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Mississippi taps North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction for new state superintendent

Robert Taylor

Robert Taylor, a deputy superintendent in the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), has been hired to lead the Mississippi Department of Education.

Taylor, a Mississippi native, is a former superintendent of Bladen County Schools. He will start his new job in January, pending confirmation by the Mississippi state senate.

As Mississippi’s state superintendent, which is an appointed position, Taylor will lead 140 school districts. Those districts enroll more than 440,000 students.

“Mississippi has made tremendous strides in literacy and our goal as a state should be to continue this growth and refine the work that has produced such great results,” Taylor said in a statement last week. “I look forward to working with local school districts, superintendents, and their school staff in identifying barriers to success.”

Taylor will become Mississippi’s second Black superintendent. The first was Henry L. Johnson, who came from North Carolina in 2002. Johnson was an associate state superintendent at NCDPI and an assistant superintendent for Johnston County Schools.

The Mississippi Department of Education told Mississippi Today, an online nonprofit publication, that Taylor will be paid $300,000 annually.

Truitt posted a celebratory tweet sharing the news about Taylor’s new position.

Mississippi has won accolades in recent years for its success in early literacy. In 2019, the state posted the highest growth of all states on the National Assessment for Education Progress.

Taylor’s departure from NCDPI comes as this state launches new efforts to improve early literacy after the failure of Read to Achieve, a statewide early childhood literacy program, that despite investments of more than $150 million, yielded poor results. The program was designed to get more children to read by third grade.

To improve literacy, the General Assembly approved Senate Bill 387 (The Excellent Schools Act of 2021) requiring all teachers to be trained in the “science of reading,” which is essentially a phonics-based approach to teaching students to read.

Taylor joined NCDPI in early 2021 as deputy secretary of student and school advancement. He began his 10th year as superintendent of Bladen County Schools in 2020. Before taking the job in Bladen County, Taylor was the assistant superintendent for Clinton City Schools from 2003 to 2011.

A 1990 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Taylor earned his bachelor’s degree in history and political science before earning a master of school administration from Fayetteville State University (FSU) and later his doctorate in educational leadership in 2009. He is an active member on multiple boards within the state – serving on advisory councils at both FSU and UNC Pembroke.

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Mississippi taps North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction for new state superintendent