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Mississippi Board of Education Names Dr. Lance Evans as Next State Superintendent

Dr. Lance Evans official headshot
The Mississippi State Board of Education voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Lance Evans as the next state superintendent of education. Evans is currently the superintendent of the New Albany School District. Photo courtesy of Mississippi Department of Education

The Mississippi State Board of Education named Dr. Lance Evans as the next state superintendent of education in a special called meeting on Dec. 20, 2023. Evans currently serves as the superintendent of the New Albany School District.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to accept the position of State Superintendent of Mississippi,” Evans said in a press release from MDE. “My commitment to fairness, equity, and innovation in education aligns seamlessly with the values of this great state. I look forward to collaborating with educators, stakeholders, and communities to forge new pathways for our graduates, ensuring every student has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.”

Evans is a 24-year veteran educator previously serving as a teacher, coach and administrator in the Oxford and Itawamba County school districts, principal and assistant principal of New Albany High School, and principal of New Albany Elementary School. Under Evans’ leadership as superintendent, New Albany’s efforts during the 2018-2019 school year earned the school its first A-rating. New Albany has maintained that rating every year since. The Mississippi Association of School Administrators named Evans as the 2023 Superintendent of the Year.

“Dr. Evans is a visionary leader who is committed to continuously improving student achievement,” MDE Board Chair Glen East said in the release. “The Board sought broad public input about the qualities and priorities the next state superintendent of education should have, and Dr. Evans meets all of our expectations.”

The board selected Evans after a nationwide search that McPherson & Jacobson, LLC, led. The board also issued a statewide survey to collect public input about residents’ desired characteristics for the next state superintendent. The Senate must confirm Evans during its 2024 legislative session to complete the appointment.

The state has not had a permanent superintendent since the retirement of Dr. Carey Wright in 2022. Under Wright’s leadership, the state made historic gains in student achievement and implemented programs to decrease teacher shortages and improve early childhood education. Wright was appointed in 2013 and is one of the longest-serving superintendents in the state’s history. She is currently the interim state superintendent of education in Maryland.

Dr. Robert Taylor speaking to a seated crowd
The Mississippi Board of Education selected Dr. Robert Taylor for the state superintendent’s role in November 2022. The Senate, however, rejected his appointment in a 21-31 vote during the 2023 legislative session, which sparked controversy.  Photo courtesy of Mississippi Department of Education

In March, the Mississippi State Senate voted not to confirm Dr. Robert Taylor as state superintendent of education by a vote of 21-31. Mississippi’s Board of Education selected Taylor in November 2022 after a six-month nationwide search. He began serving in the role in January and continued until the Senate rejected his appointment. Taylor, a Laurel, Miss., native, served as the deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction from 2021 to 2022 and has more than 30 years of experience in education.

Taylor’s rejection prompted criticism. Republicans opposed Taylor questioning the selection process, disapproved of his record at underperforming schools and described him as a supporter of “critical-race theory.” Some Black Democratic senators held a press conference following the vote saying that the rejection was because of Taylor’s race. Taylor would have been Mississippi’s second Black state superintendent of education, succeeding Henry Johnson, who served from 2002 to 2005.

“I know they have that right (to not consent to an appointment), but the person that we are talking about, Dr. Taylor, is a native son,” Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, said during the press conference. “He’s a Mississippian who went to North Carolina and worked in that system—that system grading is higher than Mississippi—and he came home to serve. He’s a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, and we reject him for what reason other than that he’s Black?”

The day after the Senate vote, the State Board of Education named Mike Kent as interim state superintendent. Kent moved up from his role as interim deputy superintendent to fill the seat until a long-term interim selection was made.

Dr. Ray Morgigno official headshot
Raymond Morgigno began serving as the interim state superintendent on July 1, 2023. He will continue in the role until Evans assumes the position. Photo courtesy of Mississippi Department of Education

Raymond Morgigno began serving as the interim state superintendent on July 1 and will continue in the role until Evans assumes the post. He praised the MDE staff for their work during the process.

“The MDE has an incredible staff who are laser-focused on our mission to improve opportunities and outcomes for every child in the state,” Morgigno said in the release. “We will be pressing forward on all of the agency’s priorities and initiatives over the next six months to ensure Dr. Evans is set up for success.”

Evans will assume the post on July 1, 2024, pending approval from the Senate. The board approved his salary of $300,000 at their regularly scheduled Dec. 21 meeting.

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