SUPERINTENDENT SPOTLIGHT: Shawn Kimble (Lauderdale County)

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Shawn Kimble has been the Director of Schools in Lauderdale County for 6 years.

Like many other districts, Lauderdale County is offering its students a growing number of Early Post-Secondary Opportunities. Students in the system are piling up dozens of hours of college credits before they graduate high school. Efforts are being made to expand CTE offerings while increasing the number of opportunities for industry credentials and work-ethic certification. New partnerships are being made with the local TCAT to expand dual enrollment offerings to students which have not previously been offered in our county. In addition, middle and high schools in the county have become more engaged in college/career readiness while focusing on initiatives to teach the soft skills needed for success.

Lauderdale County Schools is working strategically to implement quality, aligned curricula which uses complex materials to support instruction. The system has focused on flexible scheduling in early grades that provides extended learning time for whole group, small group, and intervention. Students in K-2 receive up to a total of 240 minutes of reading and intervention time per day. Significant progress has been measured in Pre-K where students also spend up to 2 hours per day with embedded literacy activities.

One of the most exciting initiatives currently underway in Lauderdale County Schools is the mental health and wellness initiative called AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education). Lauderdale County AWARE partners with parents, youth, and community stakeholders, to design and implement a multi-tiered, interconnected framework that guides delivery of universal prevention, targeted intervention, and intensive school-based mental health services. A plan has been developed to implement the following prevention and intervention strategies:

  1. Implement evidence-based violence prevention programs

  2. Develop mental health awareness and outreach campaigns as well as youth and family engagement strategies

  3. Establish early identification and referral processes to connect youth to appropriate services including mental health services by a licensed provider

  4. Place mental health clinicians in schools to deliver effective, targeted and intensive interventions and referrals

  5. Refine school discipline policies to reduce loss of instructional time and removals from school due to suspension and expulsion

  6. Place licensed social workers in schools to address student need as a prevention for crisis intervention

“In the role of superintendent, you can sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees. Every time I step into a school and engage with students, teachers, and administrators, it re-energizes me and reminds me why I come back each day. I am blessed to work in a great school system and alongside passionate employees who put children first.

I have so many fond memories from my time as superintendent, but the one thing that I enjoy most is signing each graduate's diploma and being on stage to congratulate them. Graduation is such a special time for our students and their families and I am blessed and honored to share just a small piece of it with each of them.”

Platinum Partner Spotlight: TNRMT

TNRMT has been a dedicated Platinum Partner to TOSS for many years. We are extremely appreciative of their support for TOSS, our members, and the students of Tennessee.

TNRMT is the largest and premier insurance pool for school districts in Tennessee. They are recognized through this region of the country for financial strength and stability, outstanding service to their members, and dedication to the highest standards of honesty and integrity. They are grateful to the state’s superintendents for their support, encouragement, and continued confidence in their work. TNRMT insures 102 of Tennessee’s 145 school districts. They also insure 106 other governmental entities in the state.

Interested in learning more about TNRMT? Reach out to Dr. Phillip Wallace at 615-651-2682 or

SUPERINTENDENT SPOTLIGHT: Michelle Gilbert (Hickman County)

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The TOSS Superintendent Spotlight for November 2018 is Michelle Gilbert. She has served as the Director of Schools in Hickman County for three years.

The schools in Hickman County are striving to provide opportunities for students to experience post-secondary success before graduating from high school. Their schools and teachers in grades K-12 emphasize the importance of setting high goals for students and exposing them to the new opportunities. Her system has been able to increase the number of early post-secondary opportunities that are available to students, as well as increase the post-secondary enrollment rate by over twenty percentage points to above state average. Through partnerships with the local community and institutes of higher learning, her school system has been able to help students overcome obstacles and remove barriers for post-secondary attainment.

