After 38 years of service in the field of education, Betty Ford, principal of Ellen Smith Elementary in Conway, is retiring.

Ford began her career in 1972 as a math teacher in Chicago, Ill. She gained experience teaching in other districts in Texas and Arkansas before settling in Conway.

She reached Conway in the year 1996, to spend the rest of her career in administration at the Conway School District. 

Ford has been the principal of Ellen Smith Elementary since its doors opened in 1998.

“One thing I’m proud of, it is the fact that I can say that Ellen Smith was at one time one of the lowest performing schools when we became a school family, and is now one of the highest performing schools in the state in regards to state tests and achievement,” Ford said.
Greg Murry, superintendent of the district, said Ellen Smith was recently recognized at the Clinton Presidential Library as one of the most outstanding elementary schools in the state of Arkansas.

“It is because of her effective leadership that Ellen Smith is a high-performing school. I’ve been pleased to get to know Ms. Ford for the past three years. She’s an excellent principal and a quality person,” Murry said.

Another thing Ford said she can be proud of as she leaves Ellen Smith is that teachers and students will be able to say that she was fair.

Dawn Holland, secretary at Ellen Smith Elementary, worked with Ford for 11 years.
“We opened this school together. She was a wonderful person to work with, very fair, very organized, always on top of things, and she’s also a good friend,” Holland said. “She’s very honest and treats the students like they were hers. She will even tutor them if they need it. She has most definitely been a credit to the district and a respected lady.”

Ford has been a mentor to her staff, encouraging professionalism and a healthy work ethic.
Denise Perry, fourth grade teacher at Ellen Smith Elementary said Ford can best be described as “a classy lady.”
“She’s a wonderful person, professional, with a great work ethic. I look at her as a classy lady. Whatever she deals with, she does it with class,” Perry said. “Working for her was the best thing to happen to me coming to Conway. She’s taught me so much about teaching, about being professional. She has dedicated most of her life to education.”

Ford said working with Conway’s school district has been an “awesome experience.”
“Conway School District is one of the best districts, I think, in the state of Arkansas. And I have thoroughly enjoyed working here,” Ford said. “I will miss being with the kids.”
Ford said being around children has been her life.
“In fact, I will miss them so, that I’ve decided I’m going to volunteer at Children’s Hospital to give me more opportunity to be with kids. I want to read to children there and help them with academics. I want to help with their homework and do whatever I can to help make their stay there a better one and help them stay on task and target as far as their academics are concerned.”

Other plans for retirement, Ford said, will include traveling and seeing Arkansas, gardening and catching up on reading.
“I’m excited. I’m excited because I’ve been in education for 38 years. It’s been good, and I’ve given 100 percent to my job and it’s time for me to explore some other things in my life,” Ford said. “When someone talks to me about retirement, I’m all smiles.”

Murry said Ford’s position at Ellen Smith Elementary has been filled, and will be announced at the end of this week.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at