A family affair

Published 10:33 pm Thursday, September 1, 2011

Debbie Russell, right, the new director admissions at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, looks over the school’s admissions booklet with Tracie Thorndike, the school’s community relations coordinator. Russell started at NSA just two weeks ago, but she has been involved at the school for the past few years with her sons, who are in the first and second grades.

Debbie Russell might have just started her director of admissions job at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, but she is no stranger to the school.

Russell knows many of the staff and students at the school because of her family’s extensive history at the school.

“The family has a long legacy at NSA,” she said.

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Russell’s sons, Max and David, who are in the second and first grade, have attended the school since they started pre-K, and her husband also went to NSA for his entire school career.

In addition, Russell’s mother-in-law, Nancy Russell, worked at NSA for almost 25 years as a teacher and counselor and eventually as the head of the lower school.

So, when Russell started in the position the same day students came back from summer break, most of the teachers and other staff members knew her.

“Some of them I know, because they knew my mother-in-law,” she said. “A lot of them I know, because I’m a parent.”

Prior to coming to NSA, Russell worked mostly in business and finance, but after years of doing consulting work, she wanted to find a more rewarding job that would work with her children’s schedules and wouldn’t require her to be away from her family a lot, she said.

“As a working mom, I’ve tried to find opportunities that work well with my children’s schedule,” Russell said.

After spending a lot of time in her sons’ classrooms and participating in other NSA activities, Russell said, she thought a job at NSA would be a great option for her.

“I knew it was a good place to work,” she said. “It was an environment I wanted to be a part of.”

With her business background, Russell knew she wasn’t going to be a teacher at the school, but she wanted to find a job that required business experience.

When the director of admissions job opened up, she thought it would be perfect.

“When the position came up, the description seemed to fit,” she said. “What interested me was I felt I had a lot of transferable skills.”

As director of admissions, Russell, along with three other staffers in the office, recruit new students, work with prospective students and help to retain current students.

Russell said a lot of her duties, such as being able to market the school and build relationships with families, coincide with her experience.

After about two weeks in her new job, Russell said, she loves being at the school and working with students and their families.

“Being around the families and children is by far the best part,” she said. “I leave here with a good feeling every day.”

Russell said everyone at the school has been welcoming and supportive as she learns the ins and outs of her job, and being in the school every day has made her realize why her mother-in-law stayed at NSA.

“I fully understand why my mother-in-law worked here for so many years, and why so many teachers have stayed here for so long,” she said. “They truly love the school. They are passionate about it.

She added, “It’s a fantastic environment to work in.”