The "doc" is definately in
by Kathryn Purcell
photos by Angelina Bellebuono
His office at Morgan County High School is a conglomeration of his career thus far. Certificates and diplomas are displayed on the walls; members of his family as well as members of the Morgan County High School family, past and present, smile back at him from pictures in frames that rest on the desk; and the bookshelves are lined with education-related texts as well as numerous notebooks whose spines display a variety of bold-lettered acronyms, abbreviations alien to most everyone, save for other school administrators. The desk itself is a bit messy, papers and folders strewn about over the desktop and computer keyboard, a testament to how many different parts of school life he's involved in.
However, should you ever catch Morgan County High School Principal Dr. Mark Wilson in this, his office, you should consider yourself lucky. Keeping up with the workings of and affecting change within an award-winning high school isn't conducive with being seated at a desk chair for any extended period of time. It is, however, the catalyst for being named the 2008-2009 MetLife Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals Principal of the Year, an honor Wilson received just a few weeks ago.
The reasons for Wilson's being nominated, much less chosen, as Principal of the Year seem to be infinite. When asked to articulate why "Doc," as he's affectionately called, is deserving of the award, all of his colleagues pause before answering, each replying "Let me think for a minute," before answering the seemingly impossible question. Within their responses, it immediately becomes evident that this honor is past due, that Doc is and has been "Principal of the Year" a long time before the award came his way.
Morgan County High School Front Office Staff
• Leah Anne Pritchett, Receptionist/Secretary:
"I've known him for about four years now, and I've grown a lot of respect for him. I've seen him have visions and ideas, and he's able to put them into actions. He doesn't get hung up on things that fail, and he's not afraid to step out and try new things. I enjoy representing the school that he's the principal at. I have a lot of pride working at Morgan County High School. He is well-deserving of this award."
• Susan Segrest, Dr. Wilson's Secretary:
"I think he is the smartest, most kind-hearted, best principal in the whole world. His first priority is the students. His goal is to see each student in this school graduate and go on to bigger and better things. The school is in good hands."
Morgan County High School Faculty
• Mark Argo, Math Teacher
"Dr. Wilson possesses the very rare combination of hyper intelligence, short-term and long-term vision and sensitivity for individual needs."
• Steve DeLaigle, Art/Music Teacher
"The word 'No' is not in Doctor Wilson's vocabulary. There is an individual education plan for everyone, student and teacher alike. He is not afraid to experiment and find a solution for each child's success!"
• Earl Donnell, ROTC Teacher
"Many leaders strive to be inspirational leaders, but few achieve it. You [Dr. Wilson] are truly the exception...With over 30 years of educational experience (military and civilian), I have never encountered a more sincere, empathetic educator. The students at Morgan County High School are truly fortunate to experience such a dynamic, forward-thinking administrator."
• Connie Green, Math Teacher
"Doctor Wilson is very open to teachers' suggestions and ideas. Whenever I approach him with 'impossibilities,' he finds a way to make it possible. If he cannot make it happen, he will find someone who can."
• Chris Head, Social Studies Teacher
"I think that Mark Wilson is the ideal principal, for me anyway. Trying to give a precise justification for this claim is difficult, but I will try. Dr. Wilson is open to creative solutions for practical problems. If someone makes a proposal, his general response tends to be 'Let's try to figure out how to make this work,' as opposed to 'Let me tell you why this will not work.'"
• Jim Malanowski, Social Studies Teacher
"I have never encountered a 'big picture' person who rivals his ability to see possibilities. He has a unique ability to not only see all the angles on a situation, but to channel a group's energy toward considering those options even if they are sometimes uncomfortable. His flexibility and 'thinking outside the box' lead our school to look for creative ways to address issues that some schools might never even acknowledge." (Excerpted from a "Principal of the Year" Nomination Letter composed by Malanowski)
• Deana Shuman, Foreign Language Teacher
"I really appreciate that Dr. Wilson is open to trying things that don't necessarily fall into the traditional model of high school curriculum. He allows teachers to think 'outside the box,' and that kind of willingness to try new things is transmitted to the students. Students at Morgan County High School hopefully gain the confidence to try new things, even if it means failing a few times before succeeding. There is an atmosphere of creativity and experimentation at Morgan County High School that is largely thanks to Dr. Wilson's attitude that fun and learning are not mutually exclusive."
