Top Salaries Paid To SEL And Equity Directors In Hamilton County Schools

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

Making the top Hamilton County Schools salary list for 2022-2023 are the positions of Executive Director of Social, Emotional, and Academic Development at $124,015 a year, and Chief Equity Officer at $137,881 a year.

Patricia Russell, Executive Director of Social, Emotional, and Academic Development for Hamilton County Schools (HCS) is a native of Chattanooga who started her career with Hamilton County Schools in 1999 as a teacher at Red Bank Elementary School. She transitioned to school counseling after 10 years of teaching in the classroom. As the Executive Director of Social, Emotional, and Academic Development for HCS, Russell oversees school counseling, social work, student success planning, college and career advising, 504’s, and positive school wide behavior support for all schools. She works across district teams to support the implementation of a “whole-child approach.”

Dr. Marsha J. Drake is the Chief Equity Officer of Hamilton County Schools. She is responsible in serving as the head of the Departments of Attendance, Social Workers, Homebound, Homeless (Family in Transition), English Language Learners, Guidance, SEL, Exceptional Education and School Health. The focus of these departments is to ensure equity for all students in Hamilton County Schools. Drake says, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is very important in education. Students need to see teachers and other school leaders who look like them. Students all come with various needs, and DEI champions look at situations through a different lens in order to focus on removing barriers to success for all students.”

Last year, we reported that HCS had begun using the SEL survey from Panorama Education (a company founded by Attorney General Merrick Garlands son-in-law) in 8 schools in the 2019/2020 school year, with increasing participation as each year has passed. The district plans to have “Student Success Planning” in every school by 2026.

Russell says the ultimate goal is “for our work with our assessment data to lead to the district-wide implementation of “student success planning profiles.” In two years, we hope to have an individualized plan for every student.”

In an interview with Panorama, Russell said, “We can’t miss the basic needs of our students… Do our students feel like they belong? Are their social and emotional needs being met? Do they have health concerns that we are aware of and dealing with? What is their family life like? Can they bring their full selves to school and achieve their potential academically? Knowing the answers to these types of questions is what truly educating the whole child is all about.”

According to Panorama, HCS is the fastest improving school district in Tennessee and serves as a model for other districts in the state, having “invested deeply in building school climate and culture through integrated student supports.”

Russell also says, “Another key learning for us has been about tracking. We realized that we needed to make sure we were measuring and continuously monitoring student needs.”

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About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at

One thought on “Top Salaries Paid To SEL And Equity Directors In Hamilton County Schools

  • September 2, 2022 at 3:42 pm

    Good grief. Additional program staff just means additional work passed to classroom teachers who are already overwhelmed. These salaries are enough to provide a couple more teachers which are needed. The superintendent level administration in most large school districts are out of touch with the classroom level students and issues. They send teachers time consuming questionnaires, promulgate reports, research and data but never step into the classroom for a day or week.


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