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Tennessee Department of Education names new communications chief

Ashley Ball, who has served as chief spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education during one of its most tumultuous years, is leaving her job and will be replaced by one of her colleagues.

Sara Gast, who joined the department last fall, will be its new director of strategic communications and media after Ball’s last day on Aug. 1.

A Vanderbilt University graduate, Gast worked for the U.S. Department of Education for more than five years in various communication roles.

Ashley Ball
Ashley Ball

Ball is moving from Nashville to Minneapolis for personal reasons. She is a former television reporter and Teach For America corps member who began working for the Tennessee Department of Education in 2013.

In March of 2015, Ball became the department’s communications chief, just before Tennessee transitioned to its new standardized test known as TNReady. She served as the department’s primary contact for news reporters covering this year’s failed online launch of TNReady and its eventual cancellation, along with other education issues facing the state.

The department also has named Katy Schmitt its new communications director to work with school districts and educators. Schmitt previously has served as deputy director of internal communications.

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