By Alyssa Schnugg
Bradley Roberson and Jay Foster have a few things in common.
Both men have been school coaches, teachers and administrators. The friends are former colleagues in the Senatobia Municipal School District. On July 1, they’ll both head up A-graded school districts with the goal to make them the best in Mississippi.
When the 2021-2022 school year begins this fall, Roberson will be at the helm of Oxford School District as superintendent and Foster will take on the Lafayette County Schools superintendency.
Roberson steps into his new role with a passion to serve the district he has been a part of for 19 years, and Foster fulfills his father’s legacy by returning home to a school district where his journey in education began.
A Passion to Serve
Roberson was named superintendent of the Oxford School District earlier this year after Harvey announced he was retiring.
Other than working as a principal at Senatobia High School from 2013-2015, Roberson has worked at the Oxford School District for 19 of his 21 years in education.
Roberson worked as a math teacher for nine years, an assistant football and baseball coach, head baseball coach, associate athletic director, middle and high school assistant principal, Oxford High School principal (2015-2018), and assistant superintendent and director of curriculum and instruction (since 2019).
“Education, service and leadership have always been passions of mine,” Roberson told HottyToddy.com recently. “So serving as a superintendent seemed to be a natural fit.”
He decided to become a teacher when he was in high school. His baseball coach, Vince Jordan, played an integral role in his decision to be a teacher and a coach.
“I knew the impact he had on my life and the life of my teammates,” he said. “I wanted to do the same for young people.”
Roberson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in curriculum and instruction from the University of Mississippi. Originally from Ripley, Roberson said his decision to go into administration came while he was teaching.
“As I evolved as a classroom teacher, I had a strong desire to widen my scope of influence by transitioning into school and district leadership,” he said.
Working as assistant superintendent, Roberson said, afforded him the chance to see the job of superintendent up close.
“Over the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to observe Mr. Harvey lead the district,” Roberson said. “It has been the best on-the-job training anyone could ask for.”
Roberson said one of his goals as superintendent is to transition the Oxford School District from a school system to a school community.
“Working collectively — being willing to give a part of ourselves to make those around us better — is the only way we will continue to improve and meet the needs of all kids in our district,” he said.
While the OSD has certainly been successful, Roberson said it’s important to always strive to improve.
“Sometimes our success can make us complacent, and in turn, become an obstacle in continuous improvement,” he said. “It is also important that we remember improvement is a journey that never ends — not a race to an imaginary finish line. I look forward to being a part of this journey with the Oxford community.”
Roberson lives in Oxford with his wife, Nicole, who works for the OSD as a science instructional coach. They have a daughter, Riley, who will be a senior at Oxford High School in August, and a son, Cullen, who will be in the sixth grade at Oxford Intermediate School.
A Return Back Home
After Lafayette County School District Superintendent Adam Pugh announced his retirement this year, and the school board selected Foster as his replacement.
The 1990 graduate of Lafayette High School was superintendent of Senatobia Municipal Schools for nine years, from 2011 to 2020. After Foster retired from Senatobia, he went to work for MS Farm Bureau Insurance. When he heard the LCSD was seeking a new superintendent, he decided to toss his hat back into the school district administration ring and return to the school district that educated him.
After graduating from Lafayette High, Foster went on to earn a degree in education from Delta State University. He wanted to teach, but he also wanted to coach. His first job after graduation was in Pontotoc, where he taught science and coached basketball.
Over the years, he would work for the Oxford School District, Pontotoc, South Panola and Marshal County as a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent until being hired as Senatobia’s superintendent in 2011.
Foster was only retired for one year before he heard about the position for superintendent opening in Lafayette. While he fully admits to enjoying retired life, he said he wanted to be a part of the school district that helped shaped him.
“I didn’t anticipate this happening,” he said. “But these are my folks. This is home. This is where I grew up.”
Foster said he has two main goals as superintendent — to make the district better every day, whether it’s improving transportation, ACT scores or the cleanliness of classrooms, and to make LCSD a great place to work.
“I want people who work here to enjoy being here,” he said. “Teachers have a difficult job — probably one of the most important jobs. A school district should be about the people, and I think Lafayette has always been there.”
Foster is also bringing some family tradition with him when he starts next week as he isn’t the first in his family to sit in the superintendent’s chair. His father, Mike Foster, was the superintendent for the LCSD for 10 years.
“He is someone I could always bounce ideas off, and we talk a lot,” he said.
Foster said he hopes to spend time focusing on the district’s ACT scores, which he describes as “average.”
“ACT is such an important test,” he said. “College opportunities, but also scholarship money is tied to it.”
Foster said he wants the county school district to be one that has something for all students, whether they are college bound or want to learn a trade.
“What are the experiences we want to give them, so when they walk across that stage, we have prepared them to do whatever it is they want to do,” he said. “I want them to be ready for life after high school, however that looks like for them.”
Foster’s wife, Jennifer, will teach at Lafayette Elementary School. They have three children, Bailey Brooke, a recent graduate of Delta State University, John Michael, a sophomore at Northwest Mississippi Community College, and Katherine Grace, a junior at Lafayette High School.