Feature Profile: Barbara Prichard

Steward of Excellence in Education

Butterfield Trail Village resident Barbara Prichard has devoted more than three decades to gifted and talented education in Arkansas. During her 34-year career with Fayetteville Public Schools, she developed and guided the district’s Gifted & Talented Program into a nationally acclaimed, award-winning program, serving as a model for other school districts across the state.  

At local, state and national levels, Prichard is a respected, unwavering champion for students and public education. Twice, she was appointed by then-Gov. Bill Clinton to the Governor’s Advisory Council for Gifted and Talented Education. She was a charter member, president and legislative chair of the Arkansas Association of Gifted Education Administrators (AAGEA), and served as district director for Arkansans for Gifted and Talented Education (AGATE), along with myriad other board and service commitments.  

As an educational leader, Prichard was named AAGEA Administrator of the Year, and received the AGATE Educator Award, Martha Ann Jones Service Award, AGATE Award of Excellence and, twice, the AGATE Presidential Leadership and Service Award.  

Today, this outstanding leader is one of three professionals being inducted into the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation’s 2021 Hall of Honor. At a celebration event in March 2022, Prichard will be honored along with fellow inductees Martha “Marti” Sharkey, a 1986 graduate of Fayetteville High School, and John Newman, a 1996 Fayetteville high alum. 

In its 25th year, the Hall of Honor recognizes Fayetteville Public School educators and alumni who have demonstrated extraordinary fidelity, honor and service by upholding a tradition of excellence in both their personal achievements and contributions to greater society.  

“It’s personally and professionally humbling,” Prichard said recently from the Village Home she shares with husband, retired Lt. Col. Doug Prichard. “As a member of the initial Fayetteville Public Education Foundation Board, being inducted in this 25th anniversary year is particularly special.” 

Barbara Prichard joined Fayetteville Public Schools in 1983 as the director of Gifted Education and Advanced Placement. Under her leadership, the program was named the state’s Outstanding Gifted & Talented Program a record six times. Fayetteville High School’s Advanced Placement program also grew under her tutelage and had the most Advanced Placement Scholars in the state.  

For Prichard, one of the most important aspects of her work is being a spokesperson and supporter for students.  

“Education is and should be for every student the stepping stone to an accomplished life, where they can contribute to the betterment of society and they have the ability to help others,” she said. “As educators, it’s critical that we also reach advanced learners and provide them with a challenging curriculum. If children are bored in the classroom, they risk not reaching their potential.” 

Kansas ‘J-Hog’ 

A Kansas native, Barbara Prichard holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education from the University of Kansas, and both a master’s and an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Administration from the University of Arkansas.  

With degrees from both alma matters, one way Prichard expresses her ‘house divided’ loyalty is with a personalized license plate, “J-Hog” that her husband bought for her. 

“I’m a Jayhawk, with degrees from both KU and the U of A,” she said. “But when it comes time for basketball season, it’s KU that tugs at my heart.” 

Prichard comes from a family of educators. She graduated from high school in Topeka, Kan. Her father, C.W. Rice, was a school superintendent, and her mom, Hazel, a classroom teacher. Brother Karl Rice (also a BTV resident with his wife, Cecy) was a school band/choral director and later a counselor for a number of years in Kansas and Missouri.  

Her first classroom job was in 1967 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., teaching students of active-duty military parents. Later, she taught at Department of Defense Military Dependents schools in Aschaffenburg, Germany. There, she met Arkansas native Doug Prichard, a field artillery captain serving in an Army tactical, nuclear combat unit. 

Prichard family ski trip

Over his 21-year Army career, Doug Prichard served in Airborne Units: Special Forces “Green Beret,” 82nd Airborne Division & XVIII Airborne Corps. He also served in 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. After Command & General Staff College, he was assigned to U of A as an assistant professor in the Razorback ROTC Brigade, and was later an advisor to the 142nd Field Artillery in Northwest Arkansas. Following military retirement, he earned an architecture degree from the U of A and spent 18 years as a construction manager with Walmart Realty Division.  

