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 Smackover-Norphlet 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.”
Michael Shine may be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook @MichaelAZShine for updates on Union County school news.