HATTIESBURG – Ask people to identify what mattered most to them in elementary and high school. The answer is never going to be about school districts, buildings or textbooks. It’s always going to be about teachers who were patient and kind, who made learning fun, who inspired curiosity in their students.

This makes Mississippi’s persistent teacher shortage a must-solve problem.

“You can’t have an impact on the teacher shortage without addressing teacher retention. In a recent study, our researchers found that one of the main reasons teachers give for leaving the profession is lack of administrative support,” said Dr. Ben Burnett, dean of William Carey University’s School of Education.

“While teachers have the greatest impact on students’ academic achievement, it’s hard for them to remain in teaching unless they have effective support from the leaders in their schools.”

William Carey University and PREPS, the Program of Research and Evaluation for Public Schools, believe that part of the solution lies in helping administrators develop better tools and techniques. They have stepped forward with a practical solution – the CEO Leadership Academy. CEO stands for Collaborating to Empower Others.

“The administrators chosen for the CEO program are already excelling in what they do. During the sessions, long-time, experienced K-12 principals and superintendents will show them how to share their strengths with other administrators and form support systems,” Burnett said.

“It will help them become even more effective in leading their schools and supporting classroom teachers.”

The first meeting of the CEO Academy was Aug. 20 at William Carey’s Hattiesburg campus. The group will meet regularly throughout the 2018-19 academic year.

A grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation helped reduce tuition costs for academy participants. Applications from all regions in Mississippi were submitted for this prestigious leadership academy, and 29 applicants were accepted. Members of the 2018-19 class include:

  • Alcorn School District: Brandon Quinn
  • Chickasaw County School District: Anthony Golding
  • Cleveland School District: LeDonnis Norwood, Tiffanie Russell
  • Columbia School District: Deirdre Randall
  • Columbus City Schools: Robyn Buxton
  • Covington County School District: Babette Duty
  • Houston School District: William Cook
  • Kemper County School District: Tyresia Brown
  • Lauderdale County School District: Steven Holifield, Richard McDonald, Joe Walton
  • Leland School District: Jesse King, Susie Williams
  • Louisville Municipal School District: Cynthia McDonald
  • Meridian Public School District: Joshua Herrington, Johnny McCallum, Clyde Owens
  • Poplarville School District: Konya Miller, Keri Smith
  • Starkville-Oktibbeha School District: Rhonda Locke
  • Vicksburg Warren School District: Lakesha Batty, Marlene Bolls, Nakisha David, Julia Hood, Terence James, Varranda Love, Chris Williams
  • Winona Separate School District: Nikita Jones-Smith

A statewide research and advocacy organization, PREPS is housed at William Carey University’s Hattiesburg campus. Patti Permenter, an assistant professor at William Carey University, is associate director of PREPS:

“The goal of CEO Leadership Academy is for school leaders to collaborate, build networks and work together.  By sharing problem-solving strategies, these CEO participants will not only experience professional growth, but will enhance their school districts’ teacher and student interactions,” Permenter said.

“Collaboration, power and support given by administrators to teachers will ultimately make a difference in the lives of students across Mississippi.”

The 2018-19 CEO Leadership Academy will be facilitated by Dr. Chuck Benigno, Dr. Ben Burnett, Dr. Ed Leonard and Dr. Wanda Maulding. For more information, visit www.mspreps.org.