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Miller, Brister pursuing smooth transition

The new year will see a new superintendent in charge of theLincoln County School District.

The transition from current Superintendent Perry Miller to TerryBrister, currently principal at Loyd Star Attendance Center, so farhas been very smooth, the leaders say.

“The transition has been going good. He has been attending ourschool board meetings since shortly after being elected,” Millersaid about Brister.

Brister defeated Lincoln County School District TransportationDirector Donald Case for the superintendent’s office in the Augustprimaries and did not face an opponent in the November generalelection. Miller did not seek re-election.

“The meetings have made me much more aware of some issues I’llneed to know when I take office,” Brister said. “The board and Mr.Miller have made me feel at home, and the positive attitude here atLoyd Star and at the other schools has been very encouraging andpromising.”

Miller said that aside from attending the school board meetings,Brister has also been active in many of the big decisions faced bythe district since the election.

“I’m not making any big decisions now that would have an impacton the future,” Miller said. “I’ll let him make most of thosedecisions. We’re attending to day-to-day business, but the schoolboard and I want his input on any long-term plans.”

In the meantime, however, Miller is striving to get as many ofhis projects completed before Brister takes office in January.

Miller said he is concentrating his efforts on progressing asfar as he can on the bond-funded campus expansions. Students willbegin utilizing the new cafeteria at Bogue Chitto Attendance Centernext week and Loyd Star Attendance Center students will move intotheir new classroom building after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Construction on the district’s other two campuses is continuing,but activity is not as far along because of weather delays.

It’s not the campus expansions, however, that Miller hopes willbe remembered as his legacy during his term in office.

“I’d like to be remembered for several things, and theconstruction is only one of them,” he said. “I would like to thinkI’m also the one who emphasized instruction as well asconstruction.

“The buildings are nice, but I would like to be remembered as asuperintendent who led this district towards excellence ineducation,” Miller said.

Two years ago, the state issued its first achievement model forMississippi districts. The model graded state schools into fivecategories called levels. Level 5 was the highest categoryachievable.

In the first achievement model, Lincoln County School District’sfour schools were split with two Level 4 and two Level 3 rankings.This year, West Lincoln obtained a Level 5 ranking with thedistrict’s remaining three schools achieved a ranking of Level4.

Miller also said he would like to be remembered as thesuperintendent who restored the district’s financialaccountability. When Miller took office, the district was reelingfrom being handed a disclaimer from the state Auditor’s Office forthe 1999-2000 year because of the status of its financialrecords.

“We never had a financial problem. It was a record-keepingproblem,” Miller said of the predicament he inherited. “There wereinsufficient records to support the financial activity of thedistrict.”

The situation was resolved very quickly, prompting the auditor’soffice to write the district a complimentary letter that praisedschool officials’ quick action.

“We restored financial accountability in the shortest timepossible, and since then we’ve received commendations from thestate audit department for the quality we have in maintainingschool records,” Miller said.

Miller said he wishes Brister and the district nothing butcontinued success in the upcoming years and that he appreciated thesupport of the community during his 14 years with Lincoln Countyschools.

As January draws near, though, he is looking forward toretirement and spending time with his family.

“I have nothing planned for the near future,” he said. “I’mgoing to try retirement for a while.”

Brister was very complimentary of the prior administrations andsaid it was their efforts that made the district such a fine placefor students to get educated.

“I think we’ve worked hard over the last eight years,” he said.”The whole time I’ve been with the district we’ve been in abuilding process and it looks like the district as a whole is ingood shape.”

The school board and superintendent are only arms of the people,Brister said, and it is the community’s “dedication, desires andcommitment” that empowers them to improve the district. He citedthe community’s overwhelming support of the $3.8 billion bond issuethat made the campus expansions possible.

“The people did that,” he said.

Brister declined to comment on any specific changes he will makein the district when he takes office in January, but said he doeshave some plans.

“I don’t feel at liberty to discuss those yet because I don’thave the authority yet to make any changes, and I haven’t discussedany of my plans with the school board,” he said. “Until I can meetthose requirements, they’re just ideas.

“I’m sure I’ll do some things differently than previousadministrations, but I don’t plan to make any immediate changes,”he added. “I’m very enthusiastic and goal-oriented.”

Brister said he does intend to become very active and will bemore “visual” on every campus in the district.

“I want to be a part of each school and I want input from thefaculty, students and parents on what we can do to make the schoolsand district better,” Brister said.