By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The challenge of transforming Shannon Middle School will be given to an administrator very familiar with the Lee County School District.
Lee County Assistant Superintendent Keith Steele was introduced as the school’s new principal Monday. Pontotoc High School Principal Rodney Spears will join Steele as assistant principal.
“I saw this as an opportunity where I really can make a difference,” Steele said.
Steele replaces Ralph Green, who had to be reassigned as part of a federal grant designed to turnaround the low-performing school. Green will be the principal at the Belden Improvement Center.
Shannon Middle School has about 375 students in seventh- and eight-grades. It plans to add a sixth grade next year.
To apply for the grant, the school had to replace its principal with someone who will be given special autonomy.
“He is practically the superintendent of Shannon Middle School,” said Lee County Superintendent Mike Scott. “He answers only to the school board.”
Among the changes, Steele will implement will be a unique schedule that will give students 90-minute blocks for extra reading or math classes, as needed. It will also give teachers an additional planning period to study data about their students’ performances.
The school will pay special bonuses to teachers based upon incentives like test scores. Those bonuses, as well as Steele’s $100,000 salary, will be paid by the grant.
The school applied for $1.25 million per year for three years. It will learn in early June whether it has received the grant, but will proceed with its changes at the school regardless.
Steele has been assistant superintendent for the last three years after spending six years as principal at Saltillo High School. He’s been an educator for 30 years.
Spears has been principal at Pontotoc High School for the last two years. He’s extensively worked with Steele, whom he called his mentor.
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.