David - School Superintendent

I’m the middle child of five siblings. Dad was the son of a tenant farmer and a pipe-fitter by trade. Mom was mostly a stay-at-home mom but did work as a clerk/typist when we were older. I’m the only educator in the bunch, although one of my sisters is now a professor after her retirement from the communications field. I made my commitment to Christ during a revival week when I was about twelve or thirteen.

I am superintendent of schools for an urban school district, undoubtedly one of the most challenging sets of circumstances for someone in the educational field. I have found my niche in life. Having plenty of important stuff to do energizes me, and believe me, this is place where there is a lot of important stuff to do! In fact, there is no more “important stuff” than impacting the lives and opportunities of youngsters, supporting them in attaining their dreams and aspirations.

I do not remember choosing to enter education. I began college, pursuing electrical engineering as a career. However, I was disappointed that it was so much theory and so little “hands on” experience. I chose Industrial Arts as a major after visiting the shops and seeing all of the tools and machines that I’d be learning about. I started my career in education teaching machine woodworking and mechanical drawing. One thing led to another, and, before long, I found myself in administrative roles in my school setting. It was soon obvious that my talents lay in administration. Leadership opportunities followed, and, before long, I was responsible for educational programs, services, and activities for literally tens of thousands of students. My career path has been unusual. I only taught two years in public schools and one year in a shipyard apprentice program. I’ve never been a principal or an assistant principal. My administrative experience was with a state Department of Education and with universities. I also taught on the faculties at these two institutions as an assistant, associate, and full professor with tenure before getting into local school district leadership. Most superintendents come up “through the ranks” in schools, but I clearly didn’t follow a traditional path.

I have always considered public education a calling and not a career. It takes a special kind of commitment and personality to decide to devote your life to young boys and girls, adolescents, and young adults for what has never been a particularly alluring profession in terms of compensation or recognition or other tangible rewards. I have, nonetheless, been richly blessed as opportunities have been made available to me. I am convinced that only divine intervention guided my steps along the way.

Each assignment brought to me has developed me and developed my experiential base. Each has been a chance to serve as both a role model and mentor for others. The Lord knows I haven’t done everything right or even well, but I have been blessed to be a part of the plan for many, many folks along the way. I can only hope and pray my influence has been meaningful and lasting.

I believe my spiritual gifts are administration and leadership. I wish I could say teaching was one of my spiritual gifts, but it is not. My real contribution has been organizational efficiencies, budget knowledge and expertise, facility planning and improvement, and instructional planning and delivery systems. I also have an ability to get others to understand and accept their responsibilities and deliver on our organizational goals and promises. I am more of a “thing” person than a “people” person, although I work really hard to be sensitive to and aware of the “people” side of my responsibilities. Fortunately, I have been blessed with team members who compensate for the shortcomings I bring to the table.

I have had many opportunities to enter other professional fields, but I don’t believe that is what I was put on earth to do. I believe my assignment is to support and encourage strong and effective public education, assuming increasing responsibility for the preparation of youngsters for a future yet to be defined. It is a challenging assignment, but an important one. I have elected to stay to course.

I often tell people who complain that “God has been thrown out of our schools” that we routinely discipline and often suspend students for lying, cheating, and stealing. We have something in our programs we call “character” education. Although we cannot use our titles as platforms to proselytize or advance our personal religious beliefs, we can and do live our beliefs and model behavior consistent with them as well.

To those just beginning to explore God’s call on their lives, I would give this advice. Don’t rush, and don’t close doors by choosing options or making decisions that limit possibilities. Keep your options open. God’s plan for your life may very well be significantly different from anything you may have contemplated up to this point. One thing is for certain-there is a plan for your life! Follow God’s path for you and enjoy the journey. Each step has value and importance and will contribute to your mission and your ministry.