• Jeff Thomas, Career/Technology Teacher
"It may be true that Dr. Wilson still has an orange shirt or two in his closet, and it may be true that one can never shake the bonds of college affiliation; nonetheless, we know that in his heart Doc bleeds 'Bulldog Red,' Morgan County High School Red, that is. He embraced us from that very first day and shared with us his hopes, his dreams and his vision. He promised us that we could dare to dream without fear of recrimination, convinced us that it was okay to think outside the box and showed us by his example that 'the way it always was is not the way it always has to be.' It was through Doc's leadership that we learned that it was okay to open ourselves up to examination, to accept challenge and change and to better understand that being different was not necessarily a bad thing." (Excerpted from a "Principal of the Year" Nomination Letter composed by Thomas)
Morgan County High School Administration
• Davis Bell, Assistant Principal
"He's an outstanding person to work for; he's just a wonderful person to work for because of the vision he has. You want to work for him because of his philosophy of education -- he wants to educate every student...The way he handles students is what I'm so impressed by. The man never sleeps. He's always researching, trying to find and implement the best practices for our school."
• Eric Hamilton, Assistant Principal
"I think he works tirelessly to create programs and foster students to be successful in whatever area of giftedness they have. He's been a tremendous role model for me. I think he has that effect on the community as a whole. I think he's a leader in every sense of the word."
• Pat Leming, Assistant Principal
"As an educational leader, Dr. Wilson is a visionary. He understands the global view and proactively plans for it...As a principal of students, Dr. Wilson is passionate about equity and access for every student. He genuinely believes that every student should have every opportunity to succeed; his actions demonstrate this commitment...As an individual, Mark Wilson is intelligent, compassionate, approachable, committed to his values, energetic, fun, contagiously enthusiastic and passionate about education." (Excerpted from a "Principal of the Year" Nomination Letter composed by Leming)
Morgan County Board of Education Administration
• Stan DeJarnett, Superintendent:
"Mark Wilson is very deserving of this recognition. He has a clear vision for what Morgan County High School can be as a world-class school. He has the ability to lead the change necessary to make that happen. He also recognizes and values the talents of his faculty and puts those talents to good use at the school. I believe they recognize his talents as well. And, most importantly, he loves kids, he loves teachers and he believes he has the best job in the world. I think he's the best high school principal in Georgia, no question. It's gratifying that his colleagues around the state think so too."
• Ralph Bennett, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning:
"Dr. Wilson's recognition by NASSP and MetLife is further recognition of his reputation for innovative programming at Morgan County High School. The Georgia Department of Education has recognized Dr. Wilson for his innovations for a number of years and has promoted what he has done at Morgan County High School as practices to be emulated by other high school across the state. There is seldom a week that goes by that someone or some group from another school system is not visiting Morgan County High School to talk with Dr. Wilson."
• Sarah Burbach, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support and Community Relations:
"I'm certain that one of the reasons that Dr. Wilson was selected as the GASSP Principal of the Year is because he is an innovator. He implements new ideas, such as the teaching of reading at the high school level, incorporating an Advisory and Enrichment period into the weekly calendar, Middle College and delivering professional learning on a weekly basis to teachers and staff during their early morning time on Thursdays. He is not afraid of change."
Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP)
• Melton Callahan, Executive Director of the GASSP:
"To be considered, you have to be innovative; you have to have good things going on at the school that show improvement. Statewide, [it's apparent] there are good things going on at Morgan County. Competition here in Georgia this year was the most high quality we've ever seen. The number of quality people makes it significant, in Dr. Wilson's position, that he was named by our association as 'Principal of the Year'...He demonstrated that he was able to excel in educational leadership, resolving the complex problems and difficulties at a public high school through...the school's success and the innovative things he has accomplished. With the resources available, he really did an outstanding job."
The Man, or 2008-2009 MetLife GASSP Principal of the Year, Himself
• Mark Wilson, Morgan County High School Principal
"I feel like it's an award for the community, and an award for the school. I got the award because of what our teachers and what our students have done. I'm grateful, and honored. I'm proud to know that what we've done, we've done together. It's a great recognition for Morgan County."