The Road from ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ to Superintendent of Carthage ISD
A preacher’s kid, otherwise known as a “PK,” never knew where God would lead his father. Joseph Glenn Hambrick was one of those “PK’s.” Born June 20, 1955 in Fairfield, CA to Pastor Joseph Newton and Rachel “Tutsie” Hambrick, he is the eldest of four siblings. His younger brother, Bobby, lives in Huntsville; sister Sherry Smith lives in Henderson; and the baby, Patience Maples, lives in Guntersville, AL. Glenn maintains that he and his siblings are all very close and see one another on a regular basis. Throughout their childhood they had to adapt to new places because God lead their dad to different locations, and they dutifully followed without complaint. They lived in California for awhile and also in the Texas towns of Paris, Queen City, and Groveton.
Education was always an important part of Glenn’s early life. He decided as a sophomore in high school that he wanted to be a coach because he was very involved in athletics and loved sports. At that point, he started gearing his mind toward getting a degree in the field of education. As a youth from Queen City, he made a visit to East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) in Marshall on one of their “Tiger Days,” which allowed youth from different schools to visit the campus. Since he was the first in his family to go to college, he was charting new territory. Glenn did not visit any other colleges because he had a good impression of ETBU and because he firmly believed that God opened the door for him to become an ETBU Tiger. At ETBU, he was involved in many activities that proved to be interesting. He says, “I believe that God placed me there at that time at that University, and it had a tremendous influence on my life!"
At ETBU he held one of the most unusual positions a guy could have. He was one of three males on the Tiger cheer squad for the basketball team. There were also three girls on the squad. He says that the best advantage to being a male cheerleader in college was that the most attractive, athletic girls in college are always the cheerleaders. There was method to his madness.
After graduation, God opened the door for him to become a teacher. He would soon become known to everyone as “Coach Hambrick.” He became part of the Indian tribe as a math teacher and coach at Groveton High School. With only one year of teaching under his belt, he moved to Nacogdoches to become a Dragon and serve as a high school math teacher, assistant football coach, and head track coach.
After two years in the Dragon’s lair, he found himself in the dog house at Crockett ISD and served four years as a Crockett Bulldog. Then an opportunity to become head football coach opened up in Buffalo. As a Mighty Bison, Coach Hambrick led the football team and also took on the duties of track coach and math teacher. After three years with the Bisons, the Bulldogs were calling again, but this time they were the Garrison Bulldogs. Coach Hambrick settled into Garrison’s Athletic Department as head football coach, head track coach, and math teacher for eight years.
During his last year at Garrison at the age of 40, he added the duty of becoming the high school principal. He emphatically states, “I would not recommend this to anyone.” After that harrowing last year, Principal/Coach Hambrick was summoned back to Crockett as head football coach and Athletic Director. He did not coach track, but he did volunteer to teach two math classes to “stay in the hallways and trenches,” keeping his close connection with the teachers and the students.
Having his arm nicely twisted by the Crockett superintendent, Coach Hambrick relinquished his coaching duties and became the high school principal full time. He had been teaching and coaching for 20 years and felt that it was a good time to cross over into administration, what some people consider the “dark side” of education. At this point Principal Hambrick had already obtained his superintendent certification and was ready to complete his Doctorate of Education from Sam Houston State University.
Then 46 years old, he had the opportunity to take his first job as Superintendent at Rosebud/Lott ISD. Although he didn’t remain a Cougar very long, he laughs, “I gained five years’ experience in the two years I was there.” He then had the opportunity to move back to East Texas by securing the Superintendent’s position at Elkhart ISD. He was an elk for only four years because he could “hear ’em growlin’” for him, and in 2008 he became Superintendent for the Carthage Bulldogs.
When questioning Dr. Hambrick about his voyage in the sea of academia, I asked him who inspired him most to further his education. He shared that even though his parents had not formally attended college, they were very strong believers in education. His dad had attended seminary, while his mother went to nursing school. They encouraged him to go to college, and he saw education as a way to better himself. He also brought forth the name of his head football coach, Gary McCasland from Queen City. He was also Dr. Hambrick’s math teacher, and the one who encouraged him to get his college degree in math. He claims that this was some of the best advice he ever had, because it was never difficult to get a job. All schools need math teachers, and it always proved to be a positive thing when there was a coaching position open.
