Lauderdale County School District Superintendent Dr. John-Mark Cain was named the the 2021 Superintendent of the Year recently by the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents.
Cain, who has led LCSD for the past three years, began his education career as a coach and teacher in the Kosciusko School District and worked his way up to principal.
From there, he served as an assistant superintendent in the Scott County School District for two years before coming to Lauderdale County.
“I’m just honored and humbled,” Cain said. “It’s pretty special to have your peers to think of you that way. We’ve got a lot of great school leaders in Mississippi, and over the last couple of years I think we’ve all be through a lot.”
Leading school districts through the coronavirus pandemic has been a test for Mississippi educators, Cain said, and communicating, sharing ideas and coordinating efforts with other superintendents has gone a long way to help keep students learning.
“I think it revealed even more the fact that leadership can be lonely, but at the same time we had to rely on each other, reach out to each other, network, coordinate with school leaders throughout the state, even across the nation, trying to make the best decisions we could for students and staff alike,” he said.
The pandemic forced schools to adapt quickly, Cain said. Prior to COVID-19, LCSO had a plan to reach a one-to-one technology goal, meaning one iPad for each student, within five years.
The pandemic turned that 5-year goal into two weeks.
“We learned a lot about ourselves,” he said. “We learned a lot about what we could do, and we learned a lot about how to pivot in a situation we couldn’t control.”
But, Cain said, the teachers, students and parents in Lauderdale County schools rose to the challenge and made it work for their school.
In February, Cain will travel to Nashville for the national conference of the American Association of School Superintendents, where the national superintendent of the year will be named.
“The same application that was used to determine the state will then be sent to the national, and I’m not sure when they disclose who that is, but there’ll be an overall national superintendent of the year,” he said.
The national conference is also a good educational opportunity, Cain said, with panels, breakout sessions and experts from around the country sharing ideas and programs to bring back to Lauderdale County.
In the past, state winners have also been invited to a gala in Washington D.C., Cain said, but it’s still unclear whether or not that will happen for the 2021 winners.
The past few years have been a challenge for educators, Cain said, and the enormous effort by everyone involved in teaching makes being named the 2021 Superintendent of the Year that much more humbling.
In the end, he said, it comes down to having the right people behind you.
“I’m just excited blessed and humbled by the whole thing,” he said. “In the end it’s about having good people on your team, having good people around you and always trying to hire people smarter than you.”