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Kermit Ward Discusses Working Your Way Up the Ladder

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Kermit Ward

Kermit Ward was born and raised in Waco, Texas. He had humble beginnings and was raised in a large project housing complex by his mother, who was a single parent. His mother fought for Kermit to have a good education and managed to enroll him in a middle-class elementary school. As a sophomore in high school, Kermit became one of the better athletes in his school. He went on to become a prized dual-sport recruit in track and football, and ultimately attended Baylor University, where he competed in both track and field and football and was named an All-American Athlete in his junior and senior years. He graduated in 1992 with a degree in Accounting.

Quickly learning that accounting was not his passion, Kermit Ward tried substitute teaching. He gained full accreditation and worked as a math teacher for five years before moving to administration. He earned his Master of Education in School Leadership from Tarleton State University. Kermit is currently completing the Cooperative Super intendancy Program at the University of Texas at Austin to obtain his Doctoral Degree in Education.

Kermit Ward is currently serving as the superintendent of Clarksville ISD for the second year. Throughout his time as superintendent, he has effectively increased student achievement in the district from a 70 to an overall district rating of 79 in one year and led the district to an A-rating with FIRST with a 98, and led the effort to pass a Tax Ratification Election (TRE) increase with an 85% approval rate, generating additional funding for the school district.

1. What do you love most about your industry?

I love being able to have an impact on the next generation of leaders. I think that’s what makes the education industry so challenging yet rewarding. You are working to help mold the minds of children who are just starting out. Youth is a very important stage of development, and those around you can have a direct impact on you for the rest of your life. I enjoy being a part of that, and I work to ensure that the district is doing all it can to inspire our future generations.

2. What would you tell others looking to get into your industry?

I think that the most important thing to understand is that you need to start where you’re at, and for most people, that is at the bottom of a totem pole. If you want to run a bank, you should have started as a bank teller and continue to evolve through the ranks. If you want to be the president, you should first work as a local politician. These are extreme examples, but the lesson is clear. I started off as a substitute teacher before moving to become a math teacher, a principal, and a superintendent. You need to understand how these roles work in order to be able to lead those who currently hold those roles.

3. How do you stay motivated?

I think of my main goal, which is to be accountable and to win. This helps me align my actions properly and create a trajectory of success.

4. What have you learned the most about effective leadership?

A great leader has to treat others how they themselves would want to be treated. Everyone has unique talents, and being able to pinpoint those talents is a key quality that any leader should possess. You have to realize that even though you may be a leader, you don’t have all the answers, and you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. Catering to the strengths of others builds a stronger team and ultimately leads to more success.

5. If you could change one thing you did at the beginning of your career, what would it be?

It might be to realize my career path earlier on. I obtained a degree in accounting and spent time in the field before realizing it wasn’t for me at all. At the same time, however, accounting led me to become a better math teacher, which is really where I got my start in education.

6. Who are your role models?

My mother has always been a huge role model for me. Even though I grew up in a housing project, my mother made a lot of sacrifices and took a lot of care to ensure that I received the best education to help me secure my future. Not every parent would do what she did for me. I had a couple of teachers as well that were caring and helped inspire me to become who I am today. That’s why I think that the first goal of any educator should be to be a good leader that inspires our future generations to reach their full potential.

7. Why is it important to be involved in your community?

I actually like to say that I devote about 10% of my time to community service. I served on the Waco Family YMCA Board from 2006 to 2009 and the Austin Community College System Board from 2014 to 2017. I also previously served as a committee member of the Collegeboard AP Studies, and from 2016 to 2017, I served on the Collegeboard National Conference Planning Committee. I think it’s important to be involved in your community because you play a part in helping others that live in your community and making the community a better place. I also think being involved with your community really connects you with others and really teaches you a lot about being humble and being a leader.

What does the future hold for your career?

As an educator, I want to really make a difference. In the future, I hope to be part of a bigger school district to make an even bigger impact.

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