TN Department of Education Names New Assistant Commissioners

Friday, September 19, 2008 | 09:50 am

NASHVILLE - Education Commissioner Timothy Webb announced today the appointment of Dr. Connie J. Smith as Assistant Commissioner of Accountability, Teaching and Learning and Mr. Bruce Opie as Assistant Commissioner of Legislation and Policy.

Dr. Smith will now oversee the Office of Curriculum and Instruction, previously lead by Susie Bunch, in addition to the Division of Accountability. Mr. Opie will oversee all legislative issues for the department in addition to assuming oversight of regulatory functions including teacher licensure, recruitment and professional development.

“For many years these individuals have demonstrated a firm commitment to education in Tennessee,” Commissioner Webb said. “As we streamline our department to better serve school districts and families, I know that these new Assistant Commissioners will succeed in providing the support and direction necessary to improve education for all children.”

Dr. Smith has served in education for over 30 years, first as a special education teacher in Tullahoma, Tenn., then as a special education supervisor in Wilson County and as a principal in New York City. For the past fifteen years, she has worked for the state Department of Education developing the statewide School Improvement Planning Process, transforming the state’s accountability system, and combining state approval and regional accreditation practices.  Most recently, Dr. Smith was the Executive Director for Assessment and Accountability. She has her Baccalaureate and Masters degrees from Tennessee Tech University, an Ed.S. degree in Psychology and Special Education from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in New York City.
“I am honored to serve Tennessee at this critical time,” Assistant Commissioner Smith said. “Under Governor Bredesen’s leadership we are implementing greater accountability in education, more challenging assessments, and have revised our curriculum standards to provide graduates with the tools to succeed after graduation.”

Mr. Opie has also spent more than 30 years in education. He served as a classroom teachers and administrator in Montgomery County Schools for nine years, during which time he was awarded the DAR Tennessee History Teacher of the Year. He joined the state Department of Education in 1985 and has served as the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, helped to develop the Exemplary Educator program, and served as Director of Legislation, acting as a liaison with the Tennessee General Assembly. He holds a Masters degree in Education Administration and a Bachelors of Science from Austin Peay State University.

“Governor Bredesen has truly demonstrated that education is the number one priority of this state,” said Assistant Commissioner Opie. “I am excited to take on this new responsibility and to continue to advocate for students across Tennessee.”

For more information, contact Rachel Woods at (615) 253-1960 or