Participants in the Russell County School District’s Institute Day made it clear why they enjoy coming to work for the county’s schools – the leadership provided by Superintendent and Troy University alumna Dr. Brenda Coley.
“Dr. Coley is one of the most passionate, energetic, and uplifting people I know. She is not a boss that you fear to have a conversation with. No, she is literally like the mom who cannot wait to give you a big hug regardless of what is happening. She is a genuine, warm-hearted, person who you love being around,” said one Russell County employee when asked their thoughts on the school district’s top lady.
A native of Hurtsboro, Alabama (a community of about 500 people), Dr. Coley grew up and graduated from the rural Russell County school system. She did not have to travel far for college as she received her undergraduate degree from Auburn University and her master’s degree from Troy University’s Phenix City Campus. She also later earned a specialist degree from Troy University, followed by a Doctorate in Education from Walden University in Administrative Leadership.
Dr. Coley has spent nearly 30 years in the field of education, all in the same school system, a feat rarely seen in today’s workforce.
Throughout the years, she has served as an elementary teacher at Russell Elementary (Hurtsboro) and Ladonia Elementary. She then served as Assistant Principal for four years at Ladonia Elementary, before being promoted to principal at Oliver Elementary (Seale) for nine years.
In 2015, she was elected as superintendent of the Russell County School District. During her tenure as superintendent, she has taken the school system to new heights, including raising the graduation rate from 87% to 94% in 2022, and raising the College & Career Readiness rate from 51% in 2015 to 74% in 2022.
In August 2022, Dr. Coley was awarded District 4 Superintendent of the Year.
“It was so exciting. I was honored that my peers thought enough of my district to recognize it in such a prestigious way,” she said, refusing to take all the credit and believing the accolade to be the result of a team effort. “A system is always successful because of your team. I have an amazing team. It starts with my faith, then the board, and then a great team. To me, it’s just a testament to the team and that when you work hard, people see the hard work that you do and recognize that we’re making a lot of improvements. I’ll accept it in honor of my team because I know I couldn’t have done it by myself.”
Dr. Coley has been nominated for the Superintendent of the Year award several times, but this is the first time she has won, winning over 20 other school systems in the district.
In addition, Dr. Coley has received numerous accolades, including Home Town High Achiever (2012) and Phenix City NAACP Outstanding Educator (2013). Her memberships include the Alabama Education Association, Council Leader for Alabama Schools, and Rho Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated in Columbus, GA.