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!”

Platinum Partner Spotlight: Scholastic


Scholastic has long been a valuable Platinum Partner of TOSS, and we look forward to many more years of partnership!

Scholastic has partnered with educators, children, and families for nearly 100 years to inspire lifelong reading and learning with a focus on:

  • Balanced Literacy Resources to reinforce and sustain instruction with our comprehensive, customizable print and digital blended literacy solutions. From whole class to small group to independent learning, we have the research-based resources you need to differentiate instruction and maximize success for every learner.

  • Professional Learning Services to help you design and deliver a targeted, systemic plan to enhance instructional skill sets and content knowledge around literacy.

  • Family & Community Engagement Resources to harness the power of fully integrated learning supports. We’ll partner with you to assess and remove the barriers interfering with student success, build capacity, and create critical connections between home, school, and community—boosting literacy development and fostering positive learning environments for children wherever they are.

They are currently doing business with almost all public and independent school districts in the state of TN!

“Lit Camp provided a fun, super engaging literacy experience for our summer camp. Our students enjoyed the literacy-rich, thematic studies. Each camper improved in reading fluency, comprehension, and overall self-confidence. Our teachers loved the Lit Camp program and requested to used it again this summer!” - Barbara King, Sewanee Elementary (Franklin County Schools)

Interested in working with Scholastic? Reach out to Dr. Felicia Fowler (!

2019 Regional Superintendents of the Year

Sunday evening, at the 2018 TOSS Awards Banquet, the 2019 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year will be announced.  The 8 finalists, one from each region of the state, are listed below.  Congratulations to you all on your hard work and dedication that has led to this recognition.  We are so proud of each one of you.  

 EAST  Dr. Brian Bell (Alcoa City Schools)


Dr. Brian Bell (Alcoa City Schools)

 MID-CUMBERLAND  Dr. Linda Gilbert (Murfreesboro City Schools)


Dr. Linda Gilbert (Murfreesboro City Schools)

 SOUTH CENTRAL  Dr. Dan Lawson (Tullahoma City Schools)


Dr. Dan Lawson (Tullahoma City Schools)

 SOUTHWEST  Warner Ross II (Hardeman County Schools)


Warner Ross II (Hardeman County Schools)

 FIRST  Steve Starnes (Greeneville City Schools)


Steve Starnes (Greeneville City Schools)

 NORTHWEST  Neel Durbin (Dyersburg City Schools)


Neel Durbin (Dyersburg City Schools)

 SOUTHEAST  Dr. Linda Cash (Bradley County Schools)


Dr. Linda Cash (Bradley County Schools)

 UPPER CUMBERLAND  Tony Boles (Macon County Schools) 


Tony Boles (Macon County Schools)