By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Logistical questions have hindered efforts to establish an advanced career center that will serve students in eight Northeast Mississippi school districts.
A long-time school administrator will be charged with solving them.
New Albany Superintendent Charles Garrett announced on Monday that he will retire from his current job in July to take a leadership position for the establishment of the Well- spring Center for Professional Futures.
Garrett’s precise title hasn’t been determined, but he will be charged with helping to get the state-of-the-art school off the ground.
“We are excited about Dr. Garrett and his long history of success in education in our area,” said CREATE President Mike Clayborne during a news conference at the CREATE Foundation on Monday. “We believe he is exactly the kind of person we need. A lot of details need to be worked out, and we are delighted to have Dr. Garrett to do that.”
The Wellspring school will offer career-focused courses for students in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties. Its operations will be funded by a $50 million endowment Toyota is providing to enhance education in the three counties that joined together to attract the automaker.
The goal of the school is to offer professional courses that none of the individual schools would have the capability to provide alone. Offerings could include law, medicine, energy or architecture, for example.
Garrett will be charged with determining what courses will be available. He will also help solve issues involving scheduling and transportation of students from so many school districts.
“The opportunity to work with this group to bring in a visionary center for students was tremendously appealing,” Garrett said. “This gives us a chance to do something we couldn’t do otherwise.”
Garrett has led New Albany Schools for nearly 12 years and was the 2011 Mississippi Superintendent of the Year. Under his leadership, New Albany has built a new elementary school and remodeled its middle and high schools. In the state’s accountability model, the district is ranked High Performing, the second highest of seven levels.
New Albany High School is ranked a Star School, the highest ranking, and also won the Class 4A All-Sports award last year.
“I am forever indebted to the New Albany School Board, the staff, students and citizens for working with me during those years,” said Garrett, who added that leaving was “tremendously difficult.”
New Albany School Board President Jerry Tate said the board will determine its plan for selecting a new leader during its next meeting on May 7.
“Our district has improved since he has been there,” he said. “We hate to see him go.”