HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Even though he’s been with the school district for over half a century, people might not know much about Mitchell King, Harrison County School District’s incoming superintendent.
After Superintendent Roy Gill announced he was retiring this summer, the search for his replacement began.
Assistant Superintendent King was initially part of the committee tasked with choosing the district’s new superintendent, unsure if he wanted to take his career to the next level.
“At the very beginning, I didn’t know if I wanted to take on that responsibility, but as we went through the process, I became more and more interested in taking on the job and taking on the challenge,” King said. “After they rejected the offer, the first candidate they offered it to declined the position, they turned and asked me if I would take it, and I said yes. Just that simple.”
Some parents have expressed concerns with the idea of King being offered the role considering not only that he was part of the search committee but that position wasn’t offered to someone outside of the district. However, King felt that being a local was one of his assets.
“I was already here and they knew what I could do and what I had accomplished in my career. When you get a resume from someone, you’re looking at what they′ve done, what are their qualifications, what are they looking for as far as the job is concerned. When you’ve been in the job as long as I have, the school board and the members of the education community in Harrison County already know what my qualifications are and what I can do,” King said.
King has been with the district for 52 years beginning in 1969.
“I came here as a teacher and a coach in Orange Grove Middle School. From there I went to assistant principal, from assistant principal to principal at Bel Aire High School, and from Bel Aire to Harrison Central High School as the principal, and from Harrison Central High school to assistant superintendent, and I’ve been in this role for 35 year,” King said.
King always understood how important education was, even from a young age, which is why he decided to pursue it as a career.
“Education, I guess, has to be a calling, to a certain extent. From a very early age, education was instilled in me by my parents. Neither one of my parents finished high school, so they were insistent that I finished high school because my dad said the only way you’re ever going to be able to make a living without doing jobs you’re not going to be happy with is to get an education, so he pushed that. From there I just fell in love with helping people,” King said. “When you first start coaching, you’re dealing with young people and you’re dealing with decisions with how they’re molded and how they become what they are, and I have students to this day come back and say they remember something I did or said when I was coaching from some 40 years ago, so it was just a calling that over the years I had embedded in me, and I never looked back. I never really wanted to do anything else.”
The same way King feels his parents taught him the value of an education, he wants district parents to continue to be involved in their students’ success.
“Harrison County School District is on the right track. We’re an A school district. We’ve got good employees, and our students are just like any other students. They need to be made to understand the value of an education, and you do that in involving the parents.
“When I first started this job as a principal, I thought I had all the answers and I was very young. I think I was either 23 or 24, and I thought I had all the answers, but it didn’t take me long to find out if you’re going to be successful with young people and have a good educational system, you’ve got to involve the parents, so parents need to be involved.
“Students need to understand there are certain rules and regulations you have to go by if you want to learn. You have to make sure they understand the reasons behind and you have to hire people who are accountable for what they do every day with the students they come in contact with, so it’s just a matter of getting people moving in the right directions to accomplish the goals you want, and those goals are that every student can learn and every teacher can be successful, and as long as that’s your main goal, you can accomplish whatever you want to.”
King also took the chance while speaking with WLOX to outline some of the goals he has for the district and for himself in his new position.
“I’m going to do the very best I can with every person I come in contact with every day, I’m going to do the very best to get the most out of our teachers and staff, and that staff includes everybody from school bus drivers to custodians to cafeteria works to teachers assistant to teachers. They all have to be involved, and your principals and your assistant principals have to be involved and so do the parents. The parents have to understand they have a role. They have to make sure those students are school-ready every day, and we’re going to try to do the best we can to help them understand that, and it’s a tough task. It’s easy to talk and it’s easy to say we’re going to accomplish this, but you’ve got to be involved and invested in every person in this school district.
“Other than that, to make sure we continue what we’re doing. We’ve got some good folks who work in curriculum, got some good folks who work in athletics, good folks who work in Title I ... The school system is not broken. What we’re doing is very successful and we’re going to try to find a method and a way to keep that going.”
King also said he is glad to work alongside Gill before taking over the mantle.
“Mr. Gill is an excellent superintendent from the standpoint he’s a good teacher. I’ve learned from every superintendent I’ve worked for and Mr. Gill and I will spend a lot of time because there are several areas you have to be cognizant of in the education business. One is your curriculum; what are you going to teach the kids and what are you going to expect of them? What kind of accountability are you going to expect of the employees, and you have to have a good sense of budget. How am I going to spend the money that we have allotted to us in education, and you’ve got to focus that in the right way. He’s very good at that, and I’m going to spend some time with him looking at what he’s doing. He’s always included me in almost every decision. We have a very close working relationship from the business and the education standpoint, so I’m going to lean on his abilities and his expertise in these next couple months before he leaves.”