By Terri Ferguson Smith / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
One local school's loss is a gain for students in three states.
Dr. Shane Blanton, Head of School at Lamar School in Meridian, is leaving the post he has held for four years to lead the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, which includes some independent schools in Louisiana and Arkansas.
From its Jackson office, MAIS represents 120 schools with approximately 39,000 students, Blanton said.
Blanton's first day at his new job will be July 1, he said, describing his responsibilities as policy, making sure there is academic integrity, excellence in the classroom, and helping with accreditation, teacher certification, and athletics.
Although he is looking forward to his new job, he does have mixed emotions about leaving Lamar.
"It will be different. Probably the biggest thing I will miss is the day to day interaction with students.That's the hard part to leave," Blanton said. "If you are a true educator, that's what you do it for, to be around students to see that spark of learning take place and to be able to challenge and push them."
Looking at the challenges ahead, Blanton said one concern that MAIS has is the burden that health care legislation will place on independent schools.
"I think we need to be prepared for the policy changes, the Affordable Care Act definitely impacts our small schools who are all small businesses," Blanton said.
Continuing the work to maintain academic excellence is also among Blanton's goals.
"Technology integration will be a huge deal as a lot of our schools are moving to a one to one ratio," Blanton said.
Educators must ask themselves if they are preparing students for the next level, he said.
"Lamar has a 25 ACT average, 100 percent college acceptance and this year, I think they've been offered over $1.5 million in scholarship dollars. The desire is to make sure they are ready to make it at the next level. I'll just back up and do that on a larger scale now."
Blanton said he has big shoes to fill with the resignation of his predecessor, David Derrick.
"He's done so much for our association. He has earned recognition from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Mississippi Department of Education, and the Louisiana Department of Education, so all of those things he's really raised the standard of what we do and how we do academics," Blanton said.
Throughout the years, independent schools have become more diverse in terms of its student enrollment, Blanton said.
"We have 14 to 15 percent minority here (Lamar) and that's probably a reflection across the board. I think that everybody has sort of positioned themselves that this is a high end academics regardless of whatever," Blanton said. "If you want a quality education, we want you here."
Blanton said he is looking forward to having an impact on a larger scale and examining the future of independent education in the southeast.
Technology education, accountability and testing, and teacher certification are all issues on the forefront. He is hopeful that eduction will continue to improve for all students in the state.
"If we have a strong system in Mississippi, both public and private, it's better for all of us," Blanton said.
And as with any school system, he said, the teachers are vital to success.
"I think the best thing about Lamar and the best thing I'll see when I get out in other schools, is really just the people. We have a great group of teachers," Blanton said. "We have some great educators in our schools and that's really the key to our success, having those front line classroom teachers doing what they need to be doing."