By Bill Short
The Millington School Board selected Bolton High School Principal James “Bo” Griffin last week to be the municipal school district’s next superintendent.
Board members took the action last Thursday night during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Roger Christopher and seconded by Chris Denson.
The motion was passed by a 6-1 vote, with Chairman C. J. Haley dissenting.
Then, on a motion offered by Cody Childress and seconded by Mark Coulter, the board voted unanimously to “support” the decision that the majority had just made.
Griffin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, a Masters of Education degree at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville and an Education Specialist degree at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson.
He has been a history, world geography or government teacher and assistant football, baseball, basketball or track coach at Munford, Jacksonville, Ark., Covington and Millington Central high schools. At MCHS, he was also head baseball coach, athletic director and assistant principal.
Griffin also previously served as assistant principal, vice principal and athletic administrator at Bolton High School and principal of Raleigh-Egypt Middle School.
After Dr. David Roper announced early this year that he will retire on Aug. 1 as the current superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, the board voted unanimously to ask the Tennessee School Boards Association to assist in the search for his successor.
Griffin was one of five applicants the board interviewed last week on the TSBA’s recommendation. The others were:
(1) Dr. Donald C. Durley, MCHS principal
(2) Chad H. Stevens, former principal of Bolton High School
(3) Mark E. Neal, principal of Melrose High School
(4) Selina T. Sparkman, principal of Millington Middle School
At a June 19 special called meeting conducted shortly after the conclusion of those interviews, Griffin and Durley were invited to return last Thursday night to address the board a second time.
While citing the “capacity crowd” in the Board Chamber at City Hall, Griffin said all of Millington’s residents pay for its school system, but only 75 percent have children enrolled in it.
“So, we have to get them on our side,” he noted.
He said children are “worth the time and energy” to give them the opportunity to be successful, and that is what he does.
“I don’t care who your mom or dad is,” he noted. “All I care about is a young man or woman who comes to me and says, ‘I want to get better.’”
Griffin said parents no longer have to send their children to a four-year institution to be successful. A two-year degree will get them a “six-figure salary” faster with “a heck of a lot less debt.”
He said all children should have a skill, trade or education, so they can provide for themselves and their family someday.
“I’m the guy whose name’s going to be at the top of the letterhead if you choose me to be so,” Griffin noted. “But I’m not the one who’s going to make it all happen.”
While acknowledging that he does not have all the answers, Griffin said he knows where to get them and is not afraid to ask questions for the children. He pledged to “go and speak anywhere” to help them get a better education, because he considers them “our No. 1 resource.”
“Education is the great equalizer,” Griffin noted. “But just getting them jobs is not enough. We have to give them good-paying jobs. We have to give them skills that can last a lifetime.”
Among those are reading, writing and arithmetic, which begin at the elementary school level.
“We’ve got to focus on that,” he noted. “If I’m given the job of superintendent, I will make sure of that.”
Because educators are “humble servants,” Griffin said, they tend not to “brag” on themselves.
“And we really shouldn’t,” he contended. “What we need to do is educate the public about what great things are going on in our school systems.”
Griffin said he has never asked any of his students to make straight A’s, because he did not do so. But he was “fortunate enough” to have people in his life who reminded him that one day he would not be able to run and jump, catch a football, hit a baseball or dunk a basketball.
“Education is just a way to open the door to your future,” he concluded. “And there’s no better feeling than when you hear from a former student how great he or she is doing. That makes it all worthwhile.”
During discussion shortly before the votes, Coulter thanked the candidates for doing “an excellent job” with their interviews. He also said it had been “a great experience” for him personally.
“We can take a lot from every one of them and definitely learn some lessons,” he noted. “Hopefully, we can come together with some of them who are already here tonight and use some of their ideas.”
Board member Barbara Halliburton also thanked the city’s residents for the support they expressed in telephone calls and e-mails.
“It was very helpful to hear their voices,” she noted, “and to see their level of concern and people being involved in the process.”
While acknowledging that the support makes a board member “feel good,” Childress said he wishes the community was “this involved” in the monthly meetings.
He also said he does not care what the other municipal school systems in Shelby County think about Millington’s, which he called “a great family.”
“I think we’re on the move,” he concluded. “I think this city is on the move, and I’m very proud to be part of it.”
By Bill Short