Dr. Lance Evans (left) was named Mississippi’s Superintendent of the Year in October 2023 (Photo from New Albany School District Facebook page)
Dr. Lance Evans talks confirmation, school choice, teacher shortages and more in first remarks since being named the next Mississippi State Superintendent.
This week, the State Board of Education and Mississippi Department of Education announced the search for a new State Superintendent had come to a close, with the appointment of Dr. Lance Evans. The next day, Evans met with members of the media to answer questions and outline some of his plans for the future of education in the Magnolia State.
A native of north Mississippi, Evans has a long list of education experience, including as a teacher and coach in Oxford, administrator in Itawamba, and most recently as the New Albany School District Superintendent for the past six years.
Provided he earns approval from the State Senate during the upcoming session, Evans will officially take over as State Superintendent on July 1, 2024.
During the next six months, Evans said he plans to work with Interim State Superintendent Ray Morgigno as part of the transition process. His plans for the future include continuing the success seen recently in Mississippi’s K-12 system, adding even more opportunities for students to succeed.
Evans also plans to put an increased focus on workforce initiatives, not just for students who may choose to enter the workforce, but also by addressing the teacher shortage in the state.
To achieve that, the new State Superintendent will work with the Legislature to establish a program that will allow retired educators to come back to the classroom so they can lend their years of expertise. Evans is focusing on retired teachers because most of the teachers lost recently were due to retirement. If 30 to 40 percent of the retired teachers return to the classroom, Evans said it will go a long way toward addressing the teacher shortage.
Another way to address the teacher shortage will be to recruit college students seeking teaching degrees before other states get the chance to do so. Ideally, those students would be recruited before that student’s junior year when internships are sought.
“What I find that’s alarming is the number of potential teaching candidates that already made their mind up to go out of state,” Evans added.
The last State Superintendent to be appointed by SBE did not make it through the Senate for approval, leading to interim state superintendents assuming the role throughout 2023. Evans said he plans to meet with legislators starting in early January to answer any questions they may have so the confirmation process goes smoothly.
“I have very good relationships established there. I have no reason to believe that it won’t go well, but obviously there’s always that process that you have to go through,” Evans said.
When the topic of school choice was posed, Evans said that to him Mississippi’s public school system is the best, and a lot of times the only choice for the state’s 440,000 students. He added that many areas of the state do not have private or charter schools, so public schools are pretty much the only option for those families. His plan is to create outstanding opportunities at Mississippi’s public schools statewide to ensure students get the best education.
“Public schools are not the only choice, but they are the greatest choice, the best choice. That’s my approach to it,” Evans explained.
Should the conversation of school choice come up in the Legislature, Evans would like to see lawmakers work to ensure any student attending a school as part of school choice is held to the same standards as students attending public school.
“I think that is one of the most important things that has to take place if we get to that point with choice,” Evans said.
On the topic of fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or MAEP, Evans said he supports fully funding it, but concedes that tax dollars are limited. As such, he also wants to ensure all of the dollars intended for education are used to get the highest return on that investment.
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