News release from state Department of Education:
NASHVILLE – Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman today is pleased to announce Dr. Kathleen Airhart as the department of education’s new deputy commissioner, and Dr. Danielle Mezera as the assistant commissioner of career and technical education.
Airhart currently serves as director of schools in Putnam County, and Mezera is the director of the Nashville Mayor’s Office of Children and Youth.
“Dr. Airhart has been a visionary leader in Putnam, implementing far-reaching reforms during her tenure as director,” Huffman said.
Airhart, who has served as director of schools in Putnam County since 2007, recently was named the 2012 Tennessee Superintendent of the Year. She previously held several positions in Putnam County, including classroom teacher and supervisor for special education. She earned a B.A. in agricultural natural resources management from Tennessee Technological University, followed by an M.A., Ed.S. and Ed.D. in curriculum and development. In her new role, Airhart will oversee many of the department’s external relations, as well as a new Academic Division, which will encompass three sub-divisions, each led by an assistant commissioner.
“I have dedicated my life to educating students in Tennessee, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue this work at the state level,” Airhart said. “I look forward to working with Commissioner Huffman and his team and with the directors of schools across Tennessee. It’s an exciting time to be in education.”
Huffman said Mezera’s broad range of experiences will be an asset to the state.
“Dr. Mezera has spent the past years bringing together the business, education and political communities in Nashville, and will bring great leadership to the department of education,” he said.
Before serving as Nashville Mayor Karl Dean’s chief education adviser, Mezera served as coordinator for Children and Youth Services for Metro Social Services. Prior to her work in public service, she served as director of the Vanderbilt University Community Outreach Partnership Center at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies. In addition to her professional work, she has been a guest lecturer at Vanderbilt University and has given several talks nationally on education reform. Mezera holds a B.A. in elementary education, a M.Ed. in higher education administration, and a Ph.D. in education and human development.
“A strong, relevant career and technical education program is critical not only for our overall education system and for our students, but it is also critical for the long-term economic health of our state,” Mezera said. “The two must be looked at with the same goals in mind.”
Both appointments will be effective Jan. 1, 2012.