He believes that one of the reasons he was able to keep moving up in education was his willingness to move and says this was both a blessing and a curse. He made friends everywhere he went—lifelong friends—but he had to keep moving away from them as a head football coach and superintendent.
Dr. Hambrick testifies that God has been with him in every relocation. “Even in the jobs that I applied for and didn’t get,” he says, “I felt like it was God’s will. In retrospect, I look back and see that where I went was a better place, and that the job I didn’t get wasn’t as good as I thought it might have been. Thank God for unanswered prayers, although I really consider it an answered prayer when it doesn’t work out, too.”
When asked if he had any funny or memorable stories that he could share as a teacher, coach, principal or superintendent, he readily came up with two. He said when he first went to Garrison as the head football coach, he met a lady who introduced herself as the Assistant Superintendent. She was a very nice person, and he would see her in the hall, and they would exchange pleasantries. He said it probably wasn’t until he had been there three or four years that he found out that she was pulling his leg all along. She was the library aide/comedian and had really pulled one over on him. He said that Garrison never had an Assistant Superintendent while he was there.
Another funny incident was when he was attending a Superintendent’s meeting. As a normal routine, the participants would go around the room and tell something about themselves that no one would know or suspect about them. In Dr. Hambrick’s introduction, he said that most people didn’t know that he had been a cheerleader in college. After a few other introductions, and without hesitation, another participant stood up and introduced herself as one of the cheerleaders that Dr. Hambrick had thrown up in the air at ETBU ball games! During the break, the two shared many fond memories.
Dr. Hambrick also spoke about former students he had. He said, “When you’ve been in education for 40 years, you obviously have thousands of students who have gone on and been very successful in their area of expertise—teachers, coaches, doctors, lawyers, and every other career.” One such student was Eric Thomas from Garrison, who became a 400-meter hurdler and represented the United States in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Thomas is now head of a personal training business, Champion Trainers, LLC in Houston.
Another student of his from Garrison ISD was Shannon Arrington, who is now one of Dr. Hambrick’s colleagues as Superintendent of Arp ISD. He added, “It’s always heartwarming, as any teacher can tell you, when a student acknowledges any part that you might have had any success in their lives.”
When posed the question about his leadership style, Dr. Hambrick said, “I was talking with my daughter, and one of her friends who is a principal has a new superintendent. She was telling her about her experience going from a micromanaging superintendent to one who trusted the employees to do their job. I think I’m one of those who lets them do their job. I believe it is because I hire outstanding people who do their jobs well. I do give them my vision and expectations, but I don’t tell them how to do their job. I want to hire someone that can be strong in the areas that aren’t my strength.” In the writer’s opinion, most people would perceive this as teamwork.
When considering education today, Dr. Hambrick says he believes that public schools as a whole are much better than they were when he got into education. He thinks that accountability has had a positive effect (for the most part), but leaders have to be careful that the pendulum hasn’t swung so far that testing is the most important thing. He admonishes that the government and people can’t judge a school entirely on a test that is taken in one day, and that it should be used as a diagnostic tool. Believing that we have kids who are very strong students, and also ones who are skilled in many areas that may not show up on a test, is his testimony to the need to provide a good education to all our youth.
He adds, “There are certain things about kids that are the same as when I first started. If you care about kids, and they know you care, they’ll have a much better chance of being successful in school. That hasn’t changed. But kids today have so many distractions that they have to deal with and all kinds of activities they can get involved in. And look at technology. It is both a blessing and a curse. It can offer so many positive things, but it has many negative overtures as well. Social media, cell phones, gaming, and the like can have very negative consequences. As educators, we need to use technology as a tool, use it in a positive way, and try to keep the negative parts to a minimum.”
