TOSS October Feature on Dr. Jesse Register

My goal for this year is to develop an effective plan to eliminate priority schools in the district!

Dr. Jesse Register has been superintendent for Metro Nashville Schools since January of 2009. He began teaching as a middle school Language Arts teacher before moving into administration as an assistant principal, principal, and later an assistant superintendent. Overall, Dr. Register has served as superintendent for 26 years, including systems in North Carolina and other parts of Tennessee.

When asked what he was most excited about in his district this fall, Dr Register shared about Metro’s pre-k expansion program.

I am very excited about our pre-k expansion program for 550 additional 4-year old children in three model pre-k schools.  They are research based, state-of-the-art programs that will be models for all pre-k programs in 57 other schools and for Headstart in Davidson County.  We have worked with early childhood experts and consultants to build an outstanding program.

Our district is 72% FARM, but less than half our children have pre-k opportunities.  We think this start will have a positive impact that ripples through the elementary grades.  We hope to continue expansion in the coming years.

Metro Nashville school system is comprised of 157 schools, including 19 charter schools. As Dr. Register is superintendent of a large district I inquired of him the best things and the most challenging things in taking on such a role.

Nashville is a wonderful city that supports public education.  We have a very supportive Mayor and Metro Government.  I consider our diversity to be an asset and a resource.  Our children speak over 130 languages and come from all over the world.  We do not have a majority race, and have approximately 30% of the state’s English Language Learner population.

Helping our urban, culturally diverse population is definitely both a challenge and a great opportunity … The challenge is getting to all schools and having an opportunity to meet and work with as many of our 10,000 [member] staff as possible.

Metro Nashville employs 5,800 teachers in 157 schools, so encouraging the teachers of this system is no small task. “It isn’t possible to see them all on a regular basis. I try to meet with teachers in their faculty or area meetings,” Dr. Register stated. “I have invited them to cluster area meetings to come in and talk about any issues they are dealing with. I regularly send out written communications to all teachers via email to encourage them and keep them updated on current topics. We also use the website to keep them informed of all district issues.”

Dr. Register also talked about his hope for the students of the very diverse city of Nashville.

Nashville is very diverse, with 29% of the state’s English Learners population.  We have great kids.  One of our main focuses is on social and emotional learning for their academic success. My biggest hopes for the students of Nashville are that they will be prepared for college or good careers.

When questioned on the subject of tips or advice he wanted to give new superintendents Dr. Register shared about going out into the field.

Visit all schools the first 90 days.  Meet with principals, teachers, as well as parents and community.  Also meet with community leaders, civic groups and others to get a good overall impression of the perceptions of the public schools. 

This is important for new superintendents even if they are already in the district.  I did this in Nashville and it helped me form my approach to the first years of my time here, including building a foundation for our first strategic plan.

So what does the superintendent of such a large district do to relax?

I am an avid golfer and try to play every week.  The rule is … no talk about work.  Although we have a small (city) yard, I also enjoy doing my own yard work.  I exercise at 5:30 a.m. most days.  It’s the only time of the day that is generally free!

My wife and I also love to travel, and we plan ahead for several long weekends a year or over holidays to visit the children and grandchildren in North Carolina, a trip to the beach, or a weekend in New York City for a play and great food.

One of Dr. Register’s favorite things to do in the cool fall weather is to entertain on his and his wife’s outdoor patio. “Fall is a great time for a low country boil on the patio.”

What was an interesting job you had while growing up? "I was a produce worker in high school and an Avis car rental agent in college. I ran the downtown night office in Charlotte, NC. I met many very interesting characters!

What was an interesting job you had while growing up? "I was a produce worker in high school and an Avis car rental agent in college. I ran the downtown night office in Charlotte, NC. I met many very interesting characters!