Superintendent reflects on career, shares love for community

Holly Ferguson discusses goals of educational opportunities, student engagement


Christi Norris

Arms spread wide, Superintendent Holly Ferguson prepares to congratulate a student in the rain as they walk across the stage at the class of 2021 graduation ceremony, which took place in the district’s Children’s Health Stadium. Ferguson recently entered her second year as Prosper ISD’s superintendent. Ferguson filled the position after the superintendent of 18 years, Drew Watkins chose to retire.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Music plays from the band in the stand. Players bustle on the sidelines. What Holly Ferguson hears, though, is her name being introduced to the crowd as the football game is about to begin. She stands, smiling on the field, ready to cheer on the players.

After being hired as superintendent in June 2020, Ferguson recently reached her one-year anniversary of holding the top job for Prosper Independent School District. But, this isn’t her first year here or in education.

“When I was in eighth grade, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher,” Ferguson said. “I had kind of toyed with maybe being a lawyer when I was younger, and then I’d had some really great teachers along the way, and I was like, ‘You know what, I think I want to be a teacher and a coach.’”

With neither of Ferguson’s parents being able to attend college, she said she was “propelled” from a young age to do what her parents weren’t able to get a college education. 

“By eighth grade, I was going to be a high school English teacher and a track coach,” Ferguson said. “And I went to college, and I realized that I was going to be like 22 years old teaching 18-year-olds, maybe, and it kind of freaked me out. I didn’t change my major, but I changed my certification level, so I was certified to teach first grade through eighth grade, and that just felt a little more comforting.”

She’s incredible. When she talks to you, it’s like the world stopped so she could listen to you. Everyday she is a servant leader, she lives it, she’s at more events than I am. I don’t know if she ever sleeps but she has a passion for kids.”

— Dr. John Burdett, Principal

After graduating from Texas A&M University, Ferguson began her first teaching position in the district in 1998.

Adjusting her hat, superintendent Holly Ferguson talks to Jason Reynolds, CEO and photographer for Cedarbrook Media. Ferguson has been in education since 1998 when she started as a teacher in Prosper. “My favorite thing about our school district is the students,” Ferguson said. “When I think about Prosper ISD, I immediately think about the students. I think about how many students have inspired me, and how fortunate I am to have landed in this place where all of these amazing kids make me learn things I would never learn or be aware of.”

“I had been teaching for about three years, and I decided that I probably wanted to get my masters because I didn’t know if I wanted to be in a classroom for 30 years,” Ferguson said. “So, I’d go ahead and get my masters, and just have it ready when I’m ready to do something else.”

After getting her master’s degree, Ferguson took a break from teaching to be at home with her children. Shortly after leaving, though, she was asked if she would work part-time in the Frisco Independent School District

“At the school, I got assigned to, the principal was like, ‘I need an assistant principal, I heard that you have your masters,’” Ferguson said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah but I really like working part-time, and I don’t think I’m really going to do anything with it right now,” and she was like, ‘You should really think about it.’”

Ferguson then received another offer for an assistant principal position, which led her to decide to apply to Frisco ISD, where she got the job. She stayed in her first position in Frisco for four years, but when human resources decided they needed to move her into a new position, she began considering returning to Prosper.

“At that time, our oldest child, it was time for him to go to kindergarten,” Ferguson said. “And so, I thought, ‘Maybe this is just a sign that I need to go to another district.’ We lived in the area around Prosper, and I applied back in Prosper because I was like, ‘If I am going to start over, I may as well start over closer to home.’” 

After making the decision to return to Prosper, Ferguson returned to the district as the principal of Rucker Elementary School

“There was a pretty large crowd of people who didn’t want their kids going to Rucker because it was the ‘old school,’” Ferguson said. “But, I was bound and determined to make sure it was the school to be at, because I hate when people talk negatively about schools, because it impacts kids.”

After spending three years at Rucker, Ferguson moved to Rogers Middle School, where she was the principal for four years, before joining the district’s central administration to work on curriculum.

“I was first the executive director of curriculum and learning services,” Ferguson said. “And then I became the assistant superintendent of curriculum, and then I became the associate superintendent.”

After her six years in central administration, Ferguson heard the news that the former superintendent of PISD, Drew Watkins, had plans to retire in 2020. 

“Dr. Watkins – I always say that he kind of raised me,” Ferguson said. “I was a pretty young principal when he first hired me, and he would always invest in me or give me my next opportunity. He had been saying to me for quite some time, talking to me about being a superintendent, and saying, ‘You need to be ready,’ giving me these hints along the way. I knew that he would eventually retire, but I didn’t know that he would retire as early as he did.”

Reading, Children’s Health Stadium announcer Eric Manto shows superintendent Holly Ferguson the itinerary for Prosper’s “Meet the Eagles” event. Ferguson attended both “Meet the Eagles” and “Meet the Blue Hawks,” events that introduced athletes from Prosper and Rock Hill High Schools. The events traditionally are held the first week of school on Saturday evening at Children’s Health Stadium.

One day, Ferguson said Watkins sat her down and told her that he wanted her to apply for the superintendent position.

“I knew that the school board really trusted his opinion,” Ferguson said. “So, I knew that there was probably a greater chance that I would be selected.”

After going through the application and interview process,  Ferguson was hired as superintendent on July 31, 2020. 

“When I heard, I was super proud and very honored,” Ferguson said. “I love Prosper ISD, obviously, I’ve been here twice, and I have such a high level of respect for Dr. Watkins. Knowing that this is what he wanted on his way out, I felt like I landed in the best job in the state.”

Staff members in Prosper ISD have also said that they are “proud” to work in a district under Ferguson.

“I am proud to work in a district with a superintendent who leads by example,” Windsong Elementary teacher Tracy Winans said. “Dr. Ferguson has a true servant’s heart. She cares about all students and staff, and goes above and beyond to ensure that Prosper ISD is doing what is best for all students.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ferguson said many of her goals have been put aside, but during her first year, she made sure to remain focused on her larger goals — mainly of establishing a district collegiate athletic recruiter to help students who want to continue playing sports into college, and also for curriculum expansion and improvement.

“We have a great curriculum, but the work’s just never done, we want to keep making it better,” Ferguson said. “I had a goal of increasing dual credit offerings for students, so we could get students to about 60 hours of credit hours before they graduate. We are moving from 30 hours to 58 hours this next year.”

Going forward, Ferguson said she hopes to increase community engagement in the school district and create an easier transition for new students and families. 

“Through a program, we call the Prosper Promise, we have all of these different, either informational or advisory type, opportunities that parents can sign up for,” Ferguson said. “My group is the superintendent-parent advisory council, and I’ve got a group of about 66 parents that come in and talk about different topics and give suggestions.”

As the school year continues, Ferguson said the one thing that has remained the same to her is the importance of the district’s students.

“My favorite thing about our school district is the students,” Ferguson said. “When I think about Prosper ISD, I immediately think about the students. I think about how many students have inspired me, and how fortunate I am to have landed in this place where all of these amazing kids make me learn things I would never learn or be aware of.”

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