On an October afternoon in 2012, Haliday Douglas was surprised by a call from a headhunter floating a job for which Douglas seemingly had no background or experience. Though Douglas was living in Chicago, the opening was in Tennessee, managing the state educator licensing office within the state education agency. Earlier that year, Douglas had obtained a Master of Education at Harvard University, concentrating in education policy and management. As his University of Chicago fellowship in charter school performance and curriculum was coming to a close and he was curious about the Tennessee job, Douglas drove to Nashville.
The six Tennessee education department leaders assembled to interview him explained the job was to turn around the state’s educator licensure program. The job was urgent, the education commissioner said, because the agency’s failure to license educators quickly and efficiently was causing multiple problems. Until the office’s big backlog in licenses was eliminated, the Tennessee board of education was threatening to not allow the education department to change license protocol to comply with a new state law mandating annual classroom evaluations for teachers. Furthermore, the backlog was exacerbating Tennessee’s teacher shortage and every year the state had to hire teachers with emergency waivers.
The interviewers warned Douglas that the licensure agency was the holding bin where people no longer needed were put until they retired. The message was loud and clear: Tennessee’s educator licensure program was failing because its team was incompetent. How long had the program been backlogged, Douglas wanted to know. Forever, was the answer.
Douglas signed on, delighted. “It was a hot mess and I’m very much attracted to hot messes.”
Suggested Citation: Gwen Kinkead and Edward H. Kaplan, "Tennessee Licensure Agency," Yale Case 22-013, May 2, 2022.