Larry Shackleford, a 1974 graduate of Jay High School, has been picked as the new superintendent for his alma mater.
Shackleford, who most recently has been working within the Porter School District in a combined role as assistant superintendent, high school principal and athletic director, was selected for his new role by a vote of 3 to 2 during the Tuesday, May 15 special Jay School Board meeting.
Board members voting in favor of the decision were Virgil Stump, Vince Goins and Ashley Temple.
Current board president David Holcombe and Arden Jackson cast the dissenting votes.
Shackleford was picked from a panel of nine candidates. Two were selected for interviews: Shackleford and Sandy Coaly, who is retiring at the end of this year after serving as both a principal and superintendent within the Grove School District. She, like Shackleford, is also a JHS graduate.
This is the second time Shackleford has applied for the superintendent position. He finished second last year, when the school board hired Kenneth Bridges. Bridges announced in April he planned to leave the district after one year of service.
"Jay is the only job that will get me out of retirement," Shackleford said. "I want to be part of the school community. It's the only reason I'm willing to give up my retirement."
Stump, who made the recommendation to hire Shackleford, said he believed Shackleford was the "best choice at this time."
Goins agreed, making the second to Stump's recommendation.
"I feel like this will be good for the community at this time," Goins said. "This [decision] will bring the community together."
Goins said Shackleford's ties to the community, as well as his desire for the position - applying twice within two years - indicated he "wanted the job more than just today."
Goins said both candidates had the skills necessary to assume the leadership role for the district.
"I simply liked some of his answers the best," Goins said, referring to the hour long interview the board conducted wth Shackleford during an executive session. "Larry will have board support more than any other candidate that we have had. That's very important. It's number one."
Multiple Roles in Education
Shackleford began his educational career in 1978 as a teacher and coach within the Prue School District.
In 1981 to 1997, he taught driver's education and social studies, as well as coached high school basketball and baseball within the Grove School District.
After spending 1997 to 2004 working as a teacher and coach at Broken Arrow High School, Shackleford moved to the Porter Consolidated School District.
Since 2004 he has worked as the junior high/high school principal, and then the combined roles of assistant superintendent/principal as well as athletic director.
He retired from teaching in 2017. A decision which came as his fellow superintendent and middle school principals, also at Porter decided to retire together.
Shackleford describes the Porter district, a 2A school, as being comparable in size to the Colcord and Kansas School Districts.
Many of Shackleford's professional responsibilities, according to his resume, have ranged from evaluations, curriculum and staff development, to policy development and purchasing.
He has also overseen the athletic budget and scheduling, as well as the development of a security plan for the district.
"Just like anything else, my school district [position] was multi faceted," Shackleford said. "I didn't do just one thing."
Shackleford said as the assistant superintendent he worked hand in hand with the superintendent to taking care of the district's budget issues and physical plant.
"In a smaller school, you pretty much do everything," Shackleford said. "Don't be surprised if you see me pushing a broom or picking up trash, or mowing the lawn.
"I'm going to be somebody who is visible and hands on. My only time in the office is when I have to be [there]. The rest of the time I'll be out and about on campus, making sure everything is great for the kids and the teachers."
Generations in Jay
Shackleford's roots within the Jay community are deep. Both of his parents, served as teachers within the community.
His mother, the late Pat Shackleford, served as a first grade teacher, while his father, Warren Shackleford was a coach, teacher and principal.
Shackleford said he is excited about the challenge of working within his home school district.
"I look forward to building relationships within the community and with the staff, and trying to create a different culture of involvement and collaboration," Shackleford said. "We want our people and the community to have ownership of the school and feel like they are part of it."
After being hired last week, Shackleford has made several visits to the school district to begin meeting with principals, teachers, cooks and custodians.
Shackleford said he believes developing relationships with everyone on his staff will be key to his success as a superintendent.
"We want everyone to feel important," Shackleford said. "I want them to know that I care about them and appreciate everything they do."
More about Shackleford
Shackleford and his wife, Jill, met in college. A retired teacher, Jill Shackleford most recently has worked at the US Cellular calling center in the Broken Arrow area. She plans to return to teaching in the fall within the Coweta School District.
Shackleford said his family will maintain their home in the Broken Arrow area, because of their family connections.
"We have several grandchildren in Broken Arrow," Shackleford said. "It makes it difficult to completely move away. My father lives with us. He'll come to Jay with me, and we'll get a home in Jay.
"[We'll] commute on the weekends either direction."
Shackleford said the next year, he admits, will be a trial as the family adjusts to his new role in Jay.
