Five-Oh-Ones to Watch 2024: Dr. Kelli Martin, Greenbrier Public Schools

Dr. Kelli McGaha-Martin takes every opportunity to make her community a better one to live, learn, work and thrive. The deputy superintendent of Greenbrier Public Schools, Dr. Martin began her career as an educator 24 years ago, but her love of learning began when she was a kindergarten student in the school district she now leads.

“I love the small-town, country way of life we have, and I never really thought about leaving the area,” she said. “Holland and Greenbrier are home, and I know God placed me here and kept me here for reasons bigger than I even know now. Building a career in Greenbrier is my opportunity to give back to my hometown and our people.”

Today, Dr. Martin lives in Holland with a home away from home in Dennard. She earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, her master’s degree in educational leadership and education specialist degree from Harding University in Searcy, and Ph.D. in educational leadership from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She is passionate about education because “it’s a people business,” and she says the reason Greenbrier Public Schools is one of the best in the state is because of its people.

“I remember when we began using #GreenbrierProud to brand the school district, and the reasons why are countless,” Dr. Martin said. “I am proud of the love for children that our school community has as well as the combined commitment of our educators, parents, community members and students, which is unmatched. This all combines to make Greenbrier Public Schools a truly special place to learn, lead, teach and live.”

In addition to her responsibilities as deputy superintendent, Dr. Martin serves on the board of the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce and says this has opened numerous opportunities to connect students with local businesses and community partners.

“A few years ago, we re-established work-based learning through internships, career practicum and Jobs for Arkansas Graduates, which allows for high school students to work in various paid and unpaid positions while earning graduation credit,” she said. “The success of our work-based learning program is connected to the collaboration between our school district, the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce and the city of Greenbrier.

“It is also my privilege to serve as the school district’s unhoused liaison,” Dr. Martin continued. “Just like communities small and large across the nation, Greenbrier has an increasing unhoused population. To help, I apply for and access McKinney Vento Grant funds to sustain our Project Serve program. Over the past four years, this grant has allowed us to allocate more than $140,000 to address the needs of our students without homes or transition. While grant funds support the event, our community partners provide additional resources, ranging from personal hygiene items, basic medical care items, shoes, socks, nonperishable food, blankets, books, mental health resources and more. Serving as the district’s unhoused liaison keeps me grounded as it is a continual reminder that every person we meet is going through something. Serving our unhoused population is a reminder to shine and to be someone’s rock every time the opportunity arises.”