OKOLONA – Okolona’s new superintendent of schools – who has a deep, fond familiarity with this area – said this week assuming that job “will be like coming home again.”
Meeting Tuesday, June 11, the Okolona School Board voted 5-0 to hire Chad Spence as the Superintendent of Education for the Okolona Municipal Separate School District effective July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022 for 234 days per year with an annual salary set at $98,000.
Trustees also approved a housing allowance for $600 per month to Spence and his family to reside at the superintendent’s house located at 105 N. Church Street, Okolona. The allowance continues for the length of his contract.
The board also approved to paint the interior of the superintendent’s house.
He replaces Dexter Green, who has been superintendent just over six years. Green is retiring to Southaven at the end of June. Green said that – by his own choice – he was not involved in hiring the new superintendent.
Spence is 45. He and his wife Verlena have a daughter 7, and a son 23. The family will live in the superintendent’s house in Okolona.
The Corinth native graduated from Corinth High School in 1992. He earned his undergraduate degree from Alcorn State in Elementary Education in May 2000, and has since earned master‘s and specialist degrees, both from Ole Miss in educational leadership. He is currently working toward his doctorate from Mississippi State in curriculum and instruction. He hopes to have that degree in hand by next year or the year after, he said this week.
Spence had been the South Panola Assistant Superintendent. Before that, he was with the Houston Municipal Separate School District for 10 years in several capacities: from 2012-2016 as transportation director and assistant superintendent, as principal of D. T. Cox Elementary school from 2008-2012, and as principal of Houston Middle School from 2006-2008.
Before that, he was at Milam Elementary School in Tupelo from 2000-2005 as a 6th grade language arts teacher.
He said he sought the Okolona job for several reasons.
“I’ve worked in Chickasaw County before, and I’m familiar with the area and its people. I believe I can help the Okolona School District continue to grow,” he said this week.
The most important goal he wants to accomplish at the end of his first year in office?
“The number one thing is to sustain educational advancement, and continue to build on the wonderful job Mr. Green (former superintendent Dexter Green) has done of increasing student achievement.
“A second goal is to improve the facilities from a structural standpoint. Enrollment is down significantly the past few years. As a school district, if we can raise enrollment and improve the facilities, we can create an excellent infrastructure – a bargaining tool to convince parents and teachers to move to Okolona.
“My work in this area of Mississippi has helped shape and mold me for this job. I’ve had a plethora of experience to help me be successful in it,” he said.
To fight the stress associated with educational administration, he does a good deal of exercise, he said this week. “I cut a lot of grass, and I jog,” he said.
He and his wife are members of White Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Tupelo. He’s also on the educational committee of the Beta Iota chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity in Tupelo, which offers scholarships for youngsters in the Chickasaw-Lee-Pontotoc-Union area, and belongs to the Mississippi Association of School Administrators and the Mississippi Professional Educators organizations.
The Okolona School District went into conservatorship due to academics and finances nine years ago. Green was hired after the district came out from under conservatorship, and has been part of a team of teachers and administrators who have worked hard to upgrade the district.
Green, who was previously a principal at the prestigious Dundee Elementary School in Tunica County for eight years, helped guide the district from dire financial straits to passing a $2 million bond issue to upgrade athletic facilities and repair buildings. Green also led Okolona from a “D” rating on the State School Assessment Grading Scale to a “C”.