Debra R. Houghton
Mannsdale Upper Elementary School
Madison County Schools
Debra Houghton began her administrative career five years ago as principal of Mannsdale Upper Elementary, a third through fifth grade school in Madison, Mississippi. Throughout her tenure, Houghton has proven herself a passionate and effective leader, particularly adept cultivating distributed leadership and building rich and complementary programming to support growth for students and teachers alike. Houghton launched Mavs on the Move, a program for academically advanced fifth-graders, which has since expanded to serve students in the third and fourth grades as well. She has also developed a garden classroom program that teaches students key principles of land stewardship and the importance of growing food. Students work together to raise chickens and grow vegetables, selling produce to community members in a farmers-style market. Houghton takes an assertive and hands-on approach to teacher development, coordinating weekly classroom observations and feedback loops to support teachers in setting goals and coaching them in how to achieve them. These efforts have buoyed student achievement while increasing teacher confidence, risk-taking, and creativity. Houghton has taken a similar initiative to elevate instruction at the district level, serving as a leader and catalyst for a first-of-its-kind teacher collaborative designed to bring teachers together to share and develop best practices. Most recently, Houghton was named the 2020 Administrator of the Year for the state of Mississippi. She holds a B.A. from Louisiana College, a master’s degree in Leadership from Mississippi College, and a Specialist Degree in Curriculum from William Carey University.