Oktibbeha County School District conservator Jayne Sargent revealed Margie Pulley as her successor at a specially called OCSD meeting Monday.
Sargent’s tenure as OCSD conservator ends when school lets out this month, and Pulley will take over as the district’s conservator when school starts again in January. Pulley retired Sept. 1 as superintendent of the Greenwood Public School District, and she said she has spent her entire career there.
“I started in Greenwood in 1974 as a teacher,” Pulley said. “I moved from teacher to assistant high school principal, then I became principal of Threadgill Junior High School and stayed there 10 years.”
From there, Pulley said she became an assistant superintendent in charge of personnel, federal programs and many other functions. She then briefly became an interim superintendent before permanently filling the superintendent role in January 2009, she said, giving her a total of just over 40 years of experience.
“I left Greenwood a successful school district three years in a row,” Pulley said. “One of my elementary schools was a Star School, (and I also had) high performing schools and successful schools. I had some challenges ... but we worked through those. I had an outstanding staff.”
As with Sargent, Pulley said this will be her first time serving as a school district’s conservator. She said she does not know how long her tenure as conservator will last, because that decision is made at the state level.
“We don’t control that,” Pulley said. “That’s totally out of Dr. Sargent’s or my hands.”
Pulley said she has not yet had the opportunity to familiarize herself with the district, but she plans to do so this week. She said she will spend the next two weeks analyzing data and looking at aspects of all departments. Then, on Jan. 7, she will meet with all faculty and staff to discuss her expectations.
“We want to have a successful school district,” Pulley said. “You want to have a district where teaching and learning is the priority, and the focus is on academics. What I look forward to is ... all of us together working to move the OCSD forward. Dr. Sargent has provided me with all the reports I need to begin the analysis, and we’ll go from there.”
Sargent said this meeting will be open to the public and is tentatively planned for 9 a.m. Jan. 7 at the Starkville Sportsplex. She said Pulley will then hold OCSD’s regular monthly meeting at noon Jan. 10, giving Pulley time to adjust to her new position.
Last week, Sargent said any firings of current personnel in the interests of improving school district performance will likely wait until the end of the academic year to minimize disruption. As such, she said this week that such firings will be Pulley’s responsibility.
“Dr. Pulley will be taking close looks at every position to make sure they’re filled with the people the children deserve,” Sargent said.
Sargent said she and Pulley share similar expectations for the OCSD, a statement Pulley corroborated.
“Dr. Sargent and I have known each other, I imagine, 20 years,” Pulley said. “I expect that (our) expectations are about the same. I’m going to roll up my sleeves and go to work.”
Sargent also announced that Candace Cooper has resigned as OCSD special education director, and Ginger Cockrell will be taking her place as director. As a result, Sargent said East Oktibbeha County High School is in need of a new principal, and the position will be advertised this week.
“(At first,) Ginger Cockrell was the case manager for (special education,) and she worked with Candace Cooper, who was the director (of special education,)” Sargent said. “When Ms. Maggie Austin retired (as EOCHS principal), Ginger was certified in administration, and she (substituted for her) at East High, so I knew she could do the job.”
For this reason, Sargent appointed Cockrell as EOCHS’s new principal last week at the regular monthly OCSD meeting, saying Cooper would take on responsibilities as both director and case manager of special education. Cooper resigned immediately after that meeting, Sargent said on Monday.
“So, I knew I needed to bring Ginger back to the central office as director of (special education), because that’s where she’s been the longest, and she knows that job very well,” Sargent said. “Oktibbeha County has no citations in the department of (special education) services, so we wanted to be sure we could keep that going and felt confident that Ginger could do it.”