New Searcy superintendent has love for students, educational system

Bobby Hart is the new superintendent for the Searcy School District. Hart, who spent the past nine years as superintendent for the Hope School District, replaces Diane Barrett, who recently retired after 45 years in education.
Bobby Hart is the new superintendent for the Searcy School District. Hart, who spent the past nine years as superintendent for the Hope School District, replaces Diane Barrett, who recently retired after 45 years in education.

The main goal for Bobby Hart, the new superintendent for the Searcy School District, is to educate the whole child, beginning at an early age.

“I would say he is a very courageous and enthusiastic servant leader,” said Josclyn Wiley, assistant superintendent for the Hope School District, where Hart is currently superintendent. “His passion really lies with enriching education for all of our kids here at Hope.”

Hart was named Searcy’s new superintendent April 2 and will officially take over the position July 1. He replaces superintendent Diane Barrett, who recently retired after 45 years in education.

“Searcy is a tremendous school system and city, and I hope I can add to that and the success that they have had in the past,” Hart said. “I hope to improve on what they are doing, as well as improve our relationship with [Arkansas State University-Beebe, Searcy Campus]. … I’m just extremely grateful to be part of the system, and I hope to contribute in a positive manner and lead the district in a good direction.”

Hart has been the superintendent at Hope for nine years, after serving as the high school principal at Genoa Central in Texarkana. He grew up in Bryant and graduated from Bryant High School in 1987. His mom and dad are from White County, with his dad graduating from Bald Knob and his mom from Bradford. She has since died and is buried in Russell. Hart’s dad, Dave, lives in Bryant.

“I had a couple of aunts and an uncle who were teachers, and I thought it was pretty cool to work in the school — it just seemed like a natural fit for me,” Hart said. “There were also three or four teachers who took an interest in me and saw something in me, where I might try to help other people.”

Hart said he wanted to come to Searcy because “it is one of the top school districts in the state” and was an opportunity for him to progress professionally.

“It was an opportunity to be able to be in a community that was on the cutting edge of a lot of things,” he said.

Hart earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia in 1993 and 1995, respectively. He earned his Doctorate of Education in educational administration from Texas A&M University in College Station. Wiley and Hart worked together for five years.

“He empowers the people around him to work collaboratively and doesn’t put you in a box,” Wiley said. “He really encourages stakeholder input and tries to make the best decision for not only our students, but those people in our community and their families.”

Wiley said Hart helped establish an Imagination Library affiliate in Hempstead County to encourage a love for reading in children even before they come to Hope as students.

Hart was one of the four finalists for Searcy’s superintendent position, which included Rick Gales of Stuttgart, Nathan Morris of Cross County and Jerrod Williams of Sheridan. Hart said he felt honored to even be in the running, as “all of them are great people and great leaders.”

“After careful consideration and two-hour interviews with all four candidates, the board — which includes Brent Blakely, Chad Joice, Jimmy Simpson and Philip Williams — felt like Dr. Hart had the right heart, compassion, wisdom, patience, humility and vision to lead Searcy Schools toward our goal of ‘Striving for Educational Excellence,’” said Mike Liles, the Searcy Public Schools Board of Education president. “Dr. Hart’s love for students and love for the educational system are apparent every time he speaks.

“Our school and our community are in good hands with Dr. Hart carefully leading us.”

Three years ago, the Hope School District started its Collegiate Academy, which allows students to earn an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school. The academy’s first class will graduate this year.

“That is a major attraction to the community and is something I would like to duplicate in some sort or fashion [at Searcy],” Hart said. “I am also very proud of the much-needed construction that was completed, getting us out of some of the metal buildings.

“The team that we have put together at Hope is also really good. We have the right people in the right seats, and I want to encourage the incoming superintendent to continue to feed and nurture that program.”

Hart said so many of the high-demand jobs in the area require some kind of training, and he said he saw the importance of high school students having something that shows they are employable.

“I think that is something we as educators need to do,” he said. “We need to prepare them for the test, but we also need to prepare them for the rest of their lives and make a dent in the workforce.”

Initially, Hart began his education career as a high school football and basketball coach and had no intention of working in administration.

“You can do a lot of good as a high school football and basketball coach but can impact a lot more kids from the principal’s office,” he said. “I was a very average athlete, and really, truly, my high school basketball coach gave me the confidence so that I could do some things professionally.

“I saw firsthand the impact [coaching and teaching] can have.”