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Released January 25, 2005

FORMER NORTH CAROLINA PUBLIC INSTRUCTION SUPERINTENDENT
JOINS SOUTHERN MISS COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AND PSYCHOLOGY
By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG - The addition of a national leader in public education to The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Education and Psychology faculty may be a case of divine direction.

Dr. Michael Ward, former North Carolina superintendent of public instruction, is joining the Southern Miss family following the selection of his wife, Hope Morgan Ward, as bishop of the Mississippi United Methodist Church.

A North Carolina native, Ward was elected to two terms as superintendent and was instrumental in the development of the federal government’s “No Child Left Behind” education reform initiatives, among other accomplishments. “We were really pleased when she (Hope) was elected bishop for Mississippi,” Ward said. “In many ways, Mississippi is not a new place for me. We already have a number of wonderful friends in the state and in the church here, and I’m excited about the opportunity to work with the faculty here at Southern Miss.”

Included among his Mississippi connections are Superintendent of Education Henry Johnson, who served as assistant state superintendent to Ward in North Carolina, and former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who served with Ward on a national education board. Ward’s son Jason worked as a teacher in Mississippi through the Teach for America program from 2001-2003.

Ward became North Carolina’s superintendent in 1996 and was reelected in November 2000. He has served as chair of the State Partnership Board for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and on the board of the National Assessment Governing Board. He also worked with former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt in 1996 on a statewide program to create new standards for principals and school leaders.

Prior to his election as state superintendent, Ward served as executive director of the North Carolina Standards Board for Public School Administration. He also served as superintendent of schools in Granville County, N.C., and previously worked as a teacher and principal. He was honored in 1994 as North Carolina’s Superintendent of the Year and in 1988 as Granville County’s Principal of the Year. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University.

“We’re thrilled to have someone with Dr. Ward’s background and experience as a part of the Southern Miss family,” said Southern Miss president Dr. Shelby Thames. “I know he will help us develop outstanding leaders for schools in Mississippi and across the country--a tradition on which our university was founded. I am pleased that Dr. Ward wanted to use his talents at Southern Miss. Our students will benefit from his experience.”

At Southern Miss, Ward will work with graduate students who plan to become school administrators. “I hope to be a catalyst for creating strong leaders for Mississippi’s schools,” he said. “Strong, creative leaders are more important than ever, and I hope my experience will prove useful in that regard.”

“Dr. Ward will be instrumental in our development as a college and the development of education in Mississippi,” said Dr. Willie Pierce, dean of the Southern Miss College of Education and Psychology. “He brings an unequaled set of credentials to our educational administration graduate programs.”

Dr. Ron Styron, co-director of the Leadership Institute of the New South and faculty member of the Southern Miss Department of Educational Leadership and Research, said Ward’s experience as an educational leader in North Carolina will be an invaluable benefit for Southern Miss students.

“Dr. Ward comes to us from one of the states at the forefront of the accountability movement,” Styron said. “We have often looked to North Carolina for K-12 educational models, and it was during Dr. Ward’s tenure (as superintendent) that these models of excellence were developed.”

Ward said North Carolina’s reputation as a role model for its commitment to public education, both regionally and nationally, is the result of a partnership between the state’s public and private sectors. He said this kind of partnership can benefit states like Mississippi that are enduring difficult budget challenges.

“You have to make the tough calls in tough economic times,” he said. “If you retreat on education funding, you’re essentially eating your own seed corn.

“Everyone’s been having tough budget times,” he said. “What matters is how you prioritize, and one way to do that is to grow and invest in an education system that becomes a strong engine for economic growth and development. That’s how you stave off economic difficulty in the future.”

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April 1, 2005 11:10 AM