Fayetteville Superintendent reflects on history-making career

John L. Colbert will retire on June 30, 2023 after 47 years with Fayetteville Public Schools, including his final five years as superintendent.

Fayetteville, Arkansas — Fayetteville Superintendent John L Colbert, Ed.D. is retiring at the end of the school year. He has been an educator for nearly 50 years and has made history within the school district.

Ahead of his retirement, 5NEWS took a look at his illustrious career and the legacy he left behind.

“Forty-seven years ago, I was hired as a special education teacher at Bates Elementary School,” said Colbert.

Colbert began working at Fayetteville Public Schools in 1975 and spent most of his career in the district, rising from the classroom to administrative positions.

“As you can see, I gave it my all to the teachers, the principal, the primary school curriculum, and all the support staff, including parents, cafeteria workers, etc.,” Colbert said.

Colbert became superintendent in 2018 after his predecessor was fired amid scandal and controversy.

“I felt really good coming here and getting that trust from all the staff, the community and everyone. It really made a difference. It was,” said Colbert.

That trust is Colbert’s proudest achievement, One Fayetteville A vision, uniting employees, families and communities in all districts.

“We are one team with the same goals, aiming to make a difference for all children, and that is my little philosophy. I’m trying,” said Colbert. .

The past five years have seen challenges such as a global pandemic.

“It was a big challenge, but we did it. We did it. We left the door open so we didn’t have to close it and made sure the teachers and the kids were safe,” Colbert said. said.

COVID-19 has brought many firsts and many lessons.

“I think we make sure that we keep that line of communication open and transparent. I think we need to,” Colbert said.

That transparency is his greatest advice to successors.

“And be honest and forthright and make sure the students come first. That’s why we’re here,” Colbert said.

Some of these students will be educated at John L. Colbert Middle School, the district’s newest building on Rupple Road.

“Oh my god. It’s just-I’m speechless. In fact, every time I think about it,” Colbert said.

In October 2022, Colbert unveiled the school’s new mascot. This mascot was chosen by students and teachers from a list of choices submitted by the community. They become known as cobras.

Despite his excitement about what the future holds for the retired district and for himself, Colbert says the transition will be bittersweet.

“Not only was I the first African American to serve as superintendent, but I was also the first superintendent to be promoted from education to superintendent level. It’s an honor. It’s an honor,” Colbert said. .

The school board is searching for the district’s next superintendent, hoping someone will be hired before Colbert retires in June 2023.

In the meantime, the district plans to cut the ribbon on the new middle school in mid-June and open it to students in August 2023. Colbert says he wants to pick up Cobra’s first class at the new building.

To watch an extended version of Colbert’s interview with 5NEWS anchor Erika Thomas, download the free 5+ app for Roku or Fire TV.

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