The Meridian School Board will have a special called meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15, to name an interim school superintendent.
Current superintendent, Dr. Janet McLin, is retiring in June at the end of the school year.
The board also intends to create a position of deputy superintendent of operations and then name the person to hold that position, also on Wednesday.
McLin announced her retirement in late November, calling the last 5 and a half years as superintendent of Meridian Public Schools the highlight of her 39-year career in education.
Veteran educator and Meridian city councilman, Dr. George Thomas, told the Lauderdale County Council of Governments Monday that the selection of a new permanent superintendent is critical for the future of
Thomas said choosing a strong leader is essential because of the problems today's schools encounter.
"The raw product that's coming in, the background of students that never had a book, never had a newspaper, have never been to the library, don't know their name when they start kindergarten, don't know where they live, don't know their phone number and the push for some early childhood enhancement, parental education is just essential," said Dr. Thomas.
A professor of education at Mississippi State University, Meridian campus, Thomas said schools are called on to do too many things with and for students that once was parental responsibility.
"They feed them two and three meals a day," Thomas said. "They deal with teenage pregnancies which generally doesn't occur at school. It occurs somewhere else. They come to school pregnant. They deal with drugs, which we don't give out at school. They bring them to school and they throw all these things into these school problems."
Thomas said that if a child doesn't develop reading skills by the time he or she is in the third grade the lack of such skills cannot be corrected.
"We have remedial classes in colleges where you take a remedial class to get ready to take a remedial class to get ready to take a college course," said Thomas.
"If you miss it in the first three grades, it's almost, I won't say impossible, but just almost impossible, to teach those math skills with any facility," agreed Dr. Kathy Baxter, a dean at Meridian Community College.
Thomas maintained that the choice of who will lead the Meridian Public School system will influence where this community is going for a long, long time.