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Dr. John L Colbert celebrates 47 years with Fayetteville schools

After an incredible 47-year career as Fayetteville's school superintendent, the district held a retirement celebration to commemorate his legacy.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Educators and students say that Dr. John L Colbert, the 12th superintendent of Fayetteville public schools, spent 47 years breaking barriers and impacting lives. Community members from different backgrounds gathered to celebrate the trailblazer. 

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan proclaimed May 25th as "Dr. John L Colbert Day."

"I think Dr. Colbert was a really good personification of what 'aim high' means. We were able to look at him and see somebody who was aspirational and had goals for himself," said former student Leon Jones III.

Dr. Colbert started his career with the district as the first Black special education teacher and later became the first Black principal at both Jefferson Elementary and Holcomb Elementary.

"I remember in my first-grade class, there might have been 2 Black kids... a lot of the time I was the only Black person in the class, so seeing Dr. Colbert and the way that he carried himself was a model that we weren't getting. We weren't getting that type of leadership model for us," Jones recalled.

And seeing Dr. Colbert's inspirational leadership has carried over through Jones' educational career.

"Here in Fayetteville there are so many students in a school district, but he took the time to get to know us individually, and help us learn what our strengths and weakness are. Leadership is very important to me— I did student council in high school, and student government association in college, so being a leader and getting to know someone while encouraging them to be the best that they can be... I would say that's something that I've brought with me," Jones said. 

Dr. Colbert says growing up he had his own inspiration to be a person of honor and a role model for the next generation.

"As an African-American educator, I saw myself as a role model for people who look like me... it's very very important that they see someone that looks like them... I take pride in the fact that I tried to be that positive role model so that they could see me in that role and can emulate me hopefully one day. " Dr. Colbert explained. 

As Dr. Colbert passes the torch to Dr. Mulford, Colbert's successor says he plans to continue carrying on the legacy.

"What I want to do is build on the traditions of excellence that we've established. I'll be engaging a lot with the community within the first 4-6 months in order to learn more about the hopes and dreams of this community... the parents, the students, and teachers," Said Incoming Superintendent Dr. Mulford. “Seeing everyone here today and celebrating Dr. Colbert and his career reaffirmed that this is the type of place that we want to be a part of."

Dr. Colbert's tenure will end on June 30th, but on June 15th his legacy continues during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Fayetteville school... named the "John L Colbert middle school."

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