional capacity, providing shared leadership/ownership opportunities, and improving the school’s climate and culture.

He earned his bachelor's degree and Master of Social Work from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also earned his Master of Science in Education from Eastern Illinois University. Mr. Uppinghouse recently earned the 2021-2022 Metro Nashville Public Schools Elementary Principal of the Year Award.

Innovation Leads

Serving in expanded roles for the district will be Dr. Ricki Gibbs and Dr. Brian Mells, who have been appointed as Innovation Leads for the Schools of Innovation. In these roles, the two principals will remain in their current principal roles while helping to provide additional, intensive principal coaching that leads to increased academic outcomes for priority schools to meet or exceed their annual measurable objectives (AMO). They will work collaboratively with Executive Directors to strengthen their leadership capacity and to calibrate with principal and school leadership teams around high-impact instructional strategies and replicate proven best practices.

Ricki GibbsDr. Gibbs will continue to lead Warner Arts Magnet School while serving as an Innovation Lead for the district. Dr. Gibbs earned his B.S. in Elementary Education and M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision from Tennessee State University. He then went on to earn a Doctor of Education degree in Organizational Leadership and Strategic Change from Lipscomb University. He started his career teaching third grade at Paragon Mills Elementary.

He has served as an assistant principal and principal in Metro Nashville Public Schools. In 2020, Dr. Gibbs was named Elementary Principal of the Year for the district.

Brian MellsWhites Creek High School Executive Principal Dr. Brian Mells began his career 17 years ago teaching mathematics at Hillwood High School. From there, he assumed the role of Assistant Principal at Pearl-Cohn High School and an Executive Principal at Madison Middle School. As Executive Principal, Dr. Mells is leading innovative work, focused on student achievement at Whites Creek High School. Additionally, he is the 2021-2022 MNPS High School Principal of the Year.

Dr. Mells received his B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Tennessee, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University, and his Ed.S. and Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Carson-Newman University.

Principal Announcements

Jon MahaffeyJon Mahaffey will serve as the interim-Executive Principal for Cora Howe School. Mahaffey began his teaching career with MNPS after graduating from the University of North Texas with his M.Ed degree in Special Education. He served as a high school English teacher before becoming the Transition Liaison for Cora Howe (formerly Madison Special Education School) in 2009. In 2019 he was promoted to Dean of Instruction before starting his current role of Assistant Principal in 2021 after graduating with an Ed.S. in education leadership from Lipscomb University. As an administrator, Mahaffey feels it is his duty to serve others through leadership and believes that in order for a school culture to be successful, relationships built on collaboration, empathy, and respect must be present.

Michael PrattDr. Michael Pratt will be taking on the role of Interim Executive Principal at Stratford STEM Magnet High School following the recent departure of Dr. Mike Steele. Dr. Pratt has served the MNPS community for more than 15 years, including as an administrator at East Nashville Magnet High School and John Early Middle Magnet. He is an active life-long learner, earning a master’s degree in cultural foundations of education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and recently completing a doctorate in educational leadership at Trevecca Nazarene University. He is a transformational leader who is passionate about cultivating student achievement and social-emotional connections.

Molly RuckerMolly Rucker will serve as Interim Executive Principal of Whitsitt Elementary, taking over for Dr. Uppinghouse, who is joining the team at the Schools of Innovation. Currently serving as an Assistant Principal for the school, Rucker was previously a literacy coach at Cockrill Elementary School. She also taught with MNPS at Cockrill Elementary and in Knox County Schools. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from The University of Tennessee, a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Lincoln Memorial University, and an educational specialist degree in educational leadership from Lipscomb University.

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