The couple have three sons: Josh, a 1997 graduate of Grove High School, and his wife, Lydie, have two boys and a girl. They live in Minnesota. Joel, a 2000 graduate of Broken Arrow High School, and his wife Marissa - who is the daughter of Leroy and Virginia Hendren - have three sons and live in the Tulsa area. Jon, a 2002 graduate of Broken Arrow, and his wife Desira, live in Porter with their four boys - which includes a set of identical twins.
"My goal is to bring our community together and bring the school together, where we are all pulling in the same direction," Shackleford said. "When we work together, great things can be accomplished.
"Everything we do should be built around what is best for the kids. We want what is proven best in education for the kids. We know they need a good strong foundation."
He also wants to find a way to not only attract good, quality teachers to the district, but retain talent as well.
"Teachers are the backbone of any school," Shackleford said. "We want to have the best education for the kids, and give them pride in the school and facilities. When someone drives by our school, we want them to say 'They must really have things going on there.'"
Shackleford said he knows change won't come immediately. He's already told his principals that just like Rome was not built within a day, things won't happen within the school district overnight.
He has, however, encouraged them to find ways to make sure "we have the best staff here."
First year goals
As an outsider, returning to the district, Shackleford said he will set several goals for the coming school year.
But, he said, some goals won't be known until he has "been down in the foxhole with the guys."
He also knows the teacher raise, approved by the state legislature, may come in question based upon things taking place at the state level.
"We'll watch our pennies, but still provide the best service we can for our kids and staff," Shackleford said. "What money we do have, we'll try to meet each need. We'll be frugal but we want kids to be proud of our school.
"We want to get pride back into our school."
Shackleford said he plans to share some ideas with his administration team this summer. Other ideas will come at the beginning of the school year.
"I want to start in the right direction," Shackleford said.
One goal, Shackleford would like to see implemented from day one is to find a way to have every student within the school system to be involved in at least one activity outside of academics.
He believes the more active a student is within the life of the school district, the better they do both academically and socially.
"I want to try to get as many kids involved in things as we can," Shackleford said. "Involvement means a kid takes ownership, and has a feeling of belonging to something."
Learning from experience
During his time within the Porter Consolidated School District, Larry Shackleford had an instance where a coach was accused - and later arrested for having sexual contact with a student.
Shackleford said no class, or chapter in a textbook within school, prepares a principal or superintendent to discover a teacher within a situation like this.
He said the situation in Porter reinforces the need to conduct background checks and do "due diligence" in checking a teacher's previous employment before making an offer for employment.
He said it also relies on receiving an "honest answer" from previous administrators concerning the employment record of the candidate.
He said once staff has been hired, it is imperative to conduct continual training, setting high expectations for standards of behavior for everyone within the school district.
If an allegation is made by a student, or fellow instructor, Shackleford said it would be imperative to investigation the situation immediately.
"If someone comes to your office and says this, this and this, whether you believe it's true or false, you have to investigate it," Shackleford said. "In this case, we interviewed the person, he admitted it, we called the Wagoner County Sheriff's Office, they sent an investigator, [he] was detained. We suspended him from school and the investigator interviewed him."
Within two days of the allegation, Shackleford said the instructor, who was also a coach, was arrested. However, the coach was not allowed back on campus within hours of the initial allegation.
One thing with Shackleford
One person who inspires you
My dad has always been the wisest man I've ever known. I try to live my life to be a good person and role model and do the right thing.
My dad is my biggest influence. I know his legacy at Jay and how many people who have told me he made a difference in their lives. I will try to do that myself. To be a good role model and lead by example.
One book that's stuck with you
Dr. Clarence Oliver, former superintendent at Broken Arrow, wrote a book several years ago for school administrators. The bottom line is it talks about conducting yourself as as a superintendent and how you view life with honesty and integrity and how you treat people. It's a reference guide for me. I always had it on my desk when I was a principal.
One thing that might surprise people about you
I have a four handicap in golf, and have gotten it as low as one. I'm also a tournament bass fisherman. One year I won a new Ranger boat valued at $32,000. I fish on the Nichols, Skeeter and some of the other trails with my youngest son. Fishing is a big part of my life.
One thing you can't live without
My wife, kids and grandchildren. Because family is the most important thing in life other than God. We are a close knit family. My boys are my best friends. We do a lot of things together. It's how I've raised them, to be by my side. I've coached them all, and I've hunted and fished with them all.
With my grandchildren, I try to be a most everything they do to support them. They are a big part of my life.
One piece of advice you've been given
Treat people like I want to be treated. Treat people with respect if you expect to be treated the same way. I try to be the same with all people. It's worked well for me and helped me develop good relationships with people. Treat people with respect and expect the same from them.
One thing you want people to know
I'm fair, honest and my door is always open. If someone needs to visit and talk with me, I'm all ears. I'll always be there to listen.