In specifically discussing students at CISD, Dr. Hambrick believes we provide a quality education for our students, both academically and in extracurricular activities. He proudly boasts that we have the finest kids—ones who produce championships and sweepstakes and all kinds of honors.
In addressing issues for educators today, he tells individuals not to get into teaching if they don’t have a passion for it. He points out that getting into education is not a pathway to getting rich, but if you have a passion for working with kids and a desire to see them grow up to be successful citizens, that is more rewarding than any financial compensation you might ever receive. He also says that administration is harder than it used to be. Administrators are constantly under a microscope and have so much more pressure. They must have some thick skin and be able to tolerate a lot of difficult times.
Dr. Hambrick believes the most difficult challenge he has had during his years as an educator was when the state cut $7 million in funding last year for CISD. This was a consequence of the legislature breaking a promise to Carthage and about 200 similar schools. “Unfortunately,” he says, “we were in the minority, and there wasn’t anything we could do to keep it from happening. We’ve had to endure tough cuts (personnel and benefits) and adjust our tax rate. In spite of that, I believe we’ve gotten to the point where we can move forward and make positive adjustments to our district. It was a tough year, but we did get through those challenges. I believe we’ve come out on the other side, and we can really focus on what is most important—educating our kids. I think the residents of Carthage and Panola County can be very proud of their school.”
Dr. Hambrick is married to Kelly Edmonds Hambrick. Kelly was raised and lived in Carthage throughout her school days. She started to school in Beckville in the fourth grade because her mother, Jimmie, took a teaching job there, but the family always lived in Carthage. Her father, Dub Edmonds, was a teacher at Panola College. Kelly teaches business technology at CHS, and this year she is going to be the volunteer girls’ golf coach. Dr. Hambrick says that she is an outstanding golfer. He claims he’s a decent golfer but that she is really, really good and regularly beats him. He jokes that they have been married 68 years. “I was married for 36 years, and she was married for 30 years, and we’ve been married for two years, so we’ve actually outdone my parents in marital longevity!”
Dr. Hambrick’s father is an 84-year old retired pastor who worked as an interim pastor and then came out of retirement to preach at New Hope Baptist in Gary. He preached there for a number of years and still preaches when he can. Dr. Hambrick said it was a very difficult time when he lost his mom last summer. She LOVED Carthage, loved the people of Carthage, and loved going to the football games. She was a typical mother who took pride in any accomplishments of her children. He says, “A lot of people met my mom and dad through me because of my job, and once people met them, they would fall immediately in love with them because of the people they were. They were married 63 years.”
Dr. Hambrick takes great pride in his children and grandchildren. Jennifer Hambrick Grisham (36) followed in her dad’s footsteps and became a math teacher. She then chose to be a stay-at-home mom when her first son Noah was born eight years ago. Another grandson and namesake, Nathaniel Glenn, was born three years later, and Jennifer plans to start back teaching part-time now that both of her children are in school. Jennifer and the boys, along with her husband Jeffery, live in Greenville. Dr. Hambrick’s son, Joseph Adam (31) was also a math teacher/coach and worked at CISD for three years before moving to College Station as a math teacher/coach. For the past two years, Adam has been a certified flight instructor and flies all over the country. Since his marriage to Kelly, Dr. Hambrick’s extended family has grown. It now includes Kelly’s oldest son, Nathan Langley (29) who lives in Kilgore with his wife Kristina and their baby, Jensen (16 months), as well as her younger son, Preston Langley (25) who lives and works in Longview, and his seven-month-old daughter Adalyn.
The Hambricks attend Central Baptist Church in Carthage, where he sings in the choir and teaches the Middle Adult Sunday School class. Dr. Hambrick’s honors include being chosen as the 2012 Region VII Superintendent of the Year and receiving the 2013 ETBU Distinguished Alumni Award. The road he has taken from being a “PK” to becoming the Superintendent of Carthage ISD has certainly led to countless adventures and has taken many a winding turn, but Dr. Joseph Glenn Hambrick has not finished his journey yet, and God willing, the best is yet to come.