All around us, change is constantly happening. Many times the changes are so subtle that they go unnoticed by most people. However, others have major impacts upon our lives and communities.
Recently, one such change occurred in the Sumner County school system.
After leading students and educators for twelve years, Dr. Del Phillips left his post as director of schools. He left behind a transformative legacy that saw tremendous growth in facilities, curricula and student achievement.
Upon receiving notice of Phillips’ departure, the Sumner County School Board immediately began the process of selecting a new director. Although a comprehensive search was conducted, the selection committee did not have to look very far to find their ideal candidate – veteran educator and Sumner County Schools Chief Academic Officer Dr. Scott Langford.
This month, the Hendersonville Lifestyle team sat down with Dr. Langford to learn more about his background, philosophy and goals for the future of Sumner County Schools.
What is your educational background?
“I began my post-high school education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1990, where I majored in Russian language studies. Subsequently, I earned a B.A. in Political Science from MTSU, a M.A.T. in Social Studies Instruction from Emory and a M.A. in Theological Studies from Trevecca. I also completed Master of Divinity coursework at Vanderbilt. Last December, I earned my Doctorate in Education from Lipscomb University, with an emphasis in Learning Organization and Strategic Change.”
What is your professional background?
“I taught various social studies courses at Forest Park High School in Georgia from 1999 to 2003. Afterwards, I taught Social Studies and Bible courses at Pioneer Christian Academy in Whites Creek in 2008 – 2009. From 2009 to 2011, I taught AP English Literature and American Literature at White House High School, where I also served as a football and wrestling coach. In 2011, I became Assistant Principal at White House Middle School, where I served until 2014, when I became Principal of White House High School. In 2018, I was named Assistant Director of Instruction for Sumner County Schools, and in 2021, I became the system’s Chief Academic Officer.”
Why did you decide to pursue education as a career?
“Almost everyone in my family was or is a teacher, as my family valued education tremendously. I was born into the Hendersonville High School community, attending my first football game when I was three days old. From there, I grew up in the hallways of Hendersonville, Beech and White House high schools. I remember proms, band competitions, graduations and the constant presence of teachers in my life. By the time I was at West Point, the idea of becoming a teacher was already in my mind, however it took a few years before I finally pursued the field.”
How would you describe your leadership style?
“I am not a desk guy – I like to move around and talk to lots of people. Over the past five years, I can count on one hand how many times I was actually in my office. I typically sit at a conference table with people around me. I like to hear ideas and viewpoints before making decisions. Sumner County has phenomenal leaders, and I enjoy hearing all perspectives before making big decisions.”
What are the biggest challenges facing the Sumner County Schools?
“Sumner County is built around strong communities that give our schools their identity. One of our largest challenges is maintaining a sense of community pride while we experience growth and welcome people from around the United States and the world.”
“Other challenges include:
· Continuing to recruit the best teachers and staff.
· Meeting all the needs of our students.
· Rebuilding person-to-person connections.”
What are your top goals as Director of Schools?
“As educators, we must prepare students for a future that is constantly evolving. We also need to develop them into good citizens, critical thinkers, problem solvers and big dreamers.”
“Some of my goals include:
· Ensuring that all students can read at grade level and are improving each year.
· Providing opportunities for students in all grades to receive instruction and opportunities in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.)
· Continuing to expand career and technical education opportunities.
· Continue to expand our AP and dual enrollment opportunities for our students.
· Encouraging students to develop a deep commitment to giving back to their community.”
What is the greatest life lesson that you have learned?
“The mark of leadership is taking care of people.”
"We are preparing students for careers that don’t exist yet and that we cannot even imagine. We have the opportunity and responsibility to prepare our children for this future while ensuring that it is humane."