It is always an extra blessing when you can work and have fun in a professional position that you enjoy. When I asked Ms. Reecha Black, director of Alamo City Schools, what the most fun thing was about her job she stated, "The children's faces. No Matter what is going on in your life," she continued, "just go visit the kids. My office is on campus, so I have the pleasure of seeing children every day." Not surprisingly, these wonderful students are soaring just like the main character in Ms. Black’s favorite book to read to them, Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss . Exciting things are happening in Alamo City. “Alamo City District does not use textbooks,” states Ms. Black. “Teachers are required to teach each standard three ways and a textbook may be used as one of those tools. We have a 1:1 ratio of student to computers and many online resources are provided for teachers to us in instruction.” Also, the district “is working on full implementation of RTI² for 2014-15 and we are excited about the challenges and opportunities these services will bring to teachers and students.” Ms. Black shares, “Student achievement is high, even though we are almost 70% free/reduced lunch. This is a direct reflection of administrators and teachers constantly striving for excellence, not because of a test score but because of student growth and achievement.”
Reecha Black has been in education thirty plus years, having taught or substituted in every grade. “I have always loved teaching and if asked what I do, I will answer proudly that I am a teacher. I don’t believe that individuals can be taught to teach, it is a gift.” Some of the other gifts stemming from Ms. Black’s involvement in education are the opportunities that come with having a small district. I have my hands on all the data and curriculum. I’m a data freak and I might not know every face, but I know what level they are functioning on and I am in constant communication with administrators and teachers in providing new opportunities for change. Because of the small numbers and rural area, we can provide many different non-educational services for students and their families. We have three different funds established to pay for indigent student/family needs. We work with churches and civic groups to assure that all students have holiday gifts. We purchase glasses, clothing, etc. We attempt to meet all needs of individual students and this would not be possible in larger districts. I meet students I taught or have been through Alamo City District and I can see the difference we have made in their lives.
Not only has Ms. Black been contributing to the Alamo City District as an educator for more than thirty years, she is also director in the town she grew up in. When asked if she believes this is an advantage or a disadvantage, she states, “Yes and no.” She goes on to explain, I love that I have taught many of the students’ parents and know them personally. I know where they live and I can visit them at home or find churches or organizations to help them with many of their needs. The parents and former students know they can ask me for anything. The superintendency is a lonely job and it can be hard when you must make decisions concerning your friends and family. You are with these people in all sorts of circumstances. I have lost friends due to decisions I have made in this position. When putting children first, you consistently have to make decisions especially about hiring/firing that are not popular.
It seems that Ms. Black has learned healthy ways to integrate the positive and the more challenging aspects of being a superintendent. When asked about any advice or tips she may have for new directors she states, when you walk out the door, to the best of your ability, leave it there. Let it go. You cannot physically or emotionally survive if you take the problems and situations with you. The responsibility of students, parents, and teachers is overwhelming and will control your existence in every way, if you allow it to do so. At the beginning of my role as superintendent, my Dad told me to remember that if I didn’t return to tomorrow, school will still go on, the district is bigger than one person. The role of superintendent is a lonely place. You need to form relationships with other superintendents. There will be times when they are the ones to whom you will turn for support and advice. Don’t be afraid to ‘borrow’ great ideas and bounce things off of others. There will always be something happening that you could have never anticipated. Never think you have ‘seen it all,’ because you cannot imagine the issues that will come your way. Learn to laugh.
One of the ways Ms. Black finds time for enjoyment outside of her position as Alamo’s superintendent is by spending time with her family. I have three daughters, with whom I am very close. We love to spend time together. When you put three girls together, it is like a reality show on television. There is never a dull moment. I have four grandchildren who are very active and I love to spend time with them. I just can’t keep all of them at one time. She also loves to read and does so every morning.
Other than books, Ms. Black names her parents as the biggest personal motivators in her life. I am your first generation college graduate, so not attending college was never an option. My parents taught me that success is possible through hard work and sacrifice. [Also] Our teachers inspire me. I watch them diligently strive to improve and change, even though so many aspects of a child’s education are beyond their control. I have so much respect for teachers and I am amazed at what I see happening in the classroom. Anyone visiting our school will notice the hard work and dedication of the staff. I am blessed to have the best, even though it is hard to work in the Alamo City District because the expectations are high. It doesn’t matter what is asked of teachers, they are continually striving to meet the needs of students, even if it means changing what they are doing midstream. They embrace change and trust us to make decisions on their behalf, which are in the best interest of the children. Teachers work daily to stay afloat during these turbulent times, never stopping or making excuses. I am inspired by other Tennessee superintendents, overcoming obstacles daily and yet continuing to put students first, in providing the best education possible. These superintendents are some of my closest friends. I value their experience and the camaraderie we all share.