After 18 years at the Ozark Unlimited Resources Educational Cooperative, director Rick Nance will retire June 30, 2020, but he’s not going to be warming a rocking chair.
Nance was born in Berryville and grew up in Oak Grove. He graduated from Green Forest High School, then from College of the Ozarks — it was School of the Ozarks at that time — and did graduate work at the University of Arkansas.
His first teaching job was back in Green Forest, where he spent 13 years. From there he went to Alpena as high school principal for four years and on to Bergman as elementary principal for eight years, before being recruited as director at the OUR Co-op. By the time he retires, he will have 43 years in education.
During his first 25 years in education, Nance loved being in the mix of the school setting. Making the transition to the co-op was a little difficult at first, he admits, because he enjoyed being in the hub of school.
“I didn’t come here to get away from anything and I missed it, I missed it a lot,” he said. In fact, it was four or five years before he was able to completely settle into the new routine.
“I thought I was going to go back to the K-12 school setting,” he said. “I always thought I would.”
He never had a job in education that he didn’t like at all the schools he worked. One thing he credits for a 43-year career with consistently good morale was the fact that he changed positions in schools from time to time, from teaching English to coaching to administration. “This was the longest I stayed in one position,” he said.
He explained that he was assigned a few goals by the co-op board and set some of his own, including:
• Improving the co-op’s financial status.
• Improving facilities.
• Developing salary schedules.
• Establishing practices that faithfully served the districts in the co-op area and outside the boundaries as well.
• Growing staff in needed areas with capable and service-oriented educators.
“I feel pretty good with where I’m at with those goals,” Nance said. Still, after being so focused on achieving goals, it can be difficult to refocus on new ones. “It’s easier sometimes for someone else to come in and kind of piggyback off those and launch new goals that are better for the organization.”
He thinks Jeff Cantrell, the Jasper School District superintendent, will come in as the new director and help make the co-op even stronger.
Over the years, Nance has seen numerous changes in the educational system. Technology has been a major driver of change, but school safety has also become a topic that never really came up in the past.
Still, even though Nance is leaving the co-op, he doesn’t think he’s through with the education field. Teachers are still his favorite people to be around: They are fun to work with, have a good outlook on life and are genuinely interested in service.
“If you’re not a server of people, you’re generally not good in education,” he said.
Nance said he has ideas he believes would help the educational field. With 43 years of experience in various aspects of the profession, he has a lot to lend to educators. He also wants to do some work in the faith field.
In addition, he and his wife have four grandchildren in Russellville and they want to spend more time with them, although they will still have a presence in the Harrison area where they have so many friends.
“I tell people that I’m retiring to get busier than I am now,” he said. “I want to stay moving.”