New MPS Superintendent Introduced

The Meridian School Board Wednesday announced the hiring of Charlie T. Kent as the new school superintendent. Current superintendent Sylvia Autry is retiring.

The announcement was made at a news conference Wednesday at the central office.

Kent has been superintendent of the Country Club Hills, Illinois, School District since 2001 and was previously assistant superintendent for human resources in Indianapolis, Ind. He is a Mississippi native.

Kent has worked in education in Illinois and Indiana as a teacher, principal, and administrator.

Kent said he's ready to hit the ground running, and failure won't be an option.

"We do not want any child to fail in this district," said Kent. "We want to look at the dropout rate. We want to recapture those students who have left the district, bring them back and reduce our dropout rate."

"I would like for parents to come to the school board meetings. I would like parents to talk to us, come to the schools," said Kent. "Don't come to school when you're kid comes home to say, you know, a teacher grabbed me. Come to see how we are going to plan an educational program for this child. Let's be proactive and not reactive. Partner with me and the rest of the district and let's do what's right and what's best for our children. Let's keep it simple. Simple works."

"There are a number of things that have been done in this district that are extremely important and we must maintain those things to make sure that our students will have whatever they need and that we can compete with any school district in the state of Mississippi," said Kent. "One of our goals will be to compete and to strive to be the best school district in the state of Mississippi."

Kent's hiring drew praise from the community, including business leaders and some who have been critical of the district in the past.

"I personally feel really good about the choice," said Dr. Sam Thompson of
Concerned Citizens of Meridian. " had an opportunity to talk with, and as you heard, one of the things he wants to do is meet with the pastors."

"Charlie Kent will be successful because the teachers will make him successful," said Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation. "He will provide the leadership. He brings to us not only his knowledge of the state of Mississippi, but also his knowledge from other school systems."

Kent said a long-term goal is to have the number one district in the state. Starting July 1, Kent said he will be working toward that goal.

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