School board chair Anna Shepherd said she asked for the board to appoint Battle to the position as a way to provide stability to the school district at a time when Nashville is recovering from tornadoes that struck the area on March 3, in which some students were relocated to other schools due to damage.
Shepherd also praised Battle for the district's response to the coronavirus. The district closed schools March 12-13, two days early before spring break begins, to prevent the possible spread of the virus that has led to multiple confirmed cases in Davidson County.
"The past two weeks have proved to be stressful for the residents of Nashville, and in particular our students, our parents and families and employees of MNPS," Shepherd said. "Dr. Battle has had some tough, once-in-a-lifetime—we hope—decisions that were far reaching for our community. She stepped up to the plate and made those tough decisions, all the while keeping MNPS students, families and employees in the forefront."
Battle, who had previously served as a community superintendent overseeing all schools located in the southeast quadrant, replaced former Director Shawn Joseph following the board’s April 9 vote to buy out his contract. At the meeting on March 13, Battle said she intends to not only be a director who leads that district, but also one who takes a collaborative approach to "move the district forward."
"It's important to have a director who can lead, but you have a director in me who understands that I can not do anything by myself," Battle said at the meeting. "It takes the great colleagues that I've worked with continuously since day one, and I know that it is critically important that we continue to move forward together. The past two weeks have been pretty difficult for us. We experienced the tornadoes last week, and now we are addressing the issues around COVID-19. Those decisions won't be easy. As leaders, we know it comes with making courageous and bold decisions, and we will continue to do that."
Prior to the board's vote to appoint Battle to the position, members approved on Feb. 25 a list of five semifinalists to interview for the district's open position for the director of schools. The national search, which was facilitated by the Tennessee School Boards Association, began in late January after the school board approved the timeline for the search as well as a set of qualifications desired in candidates.
Due to rescheduling efforts, only one candidate ultimately interviewed for the position.
“We started the director search process in a much different environment here at MNPS and across the country,” Shepherd said in a news release on March 12. “We need to remove distractions from Dr. Battle’s plate so she can focus on the needs of our students and staff, and as a Board, we need to thoughtfully consider whether the director search process is appropriate or necessary at this time.”