On Feb. 1, the Couch R-1 School Board offered Deckard a one-year contract at $70,000 to replace retiring Superintendent William "Tom" Bull on July 1.
Counting the 12 years Russell Deckard attended Couch School and the dozen or so years he taught social studies there before taking over as elementary principal, Deckard has been with the district most of his life.
Kindergarten did not exist yet in Couch, or Deckard would have attended 13 years.
Along with Bull and about 28 other classmates, Deckard graduated from Couch High School in 1970.
Deckard went on to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees from Arkansas State University, and his specialist's degree from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau before taking his first coaching and teaching job at Couch High School in 1991.
Deckard coached boys basketball and taught physical education and social studies. Twelve years ago, he became the elementary principal. Then, last year, to save money, the district named Deckard as the K-12 principal, eliminating the high school principal position held by Tonya Woods.
Woods left the district to become superintendent at Ripley County R-3 School District in Gatewood.
Merging the two positions was one of several major cost-saving efforts employed by the Couch District last year, including consolidating bus routes and shortening the school calendar by increasing daily hours.
Deckard said he sees no need now to alter those changes that began this year, although the shortened calendar will be evaluated soon.
"Consolidating the bus routes has been good for the district and will save money," Deckard said.
Deckard's grandparents, Irvin and Nancy Deckard owned the Deckard store at what is now called the "Deckard Y" at the junction of Highway 142 and Route H three miles east of the school.
As a child, Deckard would frequently ask his parents to let him walk down to the store to pump gasoline, then 18 cents per gallon. Deckard did not know his grandfather, who died a year or two before Deckard was born, but he recalls vividly his grandmother, who ran the store until the late 1970s before renting it to other operators.
"In the summer, she would sit on the porch and watch the customers go in and out of the store," Deckard said. "I think she missed it."
As Deckard watched the girls' basketball practice in the "old gym," the district's only gymnasium when he attended in the 1960s, Deckard said the Couch community has always been and always will be his home.
"I never thought I'd ever have this job, never dreamed of it," Deckard said of his promotion. "I'm ready to give it a try."
Deckard was selected from among 11 applicants. The district has now begun advertising to fill the principal position. As of Feb. 6, the district received one application. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 17.
The board will set the principal's salary based on experience. The district currently has an enrollment of 250 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
For information on the position, call the district at 417-938-4211.