Thursday, August 3, 2017

Welcome Back! (Annual Message to Parents and Stockholders)

I am very pleased to be beginning my 37th year at MHS. We have had an extremely busy summer and are excited to welcome our students and faculty back to the campus.

Last year was an exciting year full of much progress. From once again 100% of our graduates receiving college scholarship offers (7 years in a row) totaling almost 3 million dollars, to service opportunities that helped re-fill the food pantries at HOPE Ministry and sponsored Jim Jaggers in his GO Jim GO bike ride for LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, and a student led initiative for St. Jude that raised over $10,000, to the spiritual growth of our student body through our monthly Chapel and Spiritual Emphasis weeks, and finally to many opportunities, too numerous to name, that allowed us to bond together even more as a school family (#NJASAF), we had a great year!

Our mission is to educate the whole child academically, morally, physically, and spiritually so that each one is challenged to grow and mature in knowledge, wisdom, and service. When I reflected on just a few accolades earlier, it is not difficult to see that we are succeeding in living out our mission statement. Academically – 100% of the last 7 graduating classes earned college scholarships, ACT scores in the top ten (9) of all MAIS schools – with 17% of the Class of 53 (up from 13% last year) scoring at 29 or above (7 students 30+) and designated as Mississippi Eminent Scholars, and two National Merit Finalists; Morally – doing the right thing to help those less fortunate through fundraising and service projects; Physically – competing for State Championships and a tradition of athletic successes; and finally Spiritually – leading our students through Chapel, spiritual emphasis weeks, FCA and Bible classes to a closer walk with our Lord. These are just a few of the ways our students, faculty, and administration live out our mission statement every day.

And while all of that is important and noteworthy, there’s even more that happens every day that goes unnoticed. Football players and cheerleaders that greet the Elementary Chiefs in the mornings and then visit their classrooms to read to them, teachers who spend their weekends offering extra help on assignments, as well as support our athletic teams at home and on the road, to our parents and the Parent’s Club that give so unselfishly back to the school with their service by running the Harvest Festival, Catfish on the Hill, raising money ($20,000) to provide the extras that the budget does not, and making sure the teachers are appreciated through goodies in the teacher’s lounges - all examples of what makes our school special.

Last year, there were changes in our middle school (grades 5-6) building. Mrs. Cindy Hart returned to the middle school to implement an inquiry-based science curriculum. In her elementary science lab, students experienced a variety of science experiments and projects. The STEM program led by Claude Miles is a wonderful addition. From the students demoing their robots at a basketball game, to Sphero chariot races, to rocket launches, our children are learning how things work! This is indicative of a growth mindset where they are not afraid to fail fostering creativity and critical thinking. We are looking to add a “makerspace” to his classroom this fall. It’s just what it sounds like - a space to make things!

Also, last year a high school lecture hall was added for large class meetings as well as lecture hall style classes similar to what our graduates see during their first days on a college campus. Coach Patterson and Coach Coleman, two of our best instructors, taught their US Government and Economics classes in that setting. We also hosted a MAIS Board training and staff development in that space as well. Another addition in our secondary setting was the addition of an academic planning period for the students. The period offers the opportunity for students and teachers to conference together for extra help, assignments, make-up work, etc.

Among athletic improvements for our students last year was the re-lighting of Cahill Field. New lighting bolstered the illumination from a previous high of 17cp to a uniform 40cp throughout the playing surface. Opportunities are still available to contribute by donating to our “2-bits to touchdowns – Under the Lights” Capital Campaign. Not only was lighting improved, but a new sound system and a new scoreboard were added to cap off the improvements.

However, this is not the exception but the norm, and there will be even more this year. Our new food services vendor, MMI, out of Jackson, MS, is busy renovating the kitchen area. Already the food services vendor at many area and MAIS schools (North Point, MRA), MMI has promised a dramatic improvement in our food services program with exceptional quality, great variety, affordable pricing, and customer service.

MHS was also named once again by Apple as an Apple Distinguished School. According to Apple, an ADS (one of two in the state) demonstrates visionary leadership, innovative teaching and learning, ongoing professional development, a flexible learning environment, and compelling evidence of success. This is an elite designation putting MHS in a very small category of schools, not only in our state and nation, but also globally.

Enrollment is again outpacing graduation; we are expecting over 660 students this fall, further evidence that MHS remains a solid choice for quality college preparatory education. Our parents, you, vote on our success annually as to the quality of our program with your tuition dollars. We hope that we can continue to provide outstanding value for your tuition dollars. Should that be the case, we look for even more growth in our student enrollment.

Through retirements and re-assignments, we have some new additions to our leadership team this year.

   Jay Bowen - New Athletic Director (Replacing Coach Patterson) and Boys’ Basketball (Marc Dukes)
   Curt McCain - Named Associate Head of School (also replacing Coach Patterson)

I’m honored to lead one of the best faculties around. I love the fact that they embrace life-long learning and are constantly looking for ways to sharpen their skills and stay abreast of the current trends. 

While true we have come a long way, I pledge to you that MHS will continue to push the envelope in the days, weeks, and years to come. God has no doubt blessed us in extraordinary ways, and our responsibility is to continue to seek His will for our school, our students, parents, patrons, alumni, faculty, staff, and administration so that we can continue to educate the whole child, academically, morally, physically and spiritually, so that each one is challenged to grow and mature in knowledge, wisdom, and service. President Reagan said America was the shining city on the hill. Well, I think MHS is also a treasure shining on a hill just south of Senatobia.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve as your head of school and God Bless.