Thursday, February 23, 2012
Hannah back home in Marshall County
By BARRY BURLESON
The importance of education is embedded in Gary Hannah.
His grandfather once started a school in the Spring Hill community of Grenada County. He set up the board, hired a principal and the teachers. Hannah’s grandmother taught there.
“Education has always been a part of my family,” said Hannah, who was raised in Holly Springs by his parents, long-time educators Henry and Fergenia Hood.
“Growing up, I was fortunate to have people around me with high expectations,” he said.
At age 37, he is back in his home county, recently hired as deputy superintendent of the Marshall County School District.
He and new superintendent of education Jerry Moore have remained in contact since Hannah left his principal job at H.W. Byers in 2009 for the same position at Hillcrest High School in Memphis, Tenn.
“We have always shared ideas,” Hannah said. “He wanted me to come back and work with him and I’m happy to be home.”
He said his work in Memphis was challenging and rewarding.
“But my goal was to return to Mississippi and preferably here,” Hannah said, “and to serve in a capacity like this.”
He said there are many caring people in the Marshall County School District.
“People within the walls of our schools have a lot of compassion for our kids,” he said.
And what he likes the most is seeing young people excel.
“I get that opportunity working in a school district - whether the children are in academics, athletics or other extra-curricular activities,” Hannah said.
One of his big goals as deputy superintendent is raising ACT scores. He has produced a booklet with individual scores of every high school student in the district.
“We want to develop a plan to improve our scores,” he said. “We don’t hammer home ACT enough. When applying for college, it’s what is important. It’s probably the most important test our students will take in their lives. We want to get our students into college so they can prepare for a better future.”
Hannah had success pushing ACT scores during his stay at Byers from 2004-2009.
“With athletes, too, it is so important,” said Hannah, referring to Byers students with good ACT scores who have signed Division I basketball scholarships.
“We need ACT scores up countywide; that is what will open doors for our children.”
He said the county school district is also focusing on the growth of elementary students in both math and reading.
Hannah attended Holly Springs Primary School, then Holy Family and graduated from Bishop-Byrne in Memphis. He played basketball at Northwest Community College and Ole Miss. He received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Alabama A&M and a master’s in educational leadership from Ole Miss.
He taught fifth grade at Byers and then taught fourth grade at Ross Elementary in Memphis before becoming the principal at H.W. Byers (grades 7-12) at the age of 28.
“I was sometimes laughed at by people coming to Byers to see the principal; I was so young,” he said.
As a product of Marshall County himself, he wants to continue to give back by helping the children. He said pushing young people to achieve academically is one part of a much bigger picture.
“Educational improvement is so important in boosting industrial and business development, too,” Hannah said. “There’s a lot of potential here (for growth). It may not happen in five or 10 years, but it will come.
“We have to push our students to want a better life. If we can get that economic boost, then they can come back home and work for those companies. We must provide a quality education. If we do great things in Marshall County, great things will happen.”
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