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Debbie Decker

The five female ADs of local school districts

Nice story, with a bit of a lesson in it.

The Houston, Katy, Klein, New Caney and Spring Branch districts all for the first time employ women as athletic directors, reflecting a new model, if not necessarily a new path, to the top in interscholastic administration.

Like their male counterparts and predecessors, Debbie Decker (Katy), Teresa Anderson (Klein), Paige Hershey (Spring Branch) and Marmion Dambrino (Houston) all advanced through the ranks after years as coaches or administrators. Pamela Lea (New Caney) is in her first AD’s job after years as an assistant AD in Fort Worth.

“All the old guys are retiring,” said Rusty Dowling, Decker’s predecessor at Katy, “and districts are moving away from the model where the football coach who had the most success and was first to retire became AD if the job was open. That still happens, but some districts are taking a different look at the position.

“There are so many challenges for ADs, whether it’s finances or staffing or budgets, that having a successful record on the football field is no longer a prerequisite. A coaching background helps, but a lot of districts are looking for an administrator with a business component.”


Each of the five female ADs – plus Krista Malmstrom, who shares the title in Humble with Troy Kite – took a different path to the job. All, however, had male mentors who saw leadership qualities in them, and all benefited from the increased importance placed on girls sports since the advent 40 years ago of Title IX, the federal statute requiring equal opportunities in federally funded institutions.

I noted Dambrino’s hiring here. I like the fact that all these women were mentored along the way. Diversity and equal opportunity isn’t just about broadening your talent pool, it’s also about identifying and investing in the talent you have. However you look at it, it’s good news about some trailblazing women. May many more follow in their footsteps.