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Changes in PV Elementary Campus Administration

At the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year, after 28 years of service at CAC’s Pleasant Valley campus, elementary campus principal Mrs. Shelia Cruce will take on a central administrative role as the Special Assistant to the President for Early Childhood and Elementary School Programs. Mrs. Jamie Custer, current CAC Pleasant Valley 5th grade teacher, will become the new Pleasant Valley Elementary campus principal.

As the Special Assistant to the President for Early Childhood and Elementary School programs, Mrs. Cruce’s focus will be on the cross-campus alignment of key curricular, instructional, assessment, school mission and supporting policies. Cruce, who was instrumental in the creation of CAC PV’s PreK4 program and taught for 10 years before becoming principal, has a self-proclaimed passion for Early Childhood curriculum and is excited to work with the principals and faculty to enhance and unify both elementary campuses.

Mrs. Custer is a Harding University alumna with a Masters of Curriculum Instruction from Freed-Hardeman and will graduate with her Ed.S. in Principalship and Principal Licensure from Arkansas State University this May. As a parent of two CAC students and a lifelong lover of learning, Custer said she looks forward to taking CAC into its next chapter. She is passionate about the vision God has placed on her heart, and is excited to be part of the school’s mission to foster a school community where faith is first, meaningful relationships are created and skills are developed to help students reach their goals.

“At CAC, because of our Christian perspective, we have the unique ability to help train the whole child, and to include teachings on morals and character-building along with academic instruction,” Custer said. “The focus on a Christ-like life can be woven throughout our day and into every interaction we have with students as we help them learn to live in community with one another.”

When Mrs. Shelia Cruce accepted the Pleasant Valley Elementary campus principal job offer from Mr. Diles, she was a little intimidated by the task but mostly excited to work with a faculty and administration who had a clear purpose and vision for the future. Over the next 18 years, she helped implement new reading programs, tracked test scores and researched curriculums used by public and private schools across the county. Under her leadership, the math program has continually improved, English test scores have risen, and students’ writing skills have seen improvements thanks to a new emphasis on grammar. In addition to academics, the staff believes Mrs. Cruce’s focus on spiritual growth has helped foster a family-like community among the teachers.

“Just watching her in the workplace as a godly woman, you learn a lot,” Custer said. “The staff has a Christian culture, and I really believe she’s a key part of that. She spiritually feeds the faculty and staff and is so mindful of our personal needs. Watching her take the time to listen to people and be available has already taught me so much. She’s busy with so many things, but she’ll take the time to listen to anyone who needs her.”

To hear Mrs. Cruce talk about her staff is to witness sincere gratitude, respect and love.

“It’s a joy to come here to work,” Cruce said. “Our teachers are truly supportive of one another; they share their hearts and pray for each other daily. The community that we’ve built here is wonderful, and I’ve enjoyed experiencing it. I didn’t do it – we all collectively wanted it, and it happened because of that shared desire. It’s been fun to watch that grow and develop. It truly is a wonderful place to be.”

“I think it’s hard for people to understand what is here at CAC until they experience the love and the quality of education that their children are getting. It’s truly remarkable what’s given to these children every day at this school on every level. I’m always so impressed with what our teachers are coming up with, and I wish I could share every bit of it with the parents. I wish they could see it all.”

Being an elementary principal comes with a plethora of responsibilities ranging from curriculum to discipline to communication to giving hugs and lending a listening ear. Cruce said that every child she’s encountered over the years has encouraged her own personal growth, and as she looked at each child individually, she would often pray for God to let her see them as He would. The small notes of encouragement left on her desk, the behavioral improvements, the educational breakthroughs and the moments spent comforting students are all sacred pieces that will be kept forever in her heart.

“What an honor it is to have been part of these kids’ lives,” Cruce said. “I have been given the gift of being witness to some wonderful families and some wonderful kids. What an absolute gift to be invited to a child’s baptism. It’s those moments that I won’t ever forget.”

In an easy conversational transition, her love for CAC students is carried over to the parents who play an important role in the success of the school.

“I love the parents here,” Cruce said. “They want good things for their students too, so they are willing to partner with us – and that partnership makes the community easier to work with. It is always easier to grow and to educate when you have a partnership.”

Mrs. Cruce has undoubtedly blessed countless students and families at CAC, just as she herself has been blessed in return. Her sacrifice, wisdom, humility and leadership is responsible for so much of what CAC’s Pleasant Valley Elementary campus is today.

“I never knew the gift that Mr. Diles was giving me,” Mrs. Cruce said. “Was it hard? Yes. But I would not wish any of it away. I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to be the principal here.”