Part of Poolville ISD Superintendent Jimmie Dobbs’s tasks during a recent Tuesday morning included diverting a barking dog away from the elementary campus.
Dobbs had just explained how every day during the past 11 years that he has been superintendent is different and unique. His point was proven when he was summoned to chase away the mutt.
“There’s no two days that are the same,” Dobbs said. “You may have a to-do list, some things you’d really like to get done maybe in a morning, and when you get to work, more than likely you’re not going to get to all of them because you’re dealing with some other things that cropped up or that need attention.”
In about a month, Dobbs will no longer be called to deal with dogs on campus or any other task relating to the school district because of his upcoming retirement. He announced in December that he would retire from the district that he has worked at for 24 years.
A few weeks ago, the news hadn’t quite hit Dobbs, but he knows he’ll miss his job.
“Everything’s going so fast that I really hadn’t thought about it much, just trying to finish the year out strong,” Dobbs said.
In the time that Dobbs has been superintendent, he said he has tried to pick up where the former superintendent left off. When he was selected for the position, there had been a few remodel projects and a new high school was built, and he has made an effort to take care of the facilities. He said he has maintained and grown fund balance, been able to be fiscally responsible with the district’s money and spend within the budget.
What he is most proud of is the success of the students at Poolville ISD in both their academic and athletic achievements, he said.
Dobbs also said he is proud of the stability that has been maintained on the school board and the good working environment for district staff.
Dobbs is a Poolville native, and he graduated from Poolville High School in 1985. He said he had always excelled in math, so he continued his studies at Weatherford College and Tarleton State University and decided to use his math degree to teach.
“The teachers that I had, whether it be in school or at junior college or at Tarleton, I admired them, and I wanted to be like them,” Dobbs said, laughing a little.
Poolville Elementary School kindergarten teacher Beth Rowney, who has been working for the district for 47 years, taught Dobbs in the first grade. She described him as the class clown, though a sweet boy. As superintendent, Rowney said Dobbs visits her classroom to make the children laugh or grabs some candy from her candy jar.
“I told him, I hope the next superintendent comes down and pops in and gets a piece of candy, just to be seen and the kids know that he’s the boss of the school,” Rowney said. “That’s what my kids say, he’s the boss of the school. I think that teachers respect him and enjoy when he pops in.”
When he graduated from TSU, Dobbs slid into a teaching position at Poolville ISD for math classes in grades 7-12 in 1990. He taught at Poolville for seven years before moving to Peaster ISD to teach and assist with technology. Eventually he came back to Poolville and became the junior high principal.
After that, Dobbs became Poolville High School principal, then superintendent. The reason Dobbs became superintendent is because he said the previous superintendent, Terry Hamilton, encouraged him to work toward it.
“He was a great encourager and a great mentor, and I have the utmost respect for him,” Dobbs said. “We talk to this day.”
Dobbs said there have been many challenges associated with being superintendent including operating under a balanced budget, especially being a smaller school. In terms of learning experiences, he said there have been thousands to reflect on.
“Sometimes we lose good teachers, and they go somewhere to make more money and you can’t blame a person for that,” Dobbs said. “They’re doing what’s best for their families.”
When asked what the district does to overcome the challenge of retaining teachers, Dobbs answered by making the working atmosphere at Poolville ISD somewhere people want to work.
“You just try to make it a good working environment for people and treat people with respect,” Dobbs said.
Poolville Junior High Principal Matthew Scott called Dobbs a “budget ninja” who always makes sure district staff have what they need to do their jobs and takes care of his employees with bonuses during the holidays and other perks. Also, Scott said that Dobbs makes sure that students have water and snacks during state testing.
“He’s going to work to get us the resources we need,” Scott said. “Sometimes you’re not going to get what you want, just like a kid at Christmas, but he’s going to try his best to find it in the budget.”
Scott and Poolville Elementary Principal Kathy Pierce described Dobbs’s leadership style as relaxed, saying that he’s not someone who micromanages or is controlling. Scott and Pierce also pointed out Dobbs’s fun side and said he has been known to pull pranks with rubber snakes and the like. Principals have regular meetings with Dobbs as a group and individual meetings with him as needed.
Pierce, who is soon looking forward to retirement herself this summer, said Dobbs’s top accomplishments are advancing technology in the district and bringing the community together. Pierce said there is a family environment at the district that helps them retain teachers.
“I think because so many of the community people know Jimmie and knew him as a boy growing up, they feel free to communicate with him and be able to talk to him, so I think that’s one of our major pluses,” Pierce said. “When we had Meet the Teacher Night or Open House in March or whatever, these hallways will be full because they feel comfortable coming to our school, and I think that community comfort that’s been built in to our school, Jimmie is a big part of that because he’s a big part of this community.”
As for the new superintendent Jeff Kirby, Dobbs wants him to be successful and will be available to help get Kirby acclimated.
Dobbs’s advice to Kirby is kid-centered.
“Just continue to do what’s in the best interest of the students, the kids,” Dobbs said. “As long as you do what’s in the best interest of the kids, everything else will take care of itself, so let that be the focus in all your decision making.”