By Chris Kieffer
NETTLETON – New Nettleton School District Superintendent Michael Cates plans to use a trait he learned as a band director and administrator.
“The most important factor is high expectations for everyone involved, from the superintendent and the board, all the way down to anyone who works in the school system,” said Cates, who has spent the past year as principal of Dorsey Attendance Center in Itawamba County.
“We all have to expect we will do our best every day and that our students can reach any goal we set; they can meet it and exceed it. Setting high expectations is so important.”
Cates was hired by the Nettleton School Board on Thursday night. He replaces Russell Taylor, who stepped down in January. Harvey Brooks has served as interim superintendent.
Cates taught band at Itawamba AHS, Itawamba Attendance Center and Dorsey for 21 years. He then moved to administration and was assistant principal at Tremont for two years and principal there for three years before arriving at Dorsey.
Under Cates’ leadership, Tremont became an A-rated school last fall. Its graduation rate was 94 percent, which was among the best in the state.
Nettleton School Board President Rhonda Patterson said the board was impressed by Cates’ work in raising student achievement.
“He stood out from all of the candidates we had, and he had a great interview,” Patterson said. “We had some great candidates.
“He had a great vision and great ideas.”
The Mississippi School Boards Association helped with the search. Eleven candidates applied – seven men and four women. The Nettleton School Board interviewed three finalists.
Cates described himself as “data driven” and said he will closely study Nettleton’s test scores when they arrive in July. He also will look at the scores from the past four or five years and make sure the district’s curriculum is well aligned with the new Common Core State Standards.
“I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity to work with a larger group of teachers and students and to be able to be involved in creating change at a larger level,” Cates said. “I like creating change and moving things forward and building a team.
“This gives me an opportunity to do that on a larger scale than I’ve done before.”