An executive officer from the largest school district in Texas will serve as the new Anchorage School District superintendent.
The Anchorage School Board announced Thursday it had selected Jharrett Bryantt to take over for superintendent Deena Bishop on July 1.
Bryantt, 32, currently leads the office of talent at the Houston Independent School District. He has also worked as an assistant superintendent and college advisor in that district. He was a geometry teacher for two years in Houston’s YES Prep public charter school system.
The Anchorage School District picked him over two other finalists: Sitka School District superintendent Frank Hauser and Woodland Park School District superintendent Mathew Neal from Colorado.
“I’m humbled, excited, and I’m ready to lead this district toward a bright new chapter,” Bryantt said during an online news conference Thursday. “But I can’t do this alone. I can’t wait to get to Anchorage and get to personally know our families, our students, our staff and our community members and community leaders.”
Anchorage School Board president Margo Bellamy said the board picked Bryantt because of “his transforming vision, his relentless commitment to equitable education, and his strong leadership experience.” She said candidates’ location was not a factor in the board’s decision.
“We were looking for educators who were highly skilled, who were committed and interested in coming to us from wherever they were,” she said. “I came from someplace else, and this community welcomed me and I’m still here after all those years.”
In a community town hall at the end of March, Bryantt emphasized his experience working in a large, diverse school district. Houston’s district has 27,000 employees and 194,000 students. Nearly 80% of the district’s students are economically disadvantaged, and 62% of students are Latino.
“We serve a lot of schools in a lot of different types of neighborhoods, where there are a lot of different cultures and communities and values and traditions,” he said.
Those differences also impact how he works with parents, Bryantt said.
“I’m not only working to serve the parents that come to my family engagement events or fill out the surveys,” he said. “I’m also here for that parent who maybe doesn’t participate in any of those things. Maybe they don’t feel they have the tools or social capital to come to a board meeting or write an email to me. I value you even if I’m not hearing from you, because all stakeholders deserve a voice in the educational program of our students.”
As the executive officer of the Houston district’s office of talent, Bryantt has helped increase teachers’ starting pay and recruited teachers of color by subsidizing tuition. At the news conference, he said he’s eager to learn how to attract and retain teachers in Anchorage.
“The Houston way isn’t necessarily the Anchorage way,” he said.
Corey Aist, president of the Anchorage Education Association teachers union, said he looks forward to working with Bryantt to address ongoing staffing shortages.
“[We] hope that Dr. Bryantt is going to bring some new ideas, some new energy and new perspective to solving the challenges we’re all facing,” he said.
Bryantt said he’s excited to move to Anchorage, a city with some similarities to Houston.
“We have so many cultures represented in the city of Anchorage, and that’s what I love about Houston,” he said. “I think that within Anchorage, that same diversity and that same kind of independent spirit is something that really speaks to my heart.”
Bryantt was also a finalist this year for the superintendent position at the Oregon City School District. Last year, he was a finalist for the same position at the Salt Lake City School District.
According to his resume, Bryantt has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University and a doctorate and master’s in education from the University of Texas at Austin.
In 2021, Forbes named him one of 50 champions of communities of color and in 2019 the magazine named him in its “30 Under 30” for education.
Bishop announced last year that she would retire in June after six years as superintendent of Alaska’s largest school district. She’s led the district through the 2018 earthquake and the first two years of the pandemic.
“I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities working with exceptional people, and I’m very grateful for it,” Bishop said on Thursday.
Bryantt has a three-year contract with the district and he’ll work with Bishop to ensure a smooth transition, Bellamy wrote in an announcement on Thursday. His salary will be the same as Bishop’s, at $250,000.