Family and community — this community in general — has been very good to me. I grew up with a single mom for most of my life so I relied heavily on the influence of teachers, coaches and paraprofessionals.Dr. Yancy Ford
SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Yancy Ford has a solid grip on the fortunate situation he has been handed.
During its Feb. 5 meeting, the Effingham County Board of Education picked Ford to serve as its next superintendent. Ford, currently the assistant superintendent, will assume his new post upon the retirement of Dr. Randy Shearouse on July 1.
“The system is operating at a high level right now and, without a doubt, we will have to continue to stay at the cutting edge of what is coming down the pipeline from the nation and state, and make sure we do what is right by our kids,” Ford said.
Ford is a product of the Effingham County School District and has worked for it for 21-plus years, serving as a principal, teacher, athletic director and coach. His list of key accomplishments includes:
— increasing the graduation rate at Effingham County High School (ECHS) for all students from 54 percent as a beginning principal in 2006 to 89 percent by the end of his stint in 2016
— increasing the graduation rate at ECHS for black students from 45 percent to 86 percent
— increased the graduation rate at ECHS for students with disabilities from 26 percent to 66 percent
ACT scores also improved dramatically while Ford was principal.
Ford was eager to spread the credit for the improvements.
“It’s all about a collective effort of putting the right people in the right seats on the bus and making sure that you support their work. When you do that, good things happen,” he said.
Ford’s philosophy was shaped in part by something he heard legendary football coach Erk Russell say in a Statesboro restaurant many years ago. Ford graduated with three degrees from Georgia Southern University, a Statesboro school that Russell led to three NCAA Division I-AA championships.
“The phrase that he said has really stuck with me,” Ford said. “I’ve used it in graduation speeches and I’ve used it when I’ve tried to motivate kids and staff: You either get better today or you get worse. You can never stay the same.
“I truly believe that. You’ve either got to get out of bed and do things better than you did yesterday or you are going to take a step backward.”
Ford is a staunch advocate of athletics. He even thought about a career in sports management before taking a permanent detour into education.
“Family and community — this community in general -- has been very good to me,” Ford said. “I grew up with a single mom for most of my life so I relied heavily on the influence of teachers, coaches and paraprofessionals.”
Ford is confident that the superintendent transition will be a smooth one. Shearouse, a recent winner of the prestigious Georgia Association of Educational Leaders’ Jim Puckett Outstanding Educator Award, is deeply invested in the district’s continued success, having served it for 32 years, including the last 15 as superintendent.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about us. It’s about this school district,” Ford said. “It’s much larger than us as individuals.. I think that’s why (the district) continues to do great things because we know it is a team effort.”
Ford said one of the district’s attendance officers was a paraprofessional when he was in kindergarten.
“I just remember the impact that she had on my life,” he said. “That’s what we are here for and that’s what is so good about Effingham County. That’s what we are looking forward to continuing.
“The staff in this county love kids and they want to see them be successful.”
Ford’s promotion will create a shuffle in the district’s organizational chart. Filling his current post will be a priority, he said.
A job jumble will also occur in Ford’s family. His wife, Deidre, will surrender her post as assistant principal at Marlow Elementary School and will likely return to the classroom as a teacher. State law prohibits a worker from holding an administrative position in a district led by their spouse.
“She is the most individual that I know,” Ford said. “She is very special to me and my family. We are excited for me to be able to transition into this new role but we are sad for her because she worked really, really hard to be an administrator but you have to play by the rules of the game.
“She is a trooper.”