The Human Resource

DeSoto ISD’s new Chief of HR has connection to leader at Woodridge Elementary
Posted on 04/21/2022
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Perhaps it’s her longtime love of creating things by hand.

“I started sewing just from buying patterns and fabric and I really liked putting things together, “ DeSoto ISD Chief of Human Capital Management Dr. Violet Dean said.

She’s stitched together a formidable career in people management, shaping others along the way. Dean admits that initially, the path for her own future wasn’t clear.

“When I went to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I was that child,” she said.

It was her grandmother’s inquiry about her college major and of what she liked to do, to which Dean replied “Well, I like to sew.” Her grandmother’s response helped steer her decision.

“She said, ‘Well, teach it,’ and I said, ‘Okay,’ and that’s how it started.”

The former home economics teacher’s classroom experiences span both private and public sectors from Fredericksburg, Texas to New Jersey. Dean is also no stranger to DeSoto ISD.

“I was dropping my kids off at school and passed this [DeSoto ISD] office and decided I needed to work, and came in and said, ‘Can I get an application?’” Dean said.

She recalled a woman asking for what type of position to which she replied,''Professional teaching.’’ When asked about the content area, Dean answered, “Home Economics,” to which she was emphatically told “We can interview you now!”

That was in 1996. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, Dean requested to return the next morning so that she could be professionally dressed.

“I went through the interview, was sent to the high school to interview with the campus principal, and when I came back to the HR Department, they gave me a contract,” Dean said. “And that’s how I ended up working in DeSoto.”

Dean joined the District the year before the freshman campus opened, eventually moving to that campus. She even recalled being in the same home economics pod as current school board member and retired teacher Kathy Goad.

Advancing through the education ranks, Dean has worked in Cedar Hill ISD, Mansfield ISD and as the Director of Human Resources - Elementary in Arlington ISD.

Her presence on the campus of Waterford Oaks Elementary in Cedar Hill caught the attention of a budding leader.

“Being in Cedar Hill that at the time was predominantly white, to see an African American woman with this stature, and she’d just walk with this regalness about her, that automatically caught my attention,” Woodridge Elementary School Principal Demitree Tatum said. “I was like, ‘Who is this woman? I need to know who this woman is!’”

Dean became principal at Waterford Oaks after having filled in during a time when their former principal was intermittently out for medical reasons. Her administrative approach was different from what the campus had previously experienced.

“We weren’t used to administrators in our room outside of observations,” Tatum said. “And so, when she was coming over there as the “acting principal” everybody was like, ‘Who is this woman coming in?’”

Dean took notice that Tatum wasn’t bothered by her presence.

“It just really kind of threw the campus in a tizzy because what I was doing they weren’t used to, and all I was doing was walking the building and visiting classrooms,” Dean said. “But, she [Tatum] didn’t seem to have a problem with it. She said, ‘Oh, come on in.’ It wouldn’t interrupt her flow.”

Then, a life disruption happened for Tatum. She tearfully recalled what was a defining mark for her of Dean’s leadership.

“The moment that I knew that I could follow her anywhere was when my mom got sick,” Tatum said. “I was in ICU, waiting…sleep and she came and she woke me up and said, ‘Let’s go have breakfast;’ and so she took me downstairs, fed me breakfast and said, ‘I just wanted to check on you to make sure you were okay, and to let you know don’t worry about anything at school. We got you.’”

Tatum added, “When it was all said and done, I knew I would follow her to the moon.”

Even before her initial role in education-based HR, Dean actualized humanness in being a resource.

“I had a supervisor a long time ago when I first started working in Cedar Hill, and that particular leader taught me about caring for people,” Dean recalled. “We’re all human. We’re not robots and just because you’re in a position of authority does not mean that you get to browbeat somebody and use your position to make them do whatever you want them to do.”

Tatum’s mother died from congestive heart failure, however she feels she gained an “angel” and more in Dean. Her compassion, and support from the entire campus she led, cemented a bond that is still very strong.

“That sealed the deal of this was the lady that I needed to somewhat mimic my leadership after,” Tatum said. “So she did, unbeknownst to her, become my mentor.”

Dean led the Cedar Hill ISD Waterford Oaks campus as principal for four years, leaving such an impression that others, including Tatum after two years, followed her to her next leadership role as a principal in Mansfield ISD.

“I think that human connection, she knows how to lead, with that integrity, with being able to really have a clear vision, and being able to execute it with her team,” Tatum said. “Her expectations are very high and she does not lower them, so it’s like, ‘Put on your hiking boots and get ready to hike up this Dr. Dean mountain of expectations’ because that’s just who she is.”

