When Michael Hogan recently announced his retirement as principal at Petal Middle School, school district superintendent Matt Dillon knew it wouldn’t be possible to replace the 17 years Hogan had spent in that position.
But during the interview process – including feedback from a committee of teachers and administrators, as well as an anonymous survey – it became clear that Tyler Watkins was the right man for the job.
Watkins, who most recently served as principal at Leakesville Junior High School in Greene County, will begin officially July 1.
“I’m excited about it,” Watkins said. “Petal Middle School has just been consistently successful, and that’s a testament to what Mr. Hogan has been able to do. He’s built a great staff of teachers, and I’m just excited to be able to join that family.”
Watkins started his teaching career at Laurel Middle School in 2011 before heading to Petal Primary School, where he stayed for three years.
He then moved to Petal High School for four years before accepting the job at Leakesville Junior High.
“My wife is a teacher in the district, and I was born and raised here,” Watkins said. “I know how important the school is to the community, and it has such strong ties to parents, the community, the teachers and the students. I just want to be part of it.”
Dillon said Watkins checked off every box that district officials were looking for, such as how to relate to people, including staff members, students and the community; knowledge of the community; and the standards in the Petal School District.
“Tyler is one that stood out, and it was a unanimous decision by the interview committee,” Dillon said at a recent meeting of the school district’s board of directors. “I’m very proud to sit before you today and tell you that we have higher expectations for Tyler coming in.
“We know that he’s going to come in and put his fingerprint on Petal Middle School, but Petal Middle School is going to put its fingerprint on him as well. We know it’s going to be a great friendship and a great partnership.”
Board president Bruce Magee said he was pleased to hear that Watkins was the applicant chosen for the position, and he welcomed him back to the school district.
“I’m excited about having your leadership in the school district,” Magee told Watkins. “Obviously, you grew up here, you went to school here, you know us and we know you.
“And we’ve heard about your skill along the way during those years you were here, so we’re looking forward to seeing your special touch on Petal Middle School and the effect on those there – our students and our teachers. Our board’s goal is to give you guys all the resources you need to be successful, and that’s what we’re going to accomplish.”
As one of his first acts as principal, Watkins is looking forward to getting in the school and meeting the teachers and staff.
“Every school has its own unique culture, and I’m looking forward to kind of learning Petal Middle School’s culture, and being able to see first-hand why they’ve been able to be so successful,” he said.