When students return to Nashville's Pearl-Cohn High School in the fall, they will have a new principal. Metro school officials have hired Dr. Milton Threadcraft from Jacksonville, Fla., to lead the North Nashville school.
"So far every teacher I've met is saying you're our savior and you're what we needed," Threadcraft said.
Threadcraft likens himself to actor Morgan Freeman in the movie 'Lean on Me.' In the film, Freeman played a radical but effective principal at an inner-city high school.
"He was only a principal for a year and a half in the movie. I've been a principal for 35 years," Threadcraft said.
He said he knows it will take tough love to turn around Pearl-Cohn. It's a school that's seen violence including a shooting last year which injured an innocent bystander. Low graduation rates, attendance and test scores are also major concerns district leaders have.
Recent test data from the Department of Education show just 22 percent of Pearl Cohn's students are proficient in math and 33 percent in reading.
Threadcraft said, "They've been led to believe by doing poorly on the standardized tests that the curriculum would be sort of watered down and they can through and do what they want to do and still graduate. We're going to change that."
Metro school leaders hired Threadcraft from Florida and brought him out of retirement.
His reputation for turning around struggling schools is why he's being put at Pearl-Cohn.
Threadcraft said he is planning big changes right away. He plans to create an active parent and teacher association, start a national honor society and relax the school's dress code. He said last year, there were more than 2,000 suspensions issued in the freshman class and most were related to dress code infractions.
In schools he previously led, Threadcraft was known to give away cars and iPads to students with perfect attendance. He said he's willing to do whatever it takes to keep children in school.
"With the community's support, I have no doubt in my mind we're going to be able to turn this school around in short order," he said.