Ms. Gilbert’s favorite part of her job is the interaction with her schools and community. She enjoys working with leaders, teachers, and other stakeholders that work diligently to help their students to be successful. Being in schools and classrooms is what makes her happy. She enjoys building relationship with teachers and students.

“My favorite memory from my superintendency was the first time that I had the opportunity to participate in graduation ceremonies and shake the hands of our graduates. It was and is such an honor to be a part of such a wonderful accomplishment. As a product of the Hickman County school system, it makes that opportunity even more special.”

Platinum Partner Spotlight: is the newest addition to our Platinum Partner Program! Their work in Tennessee is off to a great start, and we are thrilled to see it continue to grow. improves literacy through vocabulary instruction. is adaptive - each student works at their own level. It aligns to your curriculum - in addition to over 2,000,000 vocabulary lists, teachers can take any text and instantly create vocabulary exercises around the text. It’s fun! Students earn points and badges and compete against each other. Their schools compete against other schools as well in our annual Vocabulary Bowl.

They are already working with several districts in Tennessee, including:

  • Williamson County

  • Maryville City

  • Lincoln County

  • Giles County

  • Lexington City

  • Shelby County

  • Metro Nashville

  • Campbell County

  • Sevier County

  • Soon to be in Houston County & McKenzie Special!

“ has become one of my favorite online tools in my ELA classroom. We all know the research says that students learn vocabulary the best when it is taught in context. I love how allows me to do that with ANY text. I have so much flexibility to create materials for students, and my students actually get excited about acquiring points. I've had students tell me they started using some of the vocabulary words in writing their songs, and they have also used them in their essays. One told me that he was in a conversation with an adult who used one of the words we had learned in class. "I actually knew what they were saying!" he said. These kind of pay offs are what really matter to my students because, as I always say in my room, ‘Your words matter.’” - Joylyn Patton (Teacher, Renaissance High School, Williamson County Schools)

“Our teachers use to improve the word-learning culture of our students through the process of pre-reading exercises. This enables our students to become familiar with the vocabulary of a text in ELA, Science, Social Studies, and even Mathematics prior to classroom instruction. We are in the third year of using this program, and teachers in multiple subject areas use it to enrich instruction and learning in their classes.” - Dr Ben Clabo (Principal, Pigeon Forge High School, Sevier County Schools)

Want to learn more? Reach out to David Mickelsen at or 254-566-5545!

SUPERINTENDENT SPOTLIGHT: Jonathan Criswell (Milan Special School District)

Our October Superintendent Spotlight is Jonathan Criswell! He has served as the Director of Schools in the Milan Special School District for two years.

Milan Special School District has a rich tradition of success that Mr. Criswell has worked to continue over the past two years. Their elementary and middle schools have both been recognized as level 5 schools, and their high school has moved from a level 1 to a level 4 in two years.

Recently, their district fully implemented a dyslexia program designed to increase the reading level of all students in our district. Their students have experienced great success with the program. One student was recently quoted saying, "I did not find out I had dyslexia until I was a Freshman in high school. I always struggled and did not have the best grades, but when I finally found out what was wrong I felt a huge weight lift off my back."

Mr. Criswell enjoys making the job of teaching easier for teachers. His goal every day is to eliminate as much of the business side of education as possible for his teachers, allowing them to focus on impacting student learning.

He shared one of his favorite memories from his time as superintendent with us:

Being superintendent reduces the daily interactions that I am able to have with our students, but I have committed to be in the buildings as much as possible and to greet students as they arrive at school at the bus drop off locations and from the car lines. I enjoyed my morning car line time as an elementary school principal so much that I continue this practice as a superintendent when possible. One morning, I greeted a student and his mom as he was exiting the car. After the student exited the car, the mom pulled up, parked, and asked to speak with me. We made introductions. Chuckling, she then said that she asked her son who I was. The son replied, “I don’t know mom, but he is always in our school and he’s always smiling. I think he may be the President.”

Keep up the great work, “President Criswell!”