BENTONVILLE (KFSM) -- Bentonville Public Schools' new superintendent has officially taken over the helm of the district after a school board meeting on Monday (July 11), which announced the hire.
More than 700 candidates and 53 applicants were narrowed down to one name, Debbie Jones, who left the Arkansas Department of Education and joined the Bentonville staff as deputy superintendent in February 2016.
"[I'm] just so excited to have the opportunity to get to be superintendent in Bentonville School District," said Jones, who had been serving as interim superintendent after former superintendent Michael Poore took a job as the leader of the Little Rock School District.
Jones said she was overseeing steps for a smooth transition for whomever the board would select, and never considered herself a candidate.
"They spent probably three hours reviewing the applicants and their taped interviews," Jones said. "[The board] called me back and said we would like you to be superintendent of Bentonville Schools."
Jones received praise from Katie Morris, president of the Bentonville Public Schools Parent Teachers Organization, who released the following statement:
"I am excited that Dr. Jones has been named the new superintendent of Bentonville Public Schools. Her experience at the Arkansas Department of Education and the Bryant School District will help ensure our district continues to provide great educational opportunities for all our students. I’m excited by the relationships she has formed both in the community and with the staff and parents within the school district. I look forward to seeing our district grow and prosper under her leadership."
Jones' tenure comes as the district has seen exponential growth and has been working to find ways to deal with the influx of students while disrupting the lives of families as little as possible.
Bentonville resident and mother of two, Jill Nielsen, said recent changes have been frustrating.
"We got rezoned, and everyone's doing away with the nontraditional school," said Nielsen. "Then the restructuring and where everyone was going to go. At the end of the day, I think it'll be okay, but if they can't get ahead of the growth, I'm afraid there's going to be more shuffling around."
Jones, who is a mother of five, said parent concerns and improvements are at the top of her agenda.
"I think the most important thing within the district is to have a growth mindset," Jones said. "We're always trying to improve and get better."