Dr. Youlanda Washington named Kentucky community superintendent for DODEA’s Southeast District

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Dr. Youlanda Washington was named as the Kentucky community superintendent for the Southeast District Department of Defense Education Activity Aug. 24.

Washington, who begins working as the community superintendent Tuesday, has been a part of Fort Knox Community Schools since 1970. She was a former student due to her father retiring as a Fort Knox Soldier and she’s been the principal at the former Pierce and Macdonald Elementary schools on post. She currently serves in that same capacity at Scott Middle School.

As the Kentucky community superintendent, Washington will oversee 10 DODEA schools located on Fort Campbell and Fort Knox serving more than 4,780 students.

Although Washington will move to Fort Campbell for this position, she said she will still feel connected to Fort Knox.

“I feel like I’m leaving home for a season of time in my life,” she said. “For that season of time there’s an opportunity to learn more about another location and to embrace that military culture.”

DODEA Americas Southeast District Superintendent Dr. Christy Huddleston recognized Washington’s experience in all aspects of school operations.

“Dr. Washington has vast experience in elementary through secondary school settings and at the district office,” said Huddleston. “Additionally, she has been recognized as the teacher of the year for Fort Knox Schools on two different occasions and as the finalist for the State of Kentucky Elementary Principal of the Year in 2000.”

Working as a superintendent will be a change for Washington, but she still plans to maintain relationships with students and work toward DODEA’s goals.

“I will still be hands on,” she said. “I’m a natural magnet for children and children are a natural magnet to me. There are Families at Fort Campbell (who) used to reside on Fort Knox. I will be looking for those relationships as soon as I arrive at Fort Campbell.”

At the end of the last school year Washington was contemplating retirement because she said she believed she had done all that she could do.

“I shared with the teachers at Scott that you are at a pinnacle of your profession and you don’t need me anymore,” explained Washington. “Each time a staff has reached that level with me change has come. The change I was thinking was retirement. As I was encouraged by several of my peers to look at the superintendency, I thought maybe that will be the next level where I could really support teachers, children and Families at a whole different level. So I stayed.”

She added that every transition in leadership has been about setting up a safe haven for children and Families.

“I always want the atmosphere to be light and full of laughter,” said Washington. “When people come to us through these doors, whatever doors I have been a part of, I wanted them to know I really care about what happens to the military child because I’ve been one and I know what it feels like.”

Washington pointed out that when she was beginning her career as an educator her father told her, “Your role in life Youlanda is to care for the military child. You are to be there for every need that they have. You are to be their strength when they don’t have strength. You are to be their hope when they don’t have hope. You are to be that leader when they don’t know which direction to go... guide them in the right direction.”

“He said, ‘whatever you do you never let the Soldier down, because the Soldier will never let you down,’” she recalled. ‘He will defend and protect this country and you owe that to their child.’ So I have lived that. My dad is 86 years old. He lives in Louisville with my mother and every time I go to his house he will say, ‘are you taking care of the Soldier and his child.’

“Every time I speak to my dad I say, ‘Dad I am serving the military child, I am taking care of that Soldier’s child.’ That’s what I feel like will happen for the Kentucky District. That’s the type of leader they are going to get.”

Washington said she will spend the majority of the time at Fort Campbell but plans to travel to Fort Knox for all of the school board meetings and visit either Thursday or Friday of each week. She plans to remain at Scott Middle School until there is a replacement, but she will work as the superintendent.

Editor’s note: Catrina Francis contributed to this story.