In­com­ing Smack­over-Nor­phlet su­per­in­ten­dent plans to fo­cus on stu­dents

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Michael Shine Staff Writer

For Ja­son Black, the goal of ed­u­ca­tion is to put the stu­dents first.

Black, who is cur­rently di­rec­tor of spe­cial fed­eral pro­grams with the Hallsville In­de­pen­dent School District in Texas, was voted unan­i­mously by the Smack­over-Nor­phlet school board to take over as su­per­in­ten­dent start­ing in the 2019-20 school year.

He said he got in­ter­ested in the Smack­over area af­ter com­ing camp­ing in Arkansas over the past few years. He also grew up nearby in Shreveport be­fore at­tend­ing col­lege at Louisiana Tech. Black also got his su­per­in­ten­dent cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in Texarkana.

“We re­ally re­ally fell in love with Arkansas area with the rivers, steams, lakes, camp­grounds, state parks,” He said. “I’ve had a cou­ple of friends who have been su­per­in­ten­dents in Arkansas. We heard re­ally good things about the area as far as bring­ing up fam­ily in a small town, hav­ing a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties while also hav­ing that small town feel to it and that small town charm.”

Black, who is the fa­ther of three, said he plans to draw on ev­ery­thing from his back­ground in his new po­si­tion. He has served as a ju­nior high school prin­ci­pal at two school dis­tricts in Texas, an el­e­men­tary school prin­ci­pal and a coach. Black is also a former Marine.

“From when I was a young man com­ing through high school, coaches, teach­ers, folks that never gave up on me when I was go­ing through some ad­verse times,” he said. “When I was in the Marine Corp, around the best lead­ers I think this county has to of­fer. I learned a lot there. Then com­ing up through the ranks of ed­u­ca­tion, be­ing around teach­ers. The plan­ning that goes into it, the de­ter­mi­na­tion and the grit to stay with it when there’s go­ing to be tough times ahead. Build­ing those re­la­tion­ships, meet­ing peo­ple from all walks of life and be­ing able to find a com­mon goal to get things done the way they need to be done for the kids.”

Black said he’s al­ready started mak­ing his first moves through con­ver­sa­tions with

mem­bers of the school board and the fo­cus groups he met with dur­ing his in­ter­view process. The groups in­cluded stu­dents, teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors such as prin­ci­pals and cen­tral of­fice staff. He said these groups helped set the stage for some meet­ings he wants to have to go back and dis­cuss what they were look­ing for, good ar­eas, and ar­eas to grow. Along with that, Black said he’s ob­serv­ing and work­ing on learn­ing about the com­mu­nity.

How­ever, he’s anx­ious to get into the area and start ask­ing ques­tions.

“Do­ing ev­ery­thing that we can to put our kids in the best pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion to be suc­cess­ful in life,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of tra­di­tions in Smack­overNor­phlet and I just want to come in and be a part of that and just keep it go­ing and im­prove where we can.”

For his first year on the job, Black said he plans on build­ing re­la­tion­ships. Black said that part of it is mak­ing sure he takes time to lis­ten and learn about the schools as well as fig­ur­ing out what ar­eas the schools are do­ing well in and what the ar­eas are that they could be do­ing bet­ter.

Go­ing for­ward, Black said he wants to look into things and fo­cus on stu­dent en­roll­ment.

“We’re go­ing to look into a few sit­u­a­tions,” he said. “As far as our stu­dent en­roll­ment, we want our kids and our district to feel like Smack­over-Nor­phlet is the place to be and the school that they want to go to. We want them to feel like they can get just as good of an ed­u­ca­tion com­ing to our school and our district as they can go­ing any­where in Arkansas. So one of my first goals is go­ing to be to come in and look at any of those num­bers, I don’t think we’re look­ing at any­thing sub­stan­tial, but I just want to make sure that ev­ery­one who lives within our bound­aries feel re­ally good about our district.”

When it comes to Black’s phi­los­o­phy on ed­u­ca­tion, he said it’s all about the stu­dents and en­cour­ag­ing a good work ethic.

“The kids come first. Ev­ery de­ci­sion we make, we’ve got to make it on the pref­ace that ‘is this de­ci­sion what’s go­ing to be best for our kids long term? Is it go­ing to pre­pare them for a fu­ture that makes them the best in­di­vid­ual they can be af­ter they make it through our school sys­tem?’” he said. “I’m big on if you have a re­ally good work ethic and you have a good at­ti­tude and you know how to work as a team, there’s no bound­aries to what you can ob­tain.

“I re­ally try not to over com­pli­cate things. I want to make it to where our kids un­der­stand what our ex­pec­ta­tions are and that if they will work hard to meet those ex­pec­ta­tions, we’re go­ing to be there for them when they get into some ad­ver­sity and we’re go­ing to be a team to over­come it and get it done.”

Black

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