When former superintendent Donni Cook announced her intention to retire at the end of the year, Dean was selected to serve as interim superintendent.
Dean has served as the principal of Chapel Hill High School and most recently as deputy superintendent.
Cook is serving in the role of Superintendent Emeritus until the end of the year, helping with the transition as the board decides whether to initiate an external search for a new superintendent. Cook is using accrued leave time, but has made herself available during the transition.
Dean is a Chapel Hill alumnus, having played on the 1989 State Champion Football team before heading to Tyler Junior College and then Murray College to pursue a career in education.
The Dean family has deep roots in the community. Dean has two children in the district, Braylon and Bryson.
His oldest son, Deaveron, was part of the 2011 state championship team. His wife, Sabrina, is a dyslexia teacher at Wise Elementary School.
Dean will be helping guide the district through a contentious period. Enrollment numbers are growing, buildings are aging, but the district has failed several bond packages in the last few years.
The most recent bond proposal never made it to the ballot, after several board and committee members said the proposal did not match what they identified as the needs of the community.
Seven candidates vied for three seats on the board last May. Every candidate told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that they recognized the need for a bond to rebuild the middle school, but trust had broken down in the district.
After the board election, the district went to the community asking for a tax ratification election, which passed. The TRE translates to roughly $500,000 a year.
The district also has had to place portable buildings in the middle of the bus loop between the middle school and high school to compensate for a sixth-grade class of 397 students, nearly double the average per grade level. Dean said he is optimistic that the momentum behind the recent increased community involvement can help the district eventually pass a new bond package.
“We have to be transparent. We have to help parents get out and vote, become involved as voting members of the community,” Dean said. “We want to continue to take advantage of that momentum and reopen that trust.”
Without the leverage of a city organization to help push the voter base, Dean said the district must build community partnerships.
“School is the hub of Chapel Hill,” Dean said. “We have a lot of good things going on in Chapel Hill. We want Chapel Hill to grow and be vibrant.”
Board member Tammy Humes said the district is looking at a clean slate.
“We’ve got a new blank page in front of us. It’s time for all of us to write a new page for Chapel Hill,” Humes said.
“We need to make sure we think ahead and think carefully about what our next move is going to be. With a lot of careful planning and forethought we’re going to really show what our district can do.”
While another attempt at passing a bond package is necessary, both Humes and Dean agreed that community input will be key to deciding where the district heads. Career and technology education also needs to be a priority for the district going forward, Humes said.
“A bond is going to be a consideration in the future. There’s no doubt we’re going to need to be some improvements in the district,” she said. “We’re going to have to incorporate an awful lot into a bond and it will take a lot of careful consideration to make sure it passes.”
Dean has spent his first few months evaluating what the district has done well and what it could do better.
“Moving forward, our priority is going to be alignment of structures,” Dean said.
Dean hopes to implement systems of uniformity throughout the district and help teachers grow students from pre-k through their senior year.
“We feel that if every teacher and staff member does their part, at the end of those 14 years, we will have developed a child,” he said. “We want to develop that foundation and nurture that.”
While facilities help, and Dean would like to see students get out of the portable units as quickly as possible, his priority is building great students.
“(What I enjoy most) is loving our children,” he said. “We are here for the children we educate on a daily basis.”