After the Prichards left Germany for an Army assignment to Fort Bragg, they moved to Fayetteville, N.C. There, Barbara accepted a teaching position with Cumberland County School District, one of the largest districts in the state. It was a turning point in her career.  

“Cumberland County Schools was huge and in the process of establishing its Gifted and Talented program, developing testing, and hiring teachers,” Prichard said. 

Prichard earned North Carolina certification in Gifted and Talented Education, and was part of a team of 11 teaching personnel who established the first Cumberland County district-wide GT program.  

She remained in the position until 1981 when Doug was assigned to the ROTC Department at the U of A. So, the Prichards and their four sons said goodbye to North Carolina and headed to Northwest Arkansas.  

Gifted and Talented  

Prichard family in the late 80’s

When she was hired by Fayetteville Public Schools in 1983, Prichard was the only teacher in the state with certification in gifted and talented education. Fayetteville Public Schools was planning to establish the district’s GT program, and Arkansas was working toward instituting a statewide teacher certification program.  

“Fayetteville was one of the very first districts in Arkansas to fully develop and establish a GT program,” Prichard said. “During my time as the administrator, the program was recognized six times as the outstanding large-district program in the state – a recognition no other district has earned. I will quickly add that this was because of a wonderful GT teaching staff and supportive personnel the district had.” 

Fayetteville’s GT program was designed to identify and challenge students whose learning needs are additional to the standard classroom curriculum.  

“GT students are students with special learning needs,” Prichard said. “They need educational programming via a quantitatively differentiated curriculum.” 

Also under her direction, Fayetteville’s Advanced Placement program was assigned administrative personnel and grew its AP class offerings from three to 25. At the time of her retirement, over 10,000 hours of college credit had been earned by Fayetteville High School students from their AP exam scores. 

Prichard explains ways GT and AP programs differ: There is no formal assessment required for students to take AP classes, which are geared toward students who wish to earn college credit before graduating from high school. Students placed in the GT program are referred and assessed for the program and placed by a school-based committee. The tie between the two programs is that many GT students from grade school through junior high ultimately take AP courses in high school. 

In addition to her role at Fayetteville Public Schools, Prichard served as a consultant for the national College Board, conducting training for teachers, administrators and AP Exam personnel in 16 states and D.C. She was appointed to the College Board’s first four-state (including Arkansas) Regional Council and later chaired the organization, receiving the SW Regional Recognition Award. She also served on the National Academic Council.  

With her strong ties to education, it’s no surprise Prichard remains personally and professionally close with a number of Fayetteville GT and AP teachers today.  

“Teachers in both programs were a joy and privilege to work with,” Prichard said. “They were all educational professionals of the highest order. They wrote and taught superior curriculum, and set the bar high not only for themselves, but also for their students.” 

Still Serving 

Since moving to BTV in 2019, the Prichards remain active in the community, serving on a number of boards and committees. They attend Central United Methodist Church, and Barbara now serves AGATE as the emeritus chair of the state organization.  

“Retirement is amazingly busy,” she said. “We’ve been traveling to visit the kids, and I’ve played a lot of tennis. It’s been nice to be able to slow down and do that.” 

The couple’s four sons followed Doug Prichard’s footsteps into military service and professional careers. Eric, a West Point graduate who served two tours in Korea, is a labor and delivery nurse in D.C. His daughters are Jessica, 23 and Paige, 22. Jim is a retired Air Force Colonel and combat pilot in the Middle East who lives in Las Vegas with wife, Lori, and son, Caden, 15. Brandon is a landscape architect in Fayetteville, who served as an Army sergeant in the Arkansas National Guard. And J.D, who is a Hall of Fame tennis player at Hendrix College, is a pathology physician at Ft. Benning, Ga. His wife Sarah is a radiology technician.  

At BTV, the Prichards especially enjoy the Wellness & Aquatic Center, the BTV Bistro, special activities and sharing time with close friends, including brother Karl and his wife, Cecy. What they value most is the security that comes with being residents of a Life Plan Community. “When it comes down to it, we came here for peace of mind,” she said. “As a gift to our children.”