Dr. Denise Watts was appointed the 25th Superintendent of Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools in a Special Called Board Meeting on June 15, 2023. Dr. Watts will begin her new role on July 1, 2023.
Board members offered their congratulations and best wishes to Dr. Watts, as they extolled the virtues of her predecessor, Dr. Ann Levett. “I believe you've got the qualifications to build on the progress that Dr. Levett has made," said Dr. Tonia Howard-Hall, District Eight Board Representative. Dr. Levett gave the new superintendent a warm welcome and pledged her support “…from a different seat."
Board president Roger Moss called for the vote and afterwards said “This is what teamwork looks like. It's unanimous!" He then called Dr. Watts to the podium for remarks.
“I am honored and excited about the privilege of being able to serve as Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools next superintendent. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the board for your vote of confidence, your words today and providing me an opportunity to serve," said Dr. Watts. “I look forward to working with each of you to attain the mission, vision and goals of the students. I promise and commit to you that each and every day, I will rise in the morning and give you 100% to deliver on the promise of a quality education for the students we serve."
Denise Watts was most recently Chief of Schools in the Houston Independent School District, where she managed magnet schools, supervised principals and oversaw innovation and strategy for over 194,000 students in 274 schools. Prior to this, she was the Chief of District Support for the University of Virginia's Partnership for Leaders in Education. In this role, she worked to assist school districts from around the country in efforts to improve student outcomes through innovation and best practice.
Formerly, Watts was the leader of Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment for Transformation) for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, L.I.F.T. sought to accelerate student achievement in up to 29 schools serving the district's most educationally and economically disadvantaged students. Under her leadership, Project L.I.F.T. schools were among the first in the nation to implement Opportunity Culture, a model that leverages district support systems to re-design career pathways and compensation to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students within budget. This strategy yielded a positive impact on student achievement as well as the recruitment, retention and development of teachers in Project L.I.F.T. schools.
Dr. Watts was North Carolina's NASSP Middle Level Principal of the Year in 2008. In her first year as a principal, she led Mint Hill Middle School to be a National School to Watch. In 2019, she was also tapped for Strategic Staffing, CMS's nationally recognized turnaround initiative that placed top leaders and teachers in its most challenged schools.