Local officials react to Perry’s planned resignation

Local officials expressed shock Monday after hearing about the pending resignation of Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent.

Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain said it will be a loss for schools.

“The Hamblen County school system is losing a strong leader,” Brittain said. “Dr. Perry and I work closely together and have developed a good working relationship. He is passionate about public education and will be an asset wherever he goes.”

Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney agreed.

“I’m very disappointed to see that,” Chesney said. “I was surprised to see that and I don’t know what brought the decision about.”

Perry announced Saturday that he would be resigning at the end of the school year and looking to move out west. He first sent an email to Hamblen County school board members about his decision.

Perry came on board to the Hamblen County school system in 2018 after serving as superintendent at two different school systems in Colorado and two different school systems in his home state of Virginia.

He has also served recently on the Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force, where he drew praise from other members as being a lead voice during the pandemic and serving as spokesman.

“I’m really sad,” Dr. Shahin Assadnia, school board member, said. “I’m in a state of shock and disappointed also. I feel like our school system has went through a tough time. It was a tough year. But his leadership guided us through it.”

Assadnia said he was happy with the direction that the school system had been taking over the last four years under Perry.

“Unfortunately, he wanted a unanimous board to give him support in his leadership and there were board members who did not agree with his style and he felt he did not have unanimous support to go with his direction,” he said.

Assadnia said it’s a loss for the community.

“It is a great loss,” he said. “We recruited a high quality leader who got along with community members, staff, administration and most of the board.”

Former state Commissioner of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and former County Mayor David Purkey has worked closely with Perry on the Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force.

“He was a valuable member and is when it came to strategic planning and offering a very practical appraisal in the situation we were in,” Purkey said. “His voice will be missed.”

Chesney echoed those statements.

“He’s been a real asset not only to the school system and also workforce development, but his leadership during the pandemic,” Chesney said.

Other community members also expressed disappointment.

“Dr. Perry has had the children’s best interests at heart,” Carolina Jarnagin, founder and president of Food on Foot, said. “He has worked so well to make sure that the kids have what they needed.”

Hamblen County Commissioner Howard Shipley, chairman of the commission, said Monday he was “surprised and disappointed” to hear of Perry’s decision.

“I certainly have appreciated the job he’s done as director of schools and I also appreciate the work he’s done with the County Commission,” Shipley said.

He said Perry always made sure commissioners were well informed and well educated about the going on with the school system. The County Commission acts as the funding body for the school system.

“I think it’s unfortunate, but we have to move forward,” Shipley said.