Thursday, January 5, 2012
Colleagues honor retiring superintendent
By SUE WATSON
Don Randolph, retiring as superintendent of education for Marshall County School District after two terms, said goodbye and “thank you” to his supporters over the years.
His teachers, administrators and staff threw the former basketball player from Potts Camp High School a retirement party with all the goodies prepared by his own people who have served with him loyally for eight years.
Intending to make a short speech, Randolph reviewed successes and some things he would liked to have come out better, and poked fun at his former comrades. Jerry Moore, who served as deputy superintendent under Randolph, is taking over the reins this week. It is Moore’s first time to hold public office.
With noisy chatter in the fellowship hall at the Holly Springs Church of Christ, Randolph talked a little about what teachers know.
“Lots of times, a lot of noise means learning is going on,” he said. “There’s very little sleeping going on in our schools today. We are all working.”
He poked fun at some of his principals, saying some of them will run over you leaving campus after the last school bus leaves.
On a more serious note, “We try to hold ourselves accountable,” he said.
Those in attendance, including bus drivers, janitors, teachers, administrators, school board members and a state senator were praised for their being part of a team whose charge is to educate the children of the county.
A number of people at the reception thanked Randolph for hiring them, he said, including Samantha Spencer, teacher at H.W. Byers and a former student of Randolph’s.
“I wouldn’t be standing here without all you people,” he said. “Most of you put me where I am. I will be forever grateful that I was allowed this opportunity.”
In leaving, Randolph asked his staff and teachers to carry one message – “the primary goal of the district is to raise achievement levels and spend the taxpayers’ money wisely.”
Randolph ran through what he considers his best successes while superintendent:
• Graduation rates went up and dropout rates went down. Randolph said he considers this his main achievement.
• Successful District rating in 2010. The levels went down to Academic Watch for the 2011 year, but some schools barely missed Successful, he said.
“That’s huge for us. We were back to Academic Watch this year because the bar was set so high in 2010 and we missed our growth targets in 2011,” he said.
• Fixed assets increased by $7 million under his tenure in the school district. Fixed assets include inventory like equipment and anything tagged with an inventory sticker.
• Eighteen new classrooms in county schools.
• Two multi-purpose buildings.
• Two new football fields (Potts Camp and H.W. Byers). Randolph said having a football program helps provide activities that help retain students through cheerleading, pom pom, flag team, band and football squads.
“They (team members) have to make their grades to play,” he said.
• One-hundred percent of the faculty are rated as highly qualified teachers as rated by the state of Mississippi.
• Leaving the district with a great balance of funds – a foundation to the future, he said.
• Heat and air conditioning in all classrooms.
“Maybe the most exciting thing in this is the first time we have football at the two schools,” Randolph said. “This helps provide students with more opportunities and helps lower the dropout rate by keeping them in school.”
The superintendent said his administrators and principals have done a great job for the school district.
“They are academic people and they know what they are doing,” he said. “I see nothing coming for the school district but to continue to move up.”
In saying goodbye, Randolph said, “I’m out. I will not be meddling. I’ve had my chance. I don’t have to have everyone know what I’ve done. I’ll be standing in the shadows and if somebody calls me to help, I will come do it.”
In a jocular mood, Randolph said he has now hired children of those he has taught, including Spencer.
“When you start hiring children of the ones you taught, it’s pretty much time to go home,” he said.
He then left words of wisdom and two books to the superintendent-elect for reading on how to serve.
“It’s a cohesive effort,” he said. “Don’t quit. You gotta push.”
The books he gave to Moore for recommended reading – “Now That I'm Superintendent,” and “ Failing Is Not an Option.”
Senator Stone congratulated Randolph on his successful eight years in office.
“I wish him the best in retirement,” he said.
Randolph served 40 years as an educator including positions at the following schools – principal, H.W. Byers; Holly Springs School District; Northwest Community College (seven years); Potts Camp (two years teaching); Marshall Academy (two years teaching).
He started out as a coach, physical education teacher and social studies teacher. He is a graduate of Northwest Community College, the University of Memphis (bachelor’s) and Ole Miss (master’s).
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