Mickey McFall, at 38, was one of the youngest schools’ superintendent in Clinton County history a decade ago. This past Saturday, June 30, he also became one of the younger educators to retire but not before serving a successful 10-year stint as local schools’ chief.
McFall, now 48, looked back over his tenure as Superintendent of the Clinton County School District during an interview last week, noting he had a good run both as superintendent and as an educator in the school district.
McFall, a lifelong resident of Clinton County and 1981 CCHS graduate, earned his degree in Math and Computer Science from Eastern Kentucky University in 1985 but focused primarily on math, teaching that subject in the classroom until 1992.
The former superintendent’s career in the administrative field actually began some 20 years ago, when he was named Instructional Supervisor of the district in 1992. He then served as assistant superintendent for a few years, from the late 1990s to the time he was chosen to lead the school system.
“It (becoming superintendent) was not a life long dream,” McFall said in reference to why he initially applied for the position when it became open in 2002. But he added, “I felt I had been in the position with past jobs that I was prepared and confident I could do the job. I thought I could bring something to the district to move it forward.”
“When I first began, there were challenges, but we had some good people and everyone focused on what was important…I wanted to get everyone focused on students and providing the best education we could offer,” McFall said, reiterating the district had and still has a lot of good people working toward that goal of putting students first.
“Ten years is a good run and we had some good success,” said McFall. “I feel good about where we are as a district.”
McFall said, pertaining to his retirement, “the change will help me recharge my batteries,” and added that new personnel, including a different superintendent at this point could create a new drive in the right direction.
McFall isn’t the only superintendent that will be stepping down this year, as about 20 percent of all superintendents in the state will be retiring this year.
McFall said that although the principal duties of a superintendent are varied, there are two crucial areas each has to put up front, including financial stability within the school system and providing the absolute best education for students, “they deserve nothing less.”
Since 2002 when he first began his duties as schools’ chief, McFall said there had been substantial growth in technology and significant facilities improvements, including the construction of the Early Childhood Center. “I think students in the district have a safe environment to learn and there’s no overcrowding in the classrooms,” he added. He noted that when he first began, elementary students were still using trailers as classrooms at Albany Elementary School.
McFall also said that as a whole, there have been a significant improvement in test scores. “Years ago, we (Clinton County) weren’t in sight of state averages at any core subject area at any grade level.” Now, he said the entire district, at about every grade and each core subject area is as good and in some cases better than state averages.
The retired superintendent also credits the success in higher test scores to the hard work of faculty and staff putting education as a priority to bring the district up to speed with surrounding counties and the state.
He also noted that when it comes to student testing, there is always changes, with new testing systems, new standards and currently the Common Core or CITS state mandates in which all the local faculty is working on through professional development.
Another project that isn’t complete yet, but McFall hopes will become a reality in the future, is building a connector road from the middle school to the new U.S. 127 Bypass, a project the school district and fiscal court has been working jointly on with the Department of Transportation for the past several months.
McFall also noted the strenuous financial condition of not only the local school district, but school systems state and nationwide due to the downturn in the economy and budget cuts to the educational system.
“We have tried to prioritize and made no reductions that would directly affect students adversely,” McFall said in reference to controlling the budget without costing student education potential. “We’ve made cuts in athletics, in administration and we have avoided direct classroom instruction cuts,” he said, adding that the vast majority of the district budget is in personnel.
He said the final working budget, that will be presented this fall, will give a clearer picture of the financial conditions, not only at the local level, but state level as well. “I hope the revenue projected under the tentative budget which was recently approved will not decrease significantly.”
“When people are out of work it decreases sales and income tax revenues which in turns means cuts about everywhere, including in education,” he said, asking, “when does it turn around?”
The thing McFall said he would definitely miss the most about his job is “working with the people.” “They are such a great group, from the office staff, throughout the schools, transportation, food service, etc.” “I’m proud of all the work each of them do day in and day out.”
He also credited the school board, including the current board and past board members, saying they are an integral part of the successes seen over the past years. He also noted the parent support, saying, “you can’t have a good school system without parents and schools working together to make a child’s life better.”
McFall said he probably wouldn’t miss the many challenges of the job and especially the amount of time the job consumes. “Now I will have time to think about other things and that was one of my deciding factors in retiring at this point. I want to step away and recharge…do some things I haven’t had time or the opportunity to do in the past.”
McFall and his wife Sharon, who also recently retired as a classroom teacher at the middle school after 27 years, have two children, Rachel, a sophomore at Somerset Community College and Zack, an incoming 8th grader at Clinton County Middle School.
When asked what advice, if any, he would offer to the now new superintendent, Charlotte Bernard, he said it would be to “take every decision you make seriously…and make the best decision for the students.”
In closing McFall added that he was appreciative for all the support he has had over the years from colleagues and the public, students and parents and added that of all of his jobs, he enjoyed teaching as much as any of them.