Dr. James Vince Witty is the v-Executive Principal of MNPS Virtual School—Tennessee’s first public virtual school. Witty is a servant leader with an unwavering growth mindset. He is an instructional leader who maintains the highest expectations while caring for and valuing all v-students, v-parents, and v-teachers. James is noted as an artist, creator, DYIer, inventor, teacher, principal, and designer of instruction. More, Dr. Witty is a passionate education reformer, an innovator, and a life-long learner. Presented below is additional information on Dr. James Vince Witty’s academic, work, and life experiences that foster his love for teaching and learning.
At a young age, James learned that education was a means to beat the poverty he experienced during childhood. Driven to overcome life’s circumstances, Witty attended Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree and a Master of Business Education (M.B.E.) degree. James is also a proud graduate of The University of Tennessee (UT) with a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree in Learning and Leadership. Dr. Witty’s dissertation, “Tennessee Practitioner Perceptions of the Construct, Content, and Utility of Exemplary Practices in Alternative Education: Indicators of Quality Programming for Use as an Evaluation Instrument,” is considered groundbreaking research in the field of alternative education. Further, Witty is the primary author of “Exemplary Practices in Alternative Education: Indicators of Quality Programming”—as published by the National Alternative Education Association (NAEA).
Recently, James earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degree from Nashville School of Law (NSL) with specific legal research in educational law and policy. Upon graduating from Nashville School of Law (NSL), Dr. James Vince Witty was appointed to the School’s Academic Excellence Taskforce by former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice and new Dean, William C. Koch. The Taskforce was established to increase student achievement and passage on the Tennessee Bar Examination. In this capacity, Dr. Witty authored an instrumental and guiding document entitled “Innovative Practices in Legal Teaching and Learning: An Executive Brief for Dean Koch.” Numerous outlined practices have now been adopted by Nashville School of Law (NSL). Most recently, Witty passed the Tennessee Bar Examination and is a current, licensed, practicing attorney in the State of Tennessee.
As an instructional leader, Dr. James Vince Witty has vast experience in both traditional and nontraditional learning working with students, teachers, and families as a teacher, principal, district leader, and state director. His career in education, however, was anything but planned. At the age of eighteen (18) years old, James began working with school age youth as an afterschool teacher for the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) of Middle Tennessee. In this role, Dr. Witty quickly developed a passion for teaching and realized the ability of learning to change his life and the lives of his students. With this mission, James began his formal career at Bradley School for the Arts—within the Murfreesboro City Schools (MCS) district. As an instructional leader for Murfreesboro City Schools (MCS), he was ultimately recruited to serve as Director for Extended Learning. Dr. Witty has since been regarded as an expert in out-of-school (i.e., extended and afterschool) learning.
Recognized as an innovative leader, Dr. Witty was tapped by the Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE) to serve as the Director for the Center for Dropout Prevention and Alternative Education—creating and launching the entity for the Department. Here, James worked with stakeholders, state-wide, advocating for the eventual adoption of The Public Virtual Schools Act by the Tennessee General Assembly. While in this role, he served as Executive Secretary for the Governor’s Advisory Council for Alternative Education acting in this capacity under Governor Phil Bredesen and Governor Bill Haslam. During this same time, at the national level, Witty was elected and served as Vice-President of the National Alternative Education Association (NAEA). Further, in Tennessee, he was elected and served as Vice-President of the Tennessee Alternative Education Association (TAEA). Witty’s tenure with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) is distinguished by many, lasting, achievements. For instance, in 2011 he authored a Federal Safe and Supportive School (S3) Grant proposing to measure school climate in all Tennessee schools. The Tennessee Department of Education was one of only eleven states awarded a grant with a total award amount of $13,208,284. School climate is now measured in all Tennessee schools and part of the state’s accountability framework.
Before joining MNPS Virtual School in 2012, Dr. James Vince Witty managed educational reform initiatives for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) system as the Race to the Top Grant Manager. As the first v-Executive Principal of MNPS Virtual School, he adopted and implemented the continuous improvement model aimed at increasing student achievement amidst exponentially increasing enrollment. Adopting a school-wide growth mindset, Virtual School’s Executive Leadership Team and faculty are credited with such innovations as: crafting school board policies for virtual learning, to include performance-based teacher pay and student performance equated to attendance, establishing a foundation for virtual teaching and learning, creating extensive teacher and student support systems and interventions, opening the Thomas W. Hatfield Student Success Center, launching The Virtual Academy of Business and Technology, actualizing a Virtual Teacher Leadership Institute, establishing and operating a virtual summer success (i.e., school) program, building and deploying new, innovative, online courses, as well as many other advancements in online teaching and learning. Under Dr. Witty’s leadership, MNPS Virtual School also obtained National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility, as well as earned the prestigious AdvancED accreditation designation.
During his first year as v-Executive Principal (2012-2013), MNPS Virtual School realized the highest average percentage point gain in all End-of-Course (EOC) subject areas for the entire Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) system—with an average net gain of 23.18 percentage points. During the 2013-2014 school year, MNPS Virtual School’s English I students were the highest achieving learners, in the district, for that subject. Several other academic accolades, based upon student achievement, have also been celebrated during Witty’s tenure. More, Virtual School has one of the highest school climate and culture ratings, based upon v-teacher and v-student perception data, within the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) district. MNPS Virtual School is now known as the highest-achieving virtual school in the state of Tennessee and a leader in the field.
As an educational leader and advocate, Dr. Witty has experienced many opportunities to serve Tennessee’s students and families. As a principal in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) system, James currently serves on the district’s Executive Principal Advisory Council—appointed by Director of Schools, Dr. Shawn Joseph. He also served two (2) consecutive terms on Tennessee's AdvancED Advisory Council helping schools, in our state, earn accreditation status through exemplary practices in continuous school improvement. Most recently, Dr. Witty was appointed by Tennessee's Commissioner of Education, Dr. Candice McQueen, to serve on the state’s Personalized Learning Task Force—created to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, and cultural backgrounds of Tennessee’s students. In July, Witty was named a 2017 Nashville Emerging Leader Award (NELA) finalist. Dr. Witty is proud of the hard work of his faculty, staff, and v-student-scholars, as well as the commitment of supportive v-parents and strategic partners.