A Crawford County justice of the peace will be the new superintendent for Mountainburg School District.

Mountainburg School District Board of Education members unanimously chose Debbie Atwell as the district’s new superintendent.

Atwell will take up the position in July, replacing current Superintendent Dennis Copeland, who submitted his resignation this summer. Copeland will serve as superintendent through the remainder of the school year.

Atwell, who also serves as a Crawford County justice of the peace for Mountainburg, is excited about taking on the position of superintendent at the school district, she said.

“I’m a graduate of Mountainburg and I’m a parent of Mountainburg graduates, so I understand Dragon pride,” Atwell said.

Atwell has been an educator for about 29 years, beginning as a teacher at Mountainburg High School for the first eight years of her career.

She went on to serve as the Mountainburg Middle School principal for five years, and then in multiple roles at Van Buren School District for 10 years.

For the past six years, Atwell has worked at Rogers School District. She was the director of professional development and grants for five years, and currently serves as the executive director of curriculum and instruction for grades 9-12.

“I’ve enjoyed the experience of working in larger districts; it’s given me the opportunity to work in really focused roles,” Atwell said. “(But) the opportunity to work in a smaller school is very promising, and it’s going to come with its own set of challenges, as well.”

Atwell lives in Mountainburg and said she looks forward to working closer to home.

“A lot of the students at Mountainburg schools are children of my former students, and children of friends, as well, so it’s going to be a great chance to reconnect with the community,” Atwell said.

Board members chose Atwell over two other candidates, who were picked out of 22 total applicants, Copeland said.

In the running for the position were Andrew Curry, Deer-Mount Judea School District superintendent, and Samuel Scott, Lavaca Elementary School principal.

“Debbie is a former graduate of Mountainburg and worked in the district as a teacher and administrator; she still lives in the community. I think the board did a good job of finding my replacement,” Copeland said.

Copeland decided to resign after suffering from cancer that required him to have a kidney removed about a year and half ago. He tendered his resignation early to give the school board ample time to find a new superintendent, he said.

“I think the biggest thing (impacting my decision) was the health scare, and having a different perspective on life,” Copeland said.

Copeland has been superintendent at MSD for 10 years, and has spent 38 years in education. He will miss the students and staff at MSD, he said.

“This last 10 years as superintendent has been very rewarding and I will always have fond memories of my time at Mountainburg,” Copeland said.

Copeland plans to spend more time traveling with his wife and visiting his grandchildren, who live in the central area of the state, he said.