Deffendall, the daughter of two retired public school principals, grew up in Hawaii believing that education is the key to changing the world. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she taught science and math in New Orleans and rural Louisiana for four years as a Teach for America corps member and then went back to school to earn her certification in secondary mathematics.
After inadvertently insulting a local editor about the newspaper’s education coverage, Deffendall was hired to cover public schools in 1996. She spent the next nine years covering K-12 education for newspapers in Houma, Louisiana; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and here in Lexington, and garnered multiple awards for her hard-hitting investigative coverage. In 2004, she joined FCPS with a directive to bring transparency to school district communications. Since then, the district has received state and national accolades for its communication efforts.