OKOLONA – New Okolona Middle School Principal Mark Fields, 44, began work July 1, and hopes to help create a top-of-the-line school district to help make the best possible community, he said this week.
He’s a Georgia native who got to this area this area via a circuitous route that included several stops in area schools. He has returned to Okolona after teaching there earlier in his career, he said this week. He’s single, with no children.
“I was born in Decatur, but a month or so after that my Dad – BJ Fields – who was career Air Force – wound up being stationed in Spokane, Wash.
“After he retired with 20-plus years of service, he and my mom Ruth Fields moved to Verona, and that’s where I grew up,” Fields recalled this week.
He graduated from Tupelo High School in 1993. He was a starting offensive lineman on the Golden Wave football team that made the state championship game three years in a row, winning it his senior year.
His post-high school educational career began when he signed at Clemson coming out of school but then played at Mississippi State for a year. He ended up graduating from the University of Mississippi with a major in history. He did not play football at Ole Miss.
He earned a master’s in educational leadership from Western Governors University, a private, nonprofit, online university based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
His higher education continues, he said this week.
“I’m working on my specialist in reading degree from Arkansas State, and hope to finish up in six or seven months,” he said.
Said Okolona Superintendent Chad Spence this week: “I’m excited to have Mr. Fields as a part of the administrative team in Okolona. Mr. Fields has several years of experience at the junior high and coaching level. He has worked as a teacher and coach in Memphis city schools, Corinth schools, Falkner schools, and the Okolona School District. The students, teachers, and parents will enjoy his passion for community involvement and academic achievement. I know Mr. Fields will do a fantastic job as Middle School principal.”
He’ll be helping provide about 136 6-8th grade Middle School youngsters the best education and learning environment possible. When he’s away from that challenge, he has several leisure time activities, and works at staying in shape, he said this week.
“I love to travel, and Perdido Key, Florida is where I go every chance I can, summer or winter. I enjoy the sand, the water, the breeze, the eateries, the laid back atmosphere, the sundowns. That’s where I want to retire to, and Lord willing, I’ll die on the beach there,” he said. Perdido Key is an unincorporated community between Pensacola and Orange Beach, Ala.
He also enjoys movies, with Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars, The Shawshank Redemption, and Remember the Titans among his favorites.
He’s a voracious reader, with history, science fiction, and biographies atop his list. His favorite books include The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasy novels by C. S. Lewis, considered to be a classic of children’s literature. He also enjoys anything by the late JRR Tolkien, an English writer, poet, and academic who fought in World War I. Tolkien is the author of fantasy works including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
“I also like to work out in a gymnasium, get my time in on a treadmill,” he said.
He doesn’t belong to any social clubs – Rotary, Kiwanis, Exchange, and the like – and doesn’t have a home church. Instead, he said he enjoys attending several different area Baptist churches.
He has no military experience.
He decided to return to Okolona for several reasons, he said this week.
“Taking this job is an opportunity to bring about change, to make a difference. Okolona’s a good school district, but I want to help it to the next step, the next level. By helping the school, I can help the community grow, and be the best they can be,” he said.
He has many and varied goals he’d like to help accomplish, he said this week.
“I’d like to help Okolona become and maintain being an Level A school. That would make it a beacon, and hopefully people would bang down the doors to move to Okolona, because they’d want their children to go to a school which is doing that well in both academics and athletics,” he said.
On the way to that goal, and in the near term, “I’d love to help increase the school’s literacy, and improve our extracurricular activities. I’d like to see more school clubs emphasizing reading and arts, and see more science and history fairs.
He concluded: “A top of the line school system would be a solid foundation to help this community achieve all it possibly can.”