Dr. James Sullivan Named New Director of Schools for Rutherford County Schools


Dr. James Sullivan — or Jimmy, as most call him — has strong roots in Rutherford County.

He attended Walter Hill Elementary School for grades K-8 and graduated from Oakland High School.

He will now lead the district as the next Director of Schools for Rutherford County, after being offered a four-year contract by the Rutherford County Board of Education. He will assume the role on July 1, 2022.

“I look forward to the work ahead,” Dr. Sullivan said, after receiving unanimous approval of the contract from the School Board. “We are not a broken district. We are a district that has a lot of success and a very strong foundation. We have some cracks that we need to address to move forward, but I appreciate the confidence and look forward to working with each of you individually and as a group.”

The Board approved a contract with an annual salary of $215,000 with a built-in $5,000 annual step increase.

The salary amount was determined based on a range recommended from the Tennessee Schools Board Association for a school district as large as Rutherford County Schools, which consists of 50 schools and approximately 50,000 students. Compared to other similar-sized or smaller districts’ pay scales for director, it was determined the salary for RCS was significantly out-of-scale.

“We talked about this three years ago with our current director, knowing that we are so far behind, I didn’t want an increase when we hired a new director to be a gut punch, if you will, to taxpayers,” said chairperson Tiffany Johnson, explaining why she supported a phased increase of the salary.

Dr. Sullivan has served as the assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction since 2019. He previously served as the founding principal of Rocky Fork Middle School in Smyrna when it opened in 2017. He served as the principal of Harris Middle School in Bedford County for five years, and was the change agent who helped the school move from the brink of takeover status from the Tennessee Department of Education to a Level 5 school, which is the highest rank available for a school in Tennessee.

Sullivan received his bachelor’s degree and teaching license from Tennessee State University. He completed his master’s degree in education administration from Middle Tennessee State University. While principal of Harris Middle School, he completed his doctorate in education with an emphasis on Learning Organizations and Strategic Change, a degree he put to immediate use as principal.

“It was like a mission field, if you will. Everything we were learning in our course work, we could apply to the school because it was one year away from state takeover,” Dr. Sullivan said.

Dr. Sullivan and his wife, Kaycee, also have two sons who are elementary students in the school district, which helps Dr. Sullivan see firsthand the impact of local education on parents.

“It gives you a different lens to look at things,” Dr. Sullivan said.

Dr. Sullivan plans to be visible with educators, parents and students. He wants to focus on improved communications with all stakeholders, explaining expectations, and building a culture of mutual respect and success.

To learn more about Dr. Sullivan and to hear additional thoughts about his leadership approach, check out the latest episode of the RCS podcast, Beyond the Classroom, which you can subscribe to here: https://www.rcschools.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=524097&type=d&pREC_ID=1309391.

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