Newly hired Fort Smith schools superintendent talks about district goals

FORT SMITH — Fort Smith School District Deputy Superintendent Terry Morawski said he felt humbled and honored to have been selected for his upcoming new job.

The Fort Smith School Board unanimously approved promoting Morawski, 45, on Tuesday to the position of superintendent, effective Jan. 4, and to negotiate a contract. The board also voted to approve a mutual termination of the contract for the current superintendent, Doug Brubaker, effective Dec. 31, conditioned upon him receiving a contract from the Texarkana, Texas, Independent School District.

“This district is special to me,” said Morawski, a Fort Smith resident. “It’s a great community, and so [I am] real excited to continue the work that was started by Dr. Brubaker here, and continue to move our school district into the future.”

The hiring of Morawski on Tuesday follows an announcement that Brubaker had been named the lone finalist for the superintendent position in the Texarkana Independent School District by that district’s board of trustees. Brubaker is scheduled to begin work in his new role on Jan. 4 after being formally named superintendent by the board on Dec. 1 following a state-mandated 21-day waiting period, according to the Texarkana Gazette.

Fort Smith School Board President Bill Hanesworth said he was thrilled with his board’s decision to have Morawski succeed Brubaker.

“It provides continuity for all the programs that are underway,” Hanesworth said in a statement. “It gives me a great deal of comfort to know that Terry is deeply entrenched here in the community and looks forward to the next phase of continuing development in our school district.”

Similarly, Brubaker said he was really excited about Morawski’s appointment.

“He’s shown himself for the last three years to be a really strong leader,” Brubaker said. “He has been involved in the district’s key initiatives from the beginning, and he is uniquely qualified to continue the work in the district on behalf of students.”


After he becomes Fort Smith’s superintendent, Morawski said he plans to continue working and getting feedback on Vision 2023, the school district’s five-year strategic plan that the school board approved in December 2017. He also wants to “finish strong” on the millage projects the district has underway.

These projects are being funded by a millage increase that Fort Smith and Barling residents approved in May 2018. This millage increase, which moved the school district property tax rate by 5.558 mills from 36.5 to 42.058, will generate about $120 million, and was the first of its kind in Fort Smith since 1987.

Morawski also wants to continue working with leadership to manage the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.

“Really, that’s what’s laid out for the next couple of years, I would say: to finish strong with what we’ve started and complete our strategic plan,” Morawski said. “And then, really, the next step beyond that is to go back to our community leaders and staff and students and talk about what’s next.”

In addition, Morawski said he would like to work on continuing to evolve the school district’s succession planning and develop its Peak Innovation Center, the building for which is due to be finished in Summer 2021.

Regarding his own education, Morawski emphasized that he graduated from a public high school, specifically Tyler Legacy High School in Tyler, Texas. He went on to attend the University of Texas at Arlington, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and a minor in business in 1997. From there, he earned a Master of Arts degree in strategic communication and leadership from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., in 2009 and a Doctor of Education in educational leadership from Dallas Baptist University in 2018.

Morawski said he was fortunate to be hired into public education very early in his career after college. He has developed “a real passion for the work” over the more than 20 years that he has been involved in the field.

“To me, it’s exciting to be part of an organization that’s driven by a mission,” Morawski said. “We don’t have a bottom line to work from necessarily. We are really working on developing students and helping them develop as people and develop their education so that they can achieve their dreams later in life.”


Morawski said he began his career in the Mansfield Independent School District in Texas, working as a director and assistant superintendent there and his role evolving into different areas of leadership during his tenure. His career in the Lone Star State continued, serving as deputy superintendent of the Comal Independent School District based in New Braunfels, Texas, before becoming the director of strategic planning for the San Antonio Independent School District.

It was from this last role that Morawski joined the Fort Smith School District as its chief operations officer in the summer of 2017. Morawski said he was inspired to start working in Fort Smith because “it’s a great community.”

“I did my research before I came, and earlier in my career, in Mansfield actually, I had worked with Dr. Brubaker,” Morawski said. “He was a principal, and I was a director at the time, but I knew his character and I knew his vision, and so when I’d heard that he had become superintendent, I thought that I might want to look at if there was an opportunity here.”

Morawski has served as the Fort Smith School District’s deputy superintendent since July 2018, according to the district. He has also been part of the leadership team for the Strategic Planning process, Citizens Millage Committee, Citizens Capital Improvement Program Advisory Committee and other initiatives in Fort Smith.

Morawski said his wife, Courtney Morawski, to whom he has been married for 21 years, is the supervisor of professional development for the school district. Morawski has two sons, Jackson and Lane, who are a senior and a sophomore, respectively, at the district’s Southside High School, according to the district.


Brubaker said he and Morawski have had a close collaborative relationship in their specific roles. To him, Morawski has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that students are prepared for life when they graduate, be it college, career, or the military, with a viable plan and an applicable skill set and body of knowledge.

“The thing I hear about Dr. Morawski is his calm demeanor, his steadiness, his thoughtfulness … those are the things I think about when I reflect on the leader that he is,” Brubaker said. “And I do believe, given that the district is working through a pandemic and also some really key projects, that his thoughtfulness, his steadiness as a leader, and his ability to forge positive working relationships with community stakeholders and educators, all those things are going to contribute to his success in this new role.”

Brubaker has served as Fort Smith School District superintendent since January 2017, with the Fort Smith School Board selecting him for the position in December 2016, according to the district. Zena Featherston Marshall, executive director of communication and community partnerships for the Fort Smith School District, said Brubaker’s current yearly salary is $215,292.

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