Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill

De Queen School Superintendent Bruce Hill, 63, will be retiring at the end of the school year after 13 years in the De Queen School District, six as the schools’ superintendent. Hill has worked in education for the last 42 years. He and his wife, Terri, a principal at De Queen Primary School,  who is also retiring, plan to move to Durant, Okla., where they can be close to their sons and grandchildren. Hill has spent the last 42 years working education, 28 in Oklahoma and one year in Texas, where he began his career. 

“I’ve been fortunate to work in a school district that has the best teachers,” Hill said. “If there’s a school district in Arkansas that has better teachers, then you’ll have to show me.” 

Hill expressed great praise for all of the people in the district he worked with and for, including former Superintendent Bill Blackwood, who worked for the district for 55 years, 31 as its superintendent. Blackwood hired Hill to be an assistant superintendent and Hill took over for him when he retired.

“I would be totally remiss if I didn’t say that I was very fortunate to work for Mr. Blackwood,” Hill said, noting that since 1916, the district has only had six superintendents. “He was a wealth of knowledge.”

Hill said he was also fortunate to work for a board that always puts the teachers and kids first. 

“I’ve never seen a hidden agenda from board members here,” Hill said. “They’ve always looked at district needs first. Teacher salaries are the best in the area. I’ve been lucky in that aspect. It’s a very stable school district.”

Hill said that test scores are what they are because its always been De Queen’s policy to hire the best teachers at every building and administrators that stay on top of curriculum changes and also do a great job of running the buildings.

“It makes my job a lot easier,” he said. 

“I’ve been so lucky to have great assistant superintendents,” Hill said, mentioning Judi Jenkins, Paul Shelton and Jason Sanders, who will be replacing Hill as superintendent. “Those guys have been such a big help to me.” 

Hill said he was “blessed” to have great support people as well, saying that his office staff were “great people that work really hard.”

“It makes my job not just enjoyable but easy,” he said. “You have the day to day stresses of running a school but I’ve just had great people to work with.”

Hill said he wanted to “brag” on community members who have continued to support the schools’ athletes, despite their suffering some less memorable seasons. 

“We’ve struggled competing in class 5A but people here have never quit supporting us — our football game stands are full,” he said, noting that despite a lack of wins, people still cheer on the team, the players and coaches.

“That says a great deal about the community,” he said. “It’s easy to support when winning, it’s easy to jump on that train, but when things are tough, many supporters jump off. That hasn’t happened here, they support the kids 100 percent and thats a great thing.”

Hill was also grateful to the community for passing a millage tax that will allow the district to build a new high school, a building he said was “badly needed.”

“That’s going to be a great thing for De Queen for the next 50 years,” he said, noting that the rest of the district’s buildings are in good shape. 

Hill saved his greatest praise for the students of the De Queen School District, saying they were “amazing” and got along well. He said that in five years, in crowded conditions at the high school, there had only been five fights. He attributed the goodness of the students to their teachers, their parents and their grandparents and the culture they were raised in. He said that while sitting at a desk as the school’s administrator he had much less contact with students as he had as a coach, but his decisions were still based on what was best for the students. 

“I got into the business because I liked kids and wanted to help kids,” he said.

Hill started out as a junior high football and basketball coach in Ft. Worth, Texas, and after a year, when his father suffered a heart attack, he said he was “fortunate enough” to get a job in his hometown, Idabel, Okla., where he coached baseball and football for 15 years, served as athletic director for several more years, and spent the last eight as superintendent. 

Unfortunately for Hill though, Oklahoma isn’t famous for teacher pay and with retirement looming, the Hills chose to take their talents across the state line into Arkansas. He was offered a job in De Queen and while planning to stay for five years and retire, thoughts of retirement began to fade as the Hills came to love the local area and their jobs.

“De Queen has been absolutely, nothing but great to me and Terri,” he said. “We made a lot of friends here. It’s a place we’ll always remember and miss. I will always be indebted to this great school district.” 

The Hills married in 1976 and have two sons. Brad, the oldest, is the head football coach at Moore High School in Moore, Okla. He and wife, Chris, have two children, Slyder and Bradyn, ages 10 and 5. Their younger son, Joe, works for the Chickasaw Nation and lives in Durant. Hill said that it was time now for his wife and him to spend their time enjoying their grandchildren and watching their ballgames. 

“It’s kind of been a long journey to where I am at now,” he said. “And De Queen has been a huge part of it.”

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