Savannah-Chatham Board of Education announces sole finalist for superintendent position

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System has announced a single finalist in its superintendent search.

Denise Watts, an educator who spent time in North Carolina and Texas, was named as the sole candidate to replace M. Ann Levett, who is retiring this summer after six years in the top-ranking role.

"The Board is confident that Dr. Watts is the right leader to build upon and accelerate the progress made under retiring Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett," a press release from the district reads.

Denise Watts

Watts is currently serving as Chief of Schools for the Houston Independent School District, which serves nearly 200,000 students across 274 schools. Savannah-Chatham serves about 36,000 students.

Superintendent Ann Levett: I'm leaving Savannah-Chatham schools 'well prepared' for future

"Within her first year she helped reduce the number of low-rated schools from 48 in 2021 to 11 in 2022 and implemented systems and conditions that fostered improvements across all schools in the district," the SCCPSS release said of her time in Houston.

Wednesday, the same day as SCCPSS' announcement, the Houston ISD was taken over by the state of Texas after a four-year legal battle between conservative politicians and leadership of the urban school district — the state's largest, according to The Houston Chronicle.

Watts' resignation comes amid several other top district administrators and the superintendent's firing, according to The Chronicle. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) seized control of the district on May 31.

SCCPSS superintendent Ann Levett talked about her legacy during a press conference announcing her retirement at the end of the school year.

Watts also worked in higher education for the University of Virginia, where she assisted school districts in improving student achievement. Prior to that she was a principal in Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools.

Watts has been a teacher, coach, principal, consultant and top-level administrator during her 20-year career, according to the district's bio. She beat out 48 other applicants for the job ― her appointment will be voted on by the SCCPSS Board of Education before the end of June.

"Her passion for ensuring that all students are successful and can lead choice-filled lives, regardless of their circumstances, while also ensuring that teachers and staff have the support they need, aligns with the School Board’s vision to ensure that all students are prepared to be successful and productive citizens and mission to ignite and foster lifelong learning at the highest levels for all," the press release concludes.

Zoe Nicholson is the investigative reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach her at

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah-Chatham Public Schools names sole finalist for superintendent