Meet Dr. Debra Clemens

  • Dr. Debra ClemensMore than 30 years ago, Debra (Deb) J. Clemens started her career as an educator. While some careers are planned, Deb’s happened by following her passion for service to others. She was intending to become a business major, but after spending a few summers working with high school students as a youth counselor in Wisconsin, Deb realized she wanted to become a teacher.

    Deb’s first teaching position was teaching middle and high school students computer applications and other business courses. She developed an expertise in instructional technology and quickly became a “go-to” tech person for her colleagues. Several learning opportunities later led her to become an instructional technology specialist for a school district in Minnesota. She enjoyed devoting her time and energy to training teachers and support staff on the latest technologies.

    Since joining NTPS, Deb has made Student Voice a focus of her work. She created a Superintendent's Student Advisory Council with students from elementary to high school level, and meets with them quarterly for education and feedback on district issues. Annually, all students in grades 4-12 are surveyed to assess NTPS's organizational effectiveness. The Board of Directors also invites five high school student representatives per year (one from each high school) to serve on the Board of Directors for one semester. Students are the number one source of information about our schools and district according to our annual Community Survey - so we want to make sure they have an audience with our Board of Directors.

    Deb refilling a Free Little Library as a member of the North Thurston Kiwanis Club.
    Deb refilling a Free Little Library as a member of the North Thurston Kiwanis Club.

    Additionally, Deb led more than 2,000 community members in a year-long effort to create a Strategic Plan. “This plan reflects our community's long-standing commitment to thriving schools that foster learning, growth and success for all students.” The plan includes goals, strategies and professional practices that provide a roadmap for the future of NTPS. The vision statement for this plan is “All Students Empowered and Future-Ready!”

    Deb is also a member of the Governor’s Council on the Healthiest Next Generation, which works to keep kids healthy and active by supporting both nutritious school meals and physical education emphasis. She believes deeply that modeling a desire for learning is important for the leader of an educational organization; therefore, she embraces new opportunities and leads with a bright and courageous spirit.

    Deb and her husband, Jeff, grew up in Wisconsin. Jeff, now retired, enjoys volunteering in our community. They have two daughters – both graduated from North Thurston Public Schools, and continued their education at the University of Washington. Their oldest is now in graduate school at Ohio State University studying to become an optometrist. In their spare time, Deb and Jeff enjoy giving back to our local community, spending time with family, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle by hiking or biking throughout our region.

    Education and Experiences

    Deb is loyal to many collegiate colors and mascots! She earned her Superintendent Credential from Washington State University after completing her Doctorate of Philosophy in Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University. Her Principal Credential was earned from Washington State University; she previously completed her Master in Business Administration at Gonzaga University. Her Bachelor of Science degree was completed at Viterbo University. Prior to NTPS, Deb served as the superintendent in Cheney Public Schools, and has held the roles of associate superintendent, human services director, high school principal, K-12 Instructional Technology Specialist, and teacher.

    Professional and Community Engagement

    Deb is past-president of the North Thurston Kiwanis Club, a member of the United Way of Thurston County Board of Directors, a past member of the WASA Inclusionary Practices Advisory Board, Chairperson of the Education Northwest Board and Executive Committee, a member of the Governor's Council for the Healthiest Next Generation, and the past WASA Superintendents Component Chair. She works hard to connect with local leaders to ensure strong partnerships, including the Compassionate Community Initiative with Lacey South Sound Chamber and the City of Lacey. Deb is also a member of the Thurston County Chamber Board of Directors and past-chair of the Thurston County Superintendents. She has also engaged with various military branches and holds an honorary commander designation.

    To invite Dr. Clemens to a community meeting this year, contact Executive Assistant Carmen Barriga at 360-412-4413 or

    At the January 9, 2024, NTPS School Board meeting, Deb announced she will retire at the end of the 2023-24 school. Read more about the district’s accomplishments during Deb’s tenure, in partnership with NTPS staff, families, and community members!