West Union Principal Russell Taylor will take over as Union County Superintendent beginning Jan. 1, 2021.
In a unanimous decision, The Union County School Board of Trustees hired Taylor Monday evening to a four-year contract. The board hired him to step into a position to be vacated by Ken Basil, the current superintendent, at the end of the 2020 calendar year.
Beginning July 1, Taylor will become deputy superintendent and then transition to the school district's top job on Jan. 1.
Basil announced his decision to retire as superintendent in December.
Wayne Mahon, the current president of the board, said he and his fellow Trustees wanted to look within the district when selecting its new top administrator.
"We have some of the most qualified people already in our district and so we hired from within," Mahon said.
He said the decision was between two candidates -- Taylor and Windy Faulkner, the district's current assistant superintendent.
"It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made," Mahon said. "We're so blessed to have both of these fine people in our system. They both have alot of character and professionalism; there was no real difference between them."
Taylor, who will become deputy superintendent on July 1, has 26 total years in education, including 22 years in various administrative positions. He graduated from W.P. Daniel High School in 1990 and attended Northeast Mississippi Community College and Union University. He began his teaching career as a social studies teacher and baseball and football assistant coach in New Albany.
"I chose a career in education because I wanted to help and serve others," Taylor said. "I was aware of the positive influence my teachers and coaches had on my life.
Taylor left New Albany for North Pontotoc to teach history and served as head baseball coach and assistant football coach. After two years, he became assistant principal at the North Pontotoc junior high and high school and continued to coach baseball. He then went on to Nettleton, where he served as junior high assistant principal, athletic director, high school principal, federal programs and curriculum coordinator and superintendent.
After leaving Nettleton, Taylor joined the Union County School District, where he has served as West Union's principal for the last six years.
Taylor said he applied for the superintendent position because he believes in the school district, its students, staff and the communities it serves.
"I am proud of the tremendous success our students and schools have achieved and want to help continue the tradition of success and service to our students and community that has begun in Union County," he said. "I feel like I have a lot of experience across the many facets of a school system, but primarily I have a passion for leadership and helping others achieve goals. I believe in our communities and our ability to achieve great things. I will first hold myself accountable to grow each day to be the superintendent our great students, staff and communities deserve."
Taylor said he has several goals he wants to accomplish as superintendent, but the most immediate goal he has is working with Basil and Faulkner in supporting the district's students during the current school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our School Board and leadership with Mr. Basil and Mrs. Faulkner have done a great job of leading us," Taylor said. "There are many more decisions to be made but our priorities will remain the same - safety of students, staff, and community; caring for students basic needs; and providing enrichment material for students during this time."
Taylor's other goals include building culture in the school district, plan well for the future and continue the district's success as a source of pride for the community.
"I believe that leadership is about service and accountability to others," he said. "With the right culture an organization can adjust to any circumstances because of the spirit of service, team work, and work ethic that exists. I believe education at its foundation is a people business and our culture must keep people at the forefront in any challenges we face."
Taylor also wants to work with the school district's administrators, the Board of Trustees, teachers, students and communities to develop a five year plan to address the district's needs and challenges in areas of instruction, facilities, finance, and extra-curricular activities.
"I want to work with the School Board, staff, students, parents, and community to plan for the short term and long term future of our district," he said. "The challenges of the future for our students in K-12 public education, college and careers are significant and we must plan to provide our students the best opportunities.
"We are very fortunate to have communities that invest so much in our schools,"he continued. "We want to serve as a source of pride in what we stand for and helping our students reach their goals and achieve at the highest level."
Taylor said he is currently working with Basil and Faulkner to create a smooth transition for the students and staff. He said will also spend his time as deputy superintendent to spend time in all of the schools, as well as visiting the various communities, to help inform his decisions when he becomes superintendent.
This is a developing story.