‘Kind, Amazing’: Ms. Donna Howard Honored as DeKalb County School District Educational Support Professional of the Year

Ms. Donna Howard’s job title at the DeKalb School of the Arts (DSA) may be “administrative assistant,” but her position extends far beyond only assisting the administration. She dependably supports school staff, students, parents, other school partners, and just about anything else that needs it.

Her commitment to helping others has earned her the title of DeKalb County School District (DCSD) 2023–2024 Educational Support Professional I of the Year. She was presented with the award during the District’s 10th Annual Academy of Educational Excellence Awards last fall and is still in awe at being honored with the recognition.

“I feel blessed to receive this prestigious title,” she said. “It makes me feel so accomplished to be recognized for my work ethic and dedication to DeKalb Schools.”

Ms. Howard joined DCSD in 2007 as an elementary school media clerk. At the time, she applied for the position to learn library operations.

“I enjoyed working with the media specialist, the entire staff, and the students. I strongly feel that this role enabled me to fully learn and understand the various roles and operations in a school building,” said Ms. Howard. “I consider my media clerk position to be a stepping stone for allowing me other opportunities within the district.”

After serving as a media clerk for a few years, she became an administrative assistant at DSA and has worked there for the last 14 years. She explained her passion and dedication to assisting others as the reason for pursuing this role.

“I am a firm believer in always treating others as you would like to be treated,” Ms. Howard said. “Everyone should be treated equally and with respect.”

Dr. Keith Jones, Principal of DSA, praised Ms. Howard as a fantastic employee whose passion positively impacts everyone she encounters.

“Ms. Howard is the glue that holds this unique institution together. Her presence sets the tone, and she has both a welcoming and confident personality,” said Dr. Jones. “She provides moments of clarity in times of confusion, words of encouragement in times of sadness, and constantly lights the path for others to see. She means everything to the DSA family.”

According to Ms. Howard, the best part of working at DSA is the fantastic work environment. She mentioned that students often drop by her office to sing, dance, perform a drama skit, or check on her.

“The DSA administrators and staff work together as a team to ensure scholar success,” she added. “I love that even though we all have our roles, we always come together to serve our most precious stakeholders—our scholars.”

Ms. Howard said she hopes her legacy reflects her core values of kindness, compassion, and fairness. She shared an instance when a parent inquired about how she stays cheerful during the school day. In response, she explained that her daily tasks and interactions are simply an expression of who she is.

“My role is a reflection of myself, DSA, and the district as a whole,” she said. “I incorporate my personal core values into every person I encounter daily. I would hope that these values will always remain.”