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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Choctaw Nation Member Named Superintendent Of The Year
by Press Release
DURANT, OK. – April J. Grace, Ed.D., has recently been named Oklahoma's Superintendent of the Year. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) tribal member has served as superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools since 2016, topping off more than 30 years as an educator in Oklahoma.

Grace is quick to share the spotlight. "This honor is particularly meaningful being selected and recognized by my peers in this way. I really feel it is a collective representation of the people I serve alongside every day in my own district and across the state."

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton, left, and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. welcome tribal member April J. Grace, Ed.D., on a tour of the Choctaw Nation Headquarters Thursday, July 1 in Durant. The Shawnee Public Schools superintendent has recently been honored as Oklahoma's Superintendent of the Year. (Photo by Charles Clark / Choctaw Nation)

Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. congratulated Grace when she visited the tribal Headquarters in Durant on Thursday, July 1. It was her first visit to the Headquarters and meeting with the Chief and Assistant Chief. She also visited the Membership Office and updated her tribal ID card. She then toured CNO education and summer school programs meeting with CNO Education Director James Parrish and Superintendent of Durant Public Schools Duane Merideth, as well as students and staff at Northwest Heights Elementary School.

Chief Batton said, "It was an honor to meet with fellow tribal member Dr. Grace, and to congratulate her on her achievement as Superintendent of the Year for the State of Oklahoma. She has a thorough knowledge of how a school system works to better the lives of our children. I look forward to her leadership and what she does for our public school systems."

Her selection was made by a committee from the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators comprised of school superintendents from various regions of the state. She was recognized earlier this year at the state conference. The win also puts her in the running for another honor – National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

About the nomination, Grace said "There was a list of things to be considered. I served as president of our association this past year and have been recognized both in state and nationally over the last year or so for a variety of accomplishments." Among them, Grace was named District 9 Superintendent of the Year; American Association of School Librarians' Distinguished Administrator Award; State Superintendent Award for Arts Excellence – Administrator of the Year, and the American School Board Journal Magna Award for being the first school system in the state to form a partnership with a telemedicine provider to help with staff and student health and wellness.

Under the pandemic of the past year, Grace continued to excel. As association president she led her team in statewide calls, many times averaging 180 per week, as they navigated discussions on COVID-19 and about practices and challenges facing the schools.

Grace has developed a strong relationship among the Native American population in her district, in particular the local Citizens Pottawatomi Nation. Her sensitivity has extended to making sure graduation ceremonies allow students who are tribal members to display their cultural heritage.

There also is involvement outside of her job duties. "I mentor aspiring female superintendents on the national level and teach masters and doctoral courses," she said. Most of the courses were written and developed by Grace. She also has had articles published locally and nationally in the past year.

Oklahoma's Superintendent of the Year April J. Grace, Ed.D., learns details of an art project from summer students at Northwest Heights Elementary School Thursday, July 1 in Durant. (Photo by Charles Clark / Choctaw Nation)

Her own academic achievements include earning a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix, a master's degree in Secondary School Administration and a bachelor's degree in Science Education from the University of Oklahoma. She resides, surrounded by family, in her hometown of Norman.

At the end of her whirlwind day, Grace said she was "so proud" of what she witnessed. "It's clear that education is important to the Choctaw Nation." She also noted the excellent working relationship between the tribe and area school systems, and how all students are benefitting.

Grace said, "The inherent values of the Choctaw Nation are the ones I believe in as well. A commitment to serve community and others in a giving spirit, with health and education as top priorities. Servant leadership is a guiding principle of our tribe, as is inspiring others through our actions. I truly believe that if serving is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you."

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