You say goodbye, I say hello
Change in Exeter superintendency coming in summer
For 11 years, parents, staff and students at the Exeter school district have seen the face of Ernest Raney in the halls and at events, lending his wisdom and kindness as the district’s superintendent.
As the 2020-2021 school year has ended, and the 2021-2022 school year begins to take shape, Raney will say goodbye to the district and hello to retirement, but the district will see the familiar face of Tim Jordan taking his place.
Raney began his journey with the Exeter school district in 2010.
“It was always part of my plan to get back to southwest Missouri,” he said. “I began teaching in 1992 as a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher in Blue Eye. I enjoyed that part of my career — I loved it.
“The opportunity to be in a small school and better reach children, families and the community was great. I appreciated the family environment.”
When the opportunity presented itself for Raney to come to Exeter, he was excited to get back to that kind of environment.
“I did enjoy myself in north Missouri too,” he said. “I have truly enjoyed every step and everything I have ever done.”
Raney said when his two youngest boys were at an age he felt they would enjoy their time with grandparents, he knew he needed to get back to southwest Missouri.
“The plan was to always get closer to family — that was very important to us,” he said. “It was a wonderful opportunity, and the board took a chance on me. I have loved every single year.”
The opportunity in Exeter just happened to present itself to Raney as he and his wife began their search into schools in similar nature and size to Blue Eye.
“We felt that God was leading us,” he said. “We prayed about it, and it worked out.”
The best things Raney has seen over his 11 years as Exeter superintendent has been the people in the school district.
“The incredibly talented teachers have a tremendous love for the children and a willingness to do whatever it takes to help them,” he said. “Being in a small school means you are more than a number or statistic, it means our students are valued from their first days in school to their last.”
Raney said from pre-K, Exeter students are more prepared than any others he has seen.
“Giving children the best start they can possibly have has always been the No. 1 priority to me,” he said. “That is why we are here. We can never lose that focus on our children.”
Even during the pandemic, Raney said all staff and administration pulled together to do their part in keeping students safe and provide social and educational interactions.
“I hope they remember me for my willingness to listen, and for making their child number one,” he said.
In moving forward, Raney hopes to take time to be with family.
“I want to give my children better opportunity to spend time with their grandparents,” he said. “We will spend time in the family business in Harrison, Ark., my 92-year-old grandmother runs the Golden Pawn Shop. She never misses a day of work.
“I feel like you get to know yourself better when you spend time with family and grandparents.”
Down the road, Raney is open to exploring education on the Arkansas side. He also believes he is leaving Exeter in solid hands.
“Tim Jordan understands the task at hand,” Raney said. “He knows the community and loves these people. He has a good professional relationship with the staff too.”
Lucretia Brattin, English language arts teacher in grades 6-8, and Ashley Fly, K-12 assistant principal, will be moving into administration roles this coming year as well.
“[Jordan’s] administration team and staff relationships will be strong,” Raney said. “I look forward to the strong growth of the Exeter school district in the coming years.
“I look forward to the opportunities for students through this leadership.”
Raney’s youngest child will be heading into Exeter High School this coming year.
“All of my children will graduate as Exeter Tigers,” he said. “That has always been important to us as a family.”
Raney said the key elements to success is the Exeter school district Board of Education.
“Their leadership is tremendous,” he said. “They value our work and support us in all efforts made.
“Eric O’Neill has been president of the Exeter Board of Education over all my 11 years, and I appreciate that leadership. He is a central part of the success in the Exeter school district.”
Tim Jordan, current Exeter K-12 principal, said he started working at the Exeter school district in 2005.
“I began as a fourth-grade teacher, then moved to elementary counselor,” he said. “I have been a principal for the last nine years.
“What first drew me to Exeter was the small community.”
Jordan didn’t know how long he would be here, but looking back at the past 16 years, he is happy about every moment.
“I really realized how much I enjoyed a small community, school and family environment,” he said. “As I grew as an educator, I realized the value in it. The community, staff and students become more of a family.”
The opportunities for every move he has made became available to him, and through Raney’s leadership, Jordan felt he could take them on.
“Dr. Raney poured into my life that mentorship and encouraged me to take each new step as a leader,” he said. “He has always had a great way of developing and mentoring me in that way.
“Everything he has done to establish a legacy and foundation in the Exeter school district will carry on.”
Jordan said he is honored that the district and the board supports the move into Raney’s spot.
“His foundation is important,” he said. “I strive to carry it on for the people still here.”
Administration and superintendency was never his original goal, as Jordan has loved teaching and working with children.
“It is the leaders in my life who have inspired me to move to my next role,” he said. “Life takes us places and there is purpose in that.”
Jordan applauds Raney and his work to make the Exeter school district a safe learning environment for children.
“He has put so much work and focus into that, and we will continue to build off of that in the future,” Jordan said. “The ‘next big thing’ will be looking at the buildings and make those even more safe and secure over the next 3-5 years.
“What do we need and what do we need to prioritize for our students?”
Jordan said he wants to show people he is kind and active in the school district.
“Raney has shown me that it is about the people — the faculty, staff, students and community,” Jordan said. “Our decisions are for the people and the community, and a lot goes into making the school district successful.”
Jordan said he wants people to know between the Board of Education, staff and administration, the Exeter school district is a true team and a true family.
“I look forward to what Fly and Brattin will bring to the table,” he said. “Brattin knows our students, families and district, and Fly has experience in administration, we will all work together to start this next chapter. There are a lot of changes, but it is people we know and trust.”