Dean’s growth nurtured others in the process. Tatum mentioned being “silently groomed” with opportunities to serve on leadership and interviewing committees, as well as preparing staff handbooks, yet also being “gut checked” when it appeared she was becoming complacent in existing roles.

“Dr. Dean saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself,” Tatum said.  “She really cultivated the leadership potential that was in me…she cultivated to where it blossomed.”

For Dean, the sentiments are mutual.

“Know that she encouraged me just as much as she feels I encouraged her,” Dean said. “It did my heart good like a medicine to know that I was able to support someone in a positive way to help them to the next step in their career.”

Those steps from Cedar Hill to Mansfield, with divergent paths to Dallas and Arlington ISDs have now brought them to the same place as Dean and Tatum lend their talents to DeSoto ISD.

Tatum was named principal of Woodridge Elementary School in November 2021.

“Every step that I’ve made outside of the classroom, she’s been right there as a mentor to mentor me through it, to lend her wisdom and advice,” Tatum said. “It was through her mentorship that I got to this role, and so it’s just amazing that now, we’re back together like full circle; that we’re back in the same district together.”

Upon early encounters with Tatum, Dean describes her as a “bubbling spring” full of energy and excitement with the way she interacted with her students. She smiled as she reflected on how she has witnessed Tatum’s immense growth into the leader she is today.

“There’s potential in all of us at every stage in our careers. We progress through things. We learn from our experiences,” Dean said.

A lesson Tatum shared that she learned from Dean and often recalls hearing was about “staying ready to be ready.”

“When people know your skill set, you never know when you’re going to get that call,” Tatum said. “You have to be ready for when the call comes through.”

Dean joined the District in March 2022 as “Chief of Human Capital Management,” an organizational and departmental phrase used by many entities as they transition from being called “Human Resources” or “HR.”

“I think it’s just all encompassing of what the HR department does,” Dean said. “I don’t know if you realize that 80 percent of the budget in a school district is usually people…capital. We’re managing the capital of the district, and it’s more than just hiring, it’s retaining, developing at all levels.”

In addition to varied experiences in education, Dean brings over 13 years as a banking industry leader in human resources roles, that evolved from working her way through college as a bank teller, to responsibility of three locations of banks. She recognizes the climate education is presently in, and is committed to human capital management in DeSoto ISD not being a drive-thru experience.

“In this day and age, with the pandemic and teachers leaving and going into careers that are paying them more money with less stress, we have to be really creative about what we do to attract teachers,” Dean said. “We can’t be so quick when someone is not performing well to kick them to the side; and I think our administrators may need some training, which may be the responsibility of this office in conjunction with C & I [Curriculum & Instruction] to help them learn how to develop people as opposed to moving to the next person.”

Since January 2022, the District has held monthly career expos, aimed at bringing other professionals into the DeSoto ISD family. As evidenced by Tatum and Dean’s connection, giving people a place to be happy and grow goes a long way.

“For the most part, people like structure, people like boundaries, they like guidance,” Dean said. “And if you provide that and you’re supportive to them, they will usually perform.”

Surroundings play a key part in the process as well, and Dean feels there’s a correlation between happiness and performance.

“If your environment is one that is pleasing and you feel like you’re valued and you feel like you’re appreciated, you feel respected, quite naturally you’re going to perform better than you would if someone is always bad mouthing you or being negative towards you or being extremely critical,” Dean said.

In prior roles, she’s had her hands in creating procedures, documents, forms, etc. to as she puts it “make everybody’s life easier.” Dean hopes to do the same for the Human Capital Management department.

“I want to put processes and systems in place. I want people to know that they can trust this department, that what we say is what we do,” Dean said. “I want the expectations coming from this department to be clear. I want to help develop a culture and a climate that is not litigious.”

Just as she walked the halls on the campus where she first met Tatum, she plans to do so throughout DeSoto ISD to “see what’s really going on and talk to principals more” about how to support and help them. She has goals for employee wellness and enhancements of benefits to encourage employees to take better care of themselves.

It’s all in an effort to shine for the betterment of helping students reach their highest potential which Dean says is a “privilege” and “a gift we can’t take lightly.”

“I was rough. I was real, real rough,” Tatum laughed as she shared. “And she was a great sculptor and she polished me up and she sculpted me to be this person that you see before you.”

The “human” in “resource” is not lost on Dean, and will be prioritized throughout the District.

For information on employment opportunities with DeSoto ISD, visit