It’s ironic I’m asked to write for #LOUDwomen in 2019. I just completed my 25th year in education and most of that has been in an administrative role either as an assistant principal, principal, assistant commissioner of education or superintendent. I’ve spent much of my life using my voice to get a seat at the table; now I tend to use a softer voice to encourage women entering the field to go big. I’m pleased to submit an article for this website, created by a strong young lady reaching out to other young women, encouraging them to find their own voices.
I found my voice as a high school junior when I ran for Student Council President. I had to give a speech to the entire school. Propelled by the fact that I had lost the race for student council to my best friend in 6th grade, I was only more determined to be the Stuco President. And I was. I began my career as an English teacher/mother/student all at once. My three children shared me with my studies as I pursued a master’s degree and then a doctorate. All three of my kids are now successful graduates who happen to be especially independent in their thoughts and deeds.
I had phenomenal experiences as assistant principal, principal and Assistant Superintendent in PCSSD and Bryant. Serving as an Assistant Commissioner at the Arkansas Department of Education was truly insightful as I learned how legislation is created, defeated and how government and politics really work. I left the ADE to move to Bentonville as the Deputy Superintendent. I had always wanted to live in NWA. Little did I know, I still had life lessons to learn.
Shortly after I arrived in February of 2016, the former superintendent, Mike Poore, accepted the head job in Little Rock. I served as interim superintendent and worked the sideline as the board opened a national search. I was sure they were looking for a man to fill the role and a man who came from outside of Arkansas. I relied on my bias which was simply my experience of the way things worked in larger school districts. I didn’t apply for the Bentonville Schools job. The very day I planned tours for the two final national candidates, our Board President left executive session, called me over with the bend of his finger and said, “We want to offer you the job. Will you accept?” I immediately accepted, then questioned my own actions. If I really wanted this job, why did I not apply?
I had the skills. I wasn’t afraid of the work. I knew I could do the job. I knew my experiences better prepared me for the job than any of the other candidates.
So, why? Listen up, ladies. This next part is important. Don’t rely on history to determine your future. Don’t rely on the statistics. You’re unique and different and you have to change the future by forgetting the past.
You may wonder, if I have learned from my lesson. I have and I use this lesson everyday by not measuring my success or decisions by what other “superintendents” do or would do. I work with my team as we blaze the path to excellence for Bentonville Schools. Certainly, the authority granted to me by this role displays a loud voice, but I prefer to quietly ask the next generation to step up, find their voice and lead us to a better future.
-Debbie Jones, E.d.D.