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
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
“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.”