ASHAND • Benton County School District has a new Superintendent of Education. Pete Howell officially took office on Monday, Jan. 4, after being sworn in by Judge Gary McBride at Ashland High School.
“I appreciate the Benton County School Board for having faith in me to appoint me the new superintendent of education,” said Howell during the ceremony.
The 21-year veteran educator comes to Benton County after serving the last four years as principal of Tishomingo County High School. He has been in school administration for 18 years.
When Howell heard that Benton County was seeking a superintendent, he quickly realized that the position would be a good fit for what he does well.
“Since I became a principal, I’ve wanted to be a superintendent. When I looked at Benton schools and looked at the county’s demographics, things they were doing well in and the things they were not doing well in, it fit some of the things that I’ve done before as a principal. School improvement, getting schools that were low performing to become high performing, and fixing facilities are things that I’m probably known for in school business.”
In Howell’s first 100 days in office, he wants to develop a plan for the district.
“Every good school leader knows they have to have a plan,” said Howell “If you don’t have a plan, you’re planning to fail. And the only way to create a good plan is with as much information as humanly possible. You would never take a trip somewhere without planning your destination and then planning the points you’re going to stop along the way. Our destination is an ‘A’ school district.”
Howell said to achieve the “A” rating, their first stop on the journey will be a “B” school district. He plans to meet with everyone in the district to get to know them personally and find out what they think about the district.
“Your ideas and input are important to creating a great plan,” continued Howell. “We’re also going to meet with board members and discuss what they see the district doing three to five years from now. We’re going to meet with community members, people from outside of the school district, and parents. We are going to meet with as many people as humanly possible and get their input.”
Howell also plans to compile information from an assessment form sent to the schools, parents, and community members.
“We’re going to send it out virtually to all the different stakeholder groups inside the district: faculty members, teachers, and staff. We’re going to send it out to all the students, probably seventh grade and up, and get some of their input.”
The last thing Howell plans for the beginning of his tenure is an audit and an inspection of every major system or critical area inside the district, including special education, food services, finance, technology, fixed assets, personnel, and personnel assignments.
“We’re going to compile all that information within the first 100 days. Then the board and I, and certain key members that we pulled into a committee (some teachers, some administrators, some students), will start compiling a direction on how we get to that “A” school district.
Howell says he plans to work hard for the district and will make sure the district works hard.
“Hard work is not just something that’s laid out there, and then there’s no responsibility on my end. The responsibility falls to me. And here’s what that responsibility is: to ensure you have the resources to do that hard work, to ensure that you have the support network to do that hard work, and to ensure that you have somebody behind you praising you when you do that hard work and guiding you when you do that hard work.”
Howell expects there will be rough times ahead for the district, but there will be great success and ways to come together to celebrate that success.
“I think there’s a lot of great things that I can help you do, and you can help me learn about this district,” concluded Howell at Monday’s ceremony. “After all, we’re doing it for the greatest group of people on the planet, our children.”