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Incoming State Superintendent Robert Taylor shares priorities as new leader of public schools

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Incoming State Superintendent Robert Taylor shares priorities as new leader of public schools

Robert Taylor, a native of Laurel, will serve as the next superintendent of education.

Newly named state superintendent of education Robert Taylor made his first public comments on Monday since being named to the post.

Taylor, a native of Laurel who has worked in North Carolina public education for the last 30 years, said being state superintendent of Mississippi has been his lifelong dream.

“I look forward to working with (education leaders and elected officials) because this is our state, this is our home, and we want to see it continually improve,” he said. “What could be a greater gift to a native son?”

Speaking to reporters via Zoom, Taylor discussed a range of topics:

  • Initial priorities: He wants to get to know the staff at the Mississippi Department of Education and meet local superintendents across the state to understand their districts’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • : Taylor said critical race theory is not taught in . He understands it to be a legal theory, and that it would be inaccurate to say that he supports it. “I’ve had to say to myself, ‘I’m an educated man, but I’m afraid I can’t speak intelligently about what critical race theory is,’” as it does not relate to his work. It is the responsibility of schools to help students become critical thinkers, but not to push them in any particular direction, he said.
  • The teacher shortage: Teacher shortages and investing in quality teachers are some of the major challenges facing the state, he said. He named solutions, including building relationships with teacher training programs at universities, alternate licensing programs, and more work with local administrations regarding how they supervise teachers. He also discussed creating supports to help teachers stay in the classroom.
  • Continue and expand Mississippi’s progress in literacy work.
  • Work with the statehouse: He wants MDE to partner with the to help inform the bills lawmakers create based on what data and research show are successful.
  • A continuous school year: When specifically asked about moving to a year-round school schedule, something Lt. Gov. Delbert Hoseman has voiced support for, Taylor said the research shows that year-round schooling is beneficial and would support a proposal of this type.
  • Parental involvement: Taylor believes parents should have a strong voice in public education. He said he knows they want the best for their children and wants them to feel heard and like they can trust their schools. He sees it as his duty to make the experience of education the best that it can be for students and teachers across the state.
  • Moving back home: He plans to live in the metro Jackson area, but hopes to get some land where he can dig in the dirt and enjoy the outdoors. He also owns land in Greene County with his brothers where they hunt.
  • Representation: “I hope that for students of color, they see that they have the opportunity to rise to a position such as this. I would certainly like to think that I was not selected because of my color but because of my body of work. I do recognize that there are a lot of young Black boys and young Black girls who see themself in me, but I would ask them to not only see themselves in me but in everyone that they come across because that’s certainly what happened to me.”

Taylor will start in his new role in January of 2023, pending confirmation by the state senate.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Robert Taylor named new state superintendent of education

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The Board of Education has named a North Carolina educator and Mississippi native as the next state superintendent.

Robert Taylor, a native of Laurel, will serve as the next state superintendent of education. Credit: Mississippi Department of Education

In a press release, the department announced Robert Taylor as the new leader of Mississippi’s 140 public school districts. His appointment ends a monthslong search after former State Superintendent Carey Wright stepped down from the position in June.

Taylor was most recently a deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Originally a native of Laurel, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and has worked in North Carolina schools since 1992. He has served as a teacher’s assistant, classroom teacher, school administrator, and in various district leadership positions before becoming the superintendent of Bladen County Schools in 2011. He served in this role until 2021 when he became a deputy state superintendent.

During his time in North Carolina, Taylor also helped to draft legislation restructuring state testing in and served on multiple public education advisory boards, according to the release.

“The opportunity to return home to Mississippi and work hand in hand with all stakeholders to improve education is perhaps the pinnacle of one’s career,” Taylor said in the MDE statement. “This opportunity has been afforded to my family and I and we look forward to our homecoming.”

He will start the position in late January 2023, according to the Department of Education release. Until then, Interim State Superintendent Kim Benton will continue to serve.

Taylor is the state’s second Black superintendent; the first was Henry L. Johnson, who also came to Mississippi from North Carolina in 2002.

The Mississippi Department of Education told Taylor will be paid $300,000 annually, the same amount his predecessor, Wright, was paid.

The state board selected McPherson and Jacobson, a national superintendent search firm based in Nebraska, to conduct the search. The firm received $51,200 for its services.

“Dr. Taylor possesses all the qualities the Board sought for the next state superintendent of education,” Rosemary Aultman, chair of the State Board of Education, said in a statement. “Mississippi has become a national leader for improving student outcomes. The Board is confident we selected the right person to lead our state to achieve at even higher levels.”

The post Robert Taylor named new state superintendent of education first on Mississippi Today.

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