Maryville's Jarnagin named state principal of the year

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By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

Five years ago when Ken Jarnagin left Bearden High School and began his job as principal at Maryville High School, one of the first things he did was fish.

Not in the traditional sense. Jarnagin brought the ideas behind "Fish," a book by Lundin Paul Christensen that describes how
fish market workers in Boston chose to change their attitudes and become the best fish market workers ever.

"The book is focused on making the best of any work environment you’re in," he said. By only ordering about 40 copies of the books for required staff reading, he also encouraged the teachers to share books in order to take part in the mandatory group discussions.

Jarnagin also created a policy of opening up the books for teachers so they knew about budgetary items and other aspects of the school operation. Planning issues were placed on calendars on the conference room walls. This allowed staff to have input on the where and when of activities involving staff and students.

On April 10 Jarnagin was named 2007 High School State Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

While excited about the honor, Jarnagin was quick to recognize the teachers, students and community. "I think we are in the promised land here," he said.

Jarnagin said the city council has been very proactive in funding the schools. The parents also support the schools in
Maryville, set high expectations for their children and those children "have their nose to the grindstone" to achieve, he said.

The combination of government support and parental support is key to Maryville’s success, he said. "You combine these two
with the kids that come to us, and you have many traits of a prestigious school system," he said.

Students show those high expectations not only in the classroom and but also in athletics, arts and academics, he said.

Jarnagin, 53, said he had been in the Knox County system for 18 years, started out as a band director and had worked his way up to assistant principal at Bearden before Maryville City Schools director Mike Dalton picked him as the new Maryville High School principal. Dalton also nominated him to be on the Tennessee State Department of Education Task Force on High
School Excellence and the State Department of Education High School Reform Committee.

"My boss, Mike Dalton, has been instrumental in positioning me on the commission, and I think put me in the position to be nominated for this," Jarnigan said.

Jarnagin said the old adage of hiring people smarter than you and getting out of their way applies in regards to any success he might have at Maryville High School. "I get a lot of credit for just being associated with this school system," he said.

Dalton said Jarnagin’s award was a well-deserved honor.

"Ken has worked hard at Maryville High School. I think the progress the school has made has indicated we have good leadership at the top," Dalton said. "As Dr. Jarnagin always states, we have a super faculty at Maryville High School and very large group of talented people. Obviously, the success we have is due to a lot of people working together. I think Dr. Jarnigan has been particularly effective in working with people to get the job done."

Jarnagin and his wife, Phyllis, have four children. Their oldest son Chris is 26, son Brandon is 23, daughter Sara is 21 and daughter Caitlin is 18. Jarnagin earned his doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from East Tennessee
State University in 2004.

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