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Former SHS principal earns doctorate, gives thanks

The Selma Times-Journal

Donald G. Jefferson never would have thought that someone from such a humble background as his could reach the top of the ladder of success. But with a lot of diligence, ambition and assistance from caring people, this former Selma High School principal is living proof that anyone can beat the odds and achieve their dreams.

Jefferson recently received his Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Policy and Law from Alabama State University in Montgomery and said he hopes his new accomplishment will inspire his former students to continue their educations.

“I was a teacher for eight years and a principal,” Jefferson said. “I thought getting my doctorate would verify what I have always told my students and will inspire them to get a higher education. I’m a living example that someone who has had a lot of roadblocks in their life can get to this point.”

Jefferson grew up in Selma and remembers starting in the school system when schools were still integrated. He accepted an athletic scholarship upon his graduation from high school and has since only aimed high.

Jefferson received a B.S. degree from Alabama State University in 1980, where he graduated with honors, and his Master’s from Troy State University in 1989. He received a sixth year degree in Education Administration from Troy in 1994. Jefferson was part of the new doctorate in education program at Alabama State University, which he said had great professors that provided extensive leadership.

Alabama State University’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, Policy and Law “serves extremely talented individuals who are preparing for advanced leadership positions as educational leaders.” It involves two years of intensive coursework followed by approximately one year of dissertation research. Jefferson completed his coursework in three years and one semester and gave his dissertation on April 28. Out of a class of 16, only five, including Jefferson, had completed their coursework at the time of graduation.

“It was an extremely arduous task,” Jefferson said. “We had nine hours a semester and went to class two or three times a week. The program was tough and the classes were hard. We couldn’t fall below a B average.”

Entrance criteria for the program included an earned Master’s degree or higher level degree; a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0; a minimum graduate GPA of 3.5; high scores on the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE and / or MAT; letters of professional reference, a writing sample and leadership experience.

“I love learning and I love challenges,” Jefferson said. “Going back to school was interesting and I just want to thank all the teachers who taught me while I metriculated through the Selma City School System. I want to thank all the teachers and staff I knew as a principal and I want to thank the Selma community because so many people have helped me get to where I am today.”

Jefferson had the honor of being Selma High School’s principal from 1993-1999, where he supervised 75 professionals and 40 paraprofessionals while managing instruction for a 1,250 student comprehensive high school with a vocational / technical center.

His other accomplishments include, Vice Principal for Daleville High School, Assistant Principal for Elba High School and junior high school building principal; a physical education teacher and athletics coach for both Enterprise High School and Opelika High School and Junior High school. Jefferson has been a teacher at Tuskegee Institute High School and at Selma High School. In addition, he is involved in many personal affiliations and has won several awards throughout the years, including Teacher of the Year. In 1998, Jefferson developed and implemented the Semesterize Block Schedule at Selma High School and also improved the Alabama High School Exit Exam student test scores from the low 50’s to the high 70’s and 80’s, to name just a few of his other accomplishments.

“I’ve always encouraged my students to use education as a vehicle for success,” Jefferson said. “You have to be persistent and have the right attitude to get a long way. My main inspiration was that I didn’t want to end up living the life I had grown up living. Anybody can rise above that. Sometimes students lose sight of that when faced with so many roadblocks. Education can help overcome obstacles.”

Jefferson is now working with the State Department of Education where he is an Administrator of Finance. His job will be to monitor and review state districts that are having financial problems. Jefferson is married to Brenda and they have one daughter, Tara that graduated from AUM in 2000.