Your experience in education spans nearly 30 years and includes serving as a classroom teacher, dean of students at the high school level, head coach and assistant principal at the middle school level, principal at the middle and high school level, and are currently serving your sixth year as the elected Superintendent of Walton County School District (WCSD). Of all the positions you have held in public education which has been the most rewarding and why?
Of all the positions I have held in public education, the role of Superintendent has been the most rewarding because it has given me the opportunity to interact and positively impact more children in one day than I would have had the chance to as a principal, teacher, or even Dean of Students. My joy lies in interacting with students and it’s the building of relationships through these interactions that provides continuous motivation for doing all we can, every day, to make a difference in as many lives as possible, knowing there will forever be students who need us.
Given the depth of breadth of the positions you have held in the public education realm, was there a defining moment when you decided to run for school superintendent, recognizing that you could best serve your community in that role?
I can’t say there was a defining moment. When I started out all I ever truly wanted to be was a teacher. However, as I progressed from teacher to principal, I came to the realization of the importance of building successful practices, high expectations, and creating effective culture at the school level. There was a point 10 years into my principalship that the systems were so strong, common place, and the way of life, that I was almost on Auto Pilot. I realized I was NOT being challenged career wise and I knew there was a greater calling I had to answer to meet the needs of more students, schools, and communities.
Was there an individual that encouraged you to pursue the superintendency?
Yes, the previous Superintendent of Schools, Mrs. Carlene Anderson. Mrs. Anderson was closing out her successful tenure and wanted to be certain the district would remain in good, effective, caring hands to further the achievements that had been made during her three terms. Another individual was my wife who felt that the strategies, practices and systems I had created for schools as principal would benefit schools district wide.
While serving as WCSD Superintendent, the district has been designated by the State Board of Education as an academically high performing school district and back-to-back “A” district. And for 2021-22 the district was third in the state for assessments and grades, and one of only four districts to have only “A” and/or “B” schools. What key initiatives has the district implemented under your leadership that can be attributed to this continued positive trajectory of academic success?
The key initiatives that have been implemented since I became Superintendent are providing teachers, leaders, staff, and school administrators with the resources, tools, guidance, and training needed to foster a culture of high expectations without excuses at all levels. One of the most powerful initiatives is EPIC Day, which starts off our year with teachers leading teachers in best practices, strategies, and tools of the trade that are content area specific.
In one of your recent superintendent monthly video updates, you mention that WCSD is focused on being EPIC – Excellent Professional Innovative Collaborative. Can you share more about the EPIC concept and how that is implemented throughout the district?
Simply put, EPIC is the lens through which we view our work, our students, our roles, and our mandate to the profession and the responsibility we have to our students and communities. It is “The Way” we work at every level!
What do you feel is the most challenging barrier at this time in meeting the educational needs of students in your district?
The biggest barrier to meeting our educational needs is the implied falsities that schools are an enemy to American values, causing effective teachers, leaders, and Superintendents to leave the profession they love at a rate never seen before and deterring potentially great educators from entering this worthwhile, necessary and most important profession.
What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing public education as a whole?
I can say without reservation that the teacher shortage is the most pressing issue facing public education.
If you had the ability to change one thing in the realm of public education – what would that be?
If I had a magic wand, I would want to see educators and education treated with respect, and all stakeholders working together in partnership sharing the responsibility of upholding the importance of education as a profession!
Any additional comments & thoughts you would like to share?
It is an honor to be asked to share this information by an organization that has been a difference maker for me since becoming a Superintendent in 2016. I never thought that Superintendents across the state would become my family, friends, and close acquaintances, as the demands of this position and the “daily grind” requires me to intentionally focus on all that is going on in the district, but it is true. FADSS has created an atmosphere and opportunity for me to establish lifelong relationships with some of the most phenomenal and incredible people I have ever met, and I would have missed out on such a blessing if I would NOT have had the chance to get to know each of you in a personal and professional manner. Thanks for enriching my life by allowing me to be a small part in the lives of such extraordinary professionals who love children. God bless each of you who work in this profession and make a difference in the lives of children on a daily basis; it’s worth the fight! Get On-Go On!!!!!!