The Mississippi Link Newswire,

On the heels of an electrifying inaugural Convocation and Professional Development Conference, Aug. 1-2, educators and students returned to school Monday, Aug. 6, excited with renewed commitment to education in Holmes County. Holmes County is a rural, economically deprived area of roughly 19,000.

“Thanks to the Partners of the Holmes County Consolidated School District, we were motivated by our country’s first African-American Secretary of Education, Rod R. Paige, and inspired by national gospel recording artist Kathy Taylor who rocked the house during our back-to-school kickoff,” said the new district’s Superintendent of Schools, James L. Henderson, Ed.D.

Henderson, a native who has returned after 37 years with more than 20 years of education leadership, served under Paige’s administration of the Houston Independent School District in the mid 1990’s. “I count him as both a mentor and a friend,” Henderson told the wall-to-wall audience in Deborah Mason Patterson Hall.

Paige, a Monticello, Miss. native, who had never visited Holmes County, said he had done much research on it, and too much of it was negative press. The research inferred that the status quo “is not expecting you to succeed,” but “it’s a new day, Holmes County,” voiced Paige. “It’s time to shed the old things away. It’s time to put this district at the top of school districts in Mississippi.”

The Jackson State University alumnus used his life as an example of how “education can change circumstances.” The son of a school principal and a librarian of humble roots in a then-segregated small town, Paige shared that, “Almost every day I heard how education is the pathway to the future. What matters is what you respect in your head…it is what it is, but you can make it what you want it to be!”

The audience burst into applause. Audience member and longtime devoted bus driver Reola Robinson said she is looking forward to the positive changes in district. “We bus drivers play a very important role,” she said.

Paige charged Holmes County residents with working together as a caring community for the district to succeed. He explained that it was a caring community’s support that helped propel him via an educational journey to Washington, D.C., sitting just four chairs away from the President of the United States as the seventh U.S. Secretary of Education. “Everything is possible!” he stressed. Paige spearheaded the implementation of the historic No Child Left Behind Act with the goal of reinvigorating America’s education system.

Not only was the audience motivated by Paige’s charge to “get it done,” but they were also inspired by the powerful musical gift of national recording artist, minister of music and songwriter Kathy Taylor. Taylor, a product of the late legendary James Cleveland’s Gospel Music of America and The Mass Choir, brought the audience to their feet with two of her popular songs, “Oh, How Precious” and “The Corinthian Song.”

The entire convocation, with Board of Trustees’ participation, was similar to a big pep rally which included the high school band, cheerleaders, school personnel wearing their building’s t-shirts, people cheering and shouting as Henderson walked aisle several times chanting: “What Time is It?” and the audience echoing back each time with “It’s THAT Time!”

What does the phrase, “It’s THAT Time!” mean? Henderson is quick to tell you: “It’s that time to have high expectations for every child; it’s that time to have professional learning communities; it’s that time for parents, teachers and community to work in tandem for the success of our children; and it’s that time to meet the non-academic needs, stop teaching to the test and educate the whole child. It’s THAT Time!”

Next week: A new education era, Holmes Co., Part 2 – will focus on professional training and integrating two Best Practices – PBIS and Restorative Practice as alternatives to paddling.

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