TUPELO – The Lee County School District filled its principal vacancy at Shannon Middle School on Tuesday, hiring Okolona Elementary Principal Barry Woods.
Woods will replace Ida Brand, who had announced her decision to retire on June 27. Brand was actually the principal at Shannon Elementary last year and was transferred to SMS this summer before deciding to retire.
Keith Steele, who led Shannon Middle School for the last three years, retired at the end of the school year.
“I felt he had the experience to move Shannon Middle School forward,” Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said of Woods.
“He’s worked with Title 1 schools and is familiar with federal rules and regulations. I felt he could hit the ground running.”
Weeks said after Brand’s retirement, he received a phone call from a mutual acquaintance who said Woods would be interested in the job. He then spoke with two state officials involved with the Okolona School District’s conservatorship who highly recommended Woods.
Okolona High School’s Quality of Distribution Index – a formula based on test scores – rose by 35 points under Woods’ leadership, Weeks said.
Woods, 50, enters his 20th year as an educator. During his first 14 years, he taught sixth grade at Okolona before a one-year stint as assistant principal at Shivers Junior High in Aberdeen. He led Okolona High School for three years and was Okolona Elementary’s principal last year.
“I liked the commitment to academic excellence and the vision Mr. Weeks has for the district,” Woods said when asked why the job attracted him.
He said his time working under the state conservatorship in Okolona was beneficial.
“Working in a district with conservatorship, there is so much professional development on curriculum and school improvement that enhances leadership skills, knowledge of curriculum, team building and your focus on moving students forward academically,” he said.
Woods and his wife, Teresa, have three children: Barry Jr., 30, Courtney, 26, and Hope, 16.
Shannon Middle School Assistant Principal Rodney Spears will remain in that position at the school.