A whirlwind of emotions swirled around Pat Dodson on Wednesday, as news of the decision made by the Grove School Board became public.
Dodson, who has worked within the school district since 1993, was tapped on Tuesday, Feb. 13, as the newest superintendent.
He will replace Sandy Coaly, who announced earlier this school year her intention to retire in June 2018.
Dodson currently serves as the district's middle school principal.
"I've had a passion for the Grove School District for 25 years," Dodson said Wednesday. "The passion drives me to be apart of the best educational system we can have. I've always wanted to lead a school district."
Dodson was picked from a field of seven candidates, which included two other in-house applicants and four out of district administrators.
"It was a hard decision to make," Clara Mills, board chairman said, following Tuesday's announcement. "Each candidate brought their own individual characters. He was the one chosen."
Mills declined to say what characteristics made Dodson stand above the other candidates.
"I'm not going to say if one or two stood out, they all had good characteristics," Mills said, adding she hopes Dodson helps "Grove Public Schools to continue to move forward in the manner it has in the past."
In her final act as school board member, Audrey Crawford commended all of the school's teachers and administrators and her fellow board members, for serving within the trenches of public education.
She asked that as the administration changes, that everyone within the district continue to work together as a sign of unity.
Dodson said he is working with Coaly to establish an "apprenticeship" type of schedule, so he can spend the next few months preparing to assume the superintendency.
"It's important to me that we protect the Ridgerunner tradition, while fostering growth," Dodson said, adding he has a few ideas to implement to move the district forward, while continuing to provide the best education system possible for Grove students.
More about Dodson
Dodson has worked within the Grove School District since 1993, first as both a teacher and coach, and then, since 2003, as an assistant, and now principal at the middle school. He also served as the district's transportation director from 2005 to 2008.
The Grove Ridgerunner Baseball team coached by Dodson went to state in 1997. He took the Lady Ridgrunner Softball team to state in 2000.
Dodson's education includes a master's degree in educational leadership from Southern Nazarene University.
Prior to becoming an educator, Dodson played professional baseball for several organizations including the Texas Rangers, and the Boston Red Socks.
During his time at Grove, he has served in numerous professional associations including the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and Northern Oklahoma Secondary Education Coalition.
Dodson said he chose to pursue an educational career after he retired from playing professional baseball because he "loved being around kids."
"Even when I was playing baseball, I was always the guy standing around, signing autographs until the last kid left," Dodson said, adding becoming a teacher and coach allowed him to combine his two passions in life.
Dodson played ball until 1990, when an injury sent him to the sidelines. While he was healing from his injury, Dodson went to school, completing his bachelor's degree at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah in 1992.
Dodson said he and his wife, the former Lisa Dawson, always knew they would settle in the Grove area once they began having children.
Lisa Dodson also works for the Grove School District, serving as the library clerk in the Early Childhood Center.
"I just really loved the place, the people and the community," Dodson said, adding he began teaching within the district shortly after graduation, teaching Oklahoma history and US government.
"I'm humbled and honored to be the person picked to lead the district forward," Dodson said. "This is a great responsibility. We have a tremendous community who has invested and committed to the education of kids here. I don't take that lightly.
"This has been a goal of mine. It just feels like now is the time to step up, and lead the district in the future."
Dodson said he's "very fortunate" to already be in a place where he knows people, and the district, as he moves from principal to superintendent.
He believes he leaves a legacy at the middle school, which will help provide a strong foundation for the person who follows him as principal.
"The staff here is as good as they come," Dodson said. "We all work hard with each other and all love kids.
"Just like I'm stepping into a good situation, I also believe whoever steps into my post will find a good position."
Dodson believes his first year as superintendent will be filled with learning.
"I hope people are patient with me," Dodson said. "Because I'm smart enough to know I don't know everything."
In five years, Dodson said he hopes to still be superintendent, with an unwavering passion for the district and its students.
"I want to continue to grow the school, continue student achievement and [continue] to hire and retain quality teachers," Dodson said. "I hope to continue to grow the facilities and [increase] the community engagement.
"I promise to work hard and do my very best, and always do what is in the best interest of the students."
Dodson said his leadership style, while hands on, is not micromanaging.
"I love watching my teachers and seeing their gifts and what they do [with the gifts] every day," Dodson said, adding he wants to be someone who is "service minded, who utilizes the resources available" to build a stronger school district.
"I have a good administrative team, with good experiences who love kids and have their best interest in mind all of the time," Dodson said.
Dodson and his wife Lisa, have three children: Ryan, a 2007 graduate of GHS is a pharmaceutical salesman in Amarillo, Texas; Tyler, a 2008 graduate of GHS, and his wife, Kate, and their daughter, Emma, 2, live in Rogers, Arkansas. Tyler is the director for the Boys and Girls Club of Rogers; Taylor, a 2013 graduate of GHS is pursuing a nursing degree and currently works as the athletic director at Grand Lake Villa in Grove.