The leader of a 2-year-old school district in Bartlett is Tennessee’s Superintendent of the Year.

David Stephens received the honor Sunday from the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents during its annual awards banquet in Gatlinburg.

Stephens was deputy superintendent of Shelby County Schools before its merger with Memphis City Schools and played a central role in the 2013 consolidation. After six municipalities split from the newly formed district in 2014, he helped develop Bartlett City Schools with 10 schools and about 9,000 students in the Memphis bedroom community.

Bartlett City Schools had about 8,500 students last year, including 36 percent who are considered economically disadvantaged. Its high school had an ACT composite of 20.5, just up from Tennessee’s average of 19.4 out of a possible 36 for public school students.

By comparison, Shelby County Schools, the state’s largest district, had 116,000 students last year, 80 percent of whom were economically disadvantaged, and an ACT composite of 16.9.

Watch: Stephens sat down with Chalkbeat in 2014 to talk about what he learned from the merger, Bartlett’s plan to become a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) district, and what he would have done differently if he could do the merger over.

The leader of the superintendents group praised Stephens’ focus on professional development and his quick work to establish Bartlett City Schools. “The work that he has done has been exemplary, especially given the fact that he created the district from scratch just a short time ago,” said Wayne Miller, executive director of the statewide organization.

Stephens was selected for the honor from eight regional superintendents of the year:

  • Rebecca Isaacs (Rogersville City), First Tennessee;
  • Jason Vance (Loudon County), East;
  • Bobby Cox (Warren County), Upper Cumberland;
  • Dan Lawson (Tullahoma City), South Central;
  • Don Roberts (Meigs County), Southeast;
  • Mike Davis (Robertson County), Mid-Cumberland; and
  • Randy Frazier (Weakley County), Northwest