Lance Mitchell has been a principal before, but each new job brings its own challenges. He believes he’s got the support around him to make his first year as principal at Red Bay a success.
Mitchell was tasked last week by the Franklin County School Board to lead Red Bay School as its new principal, replacing Kenny Sparks, who recently retired. Mitchell said while he did hope to one day again be in a principal’s role, the opportunity came about more quickly than he expected.
“It was a little bit of a surprise to me,” Mitchell said. “I knew Principal Sparks had plenty of years in. I was perfectly content to come back to Red Bay as assistant principal. But I’m happy and fortunate to do it. One fortunate thing is I’m a little familiar with what goes on here. But also I’ve only been here a year, so I’m still learning (about the school and community).”
Mitchell, who grew up in Colbert County, has previously served as principal at Samson and Headland high schools, both in southeast Alabama, near Dothan. He came to Red Bay High School last year, where he has served as assistant principal and junior high basketball coach.
Until a new assistant principal is hired, which will likely be later this month, Mitchell will be pulling double-duty. He’ll be getting used to the new job while still doing part of the old. It’s getting up to speed on the new job that has his primary focus at the moment.
“Obviously when you step into a new role, even though I have several years of administrative and principal’s experience, this is a new role,” Mitchell said. “This is a K through 12 school and has a wide variety of cognitive and social levels. You’ve got to be able to go from one minute dealing with a first grader who is throwing a temper tantrum to dealing with a twelfth grader’s needs and issues.”
There will be challenges, but Mitchell said he appreciates that he has a great support system around him. He said his teachers and the community are the greatest assets he inherits in this role.
“The teachers here are mostly from this community, and they’re experienced, veteran teachers, most of whom have been here for a while,” he said. “And it’s a good community and a good community school. There are good community leaders here also who are a great asset to the school and rally around to do what they can to help the students at this school to the do best they can do. They want to see Red Bay thrive.”
Mitchell said while some things are different from one school to the next, there is a similar thread throughout education. He said his aim for Red Bay is to focus not only on test scores, but also on developing each student.
“Everybody is trying to do the same thing,” Mitchell said. “Everybody wants to help their students be the best citizens they can be. And every administrator wants to look good and they want their test scores to improve, for the students to do well on their tests. That’s great, and we want to see test scores improve, too – and our scores have improved, but there are other things we want to focus on.
“We want kids to be able to be productive after they leave, whether it’s to go to college or go do a trade, whatever they want to be. These kids have to compete globally and the world is getting smaller,” he said. “If a student wants to stay here locally and raise a family, that’s great. But also if a student wants to move off and experience other things and compete with others for jobs not just nationally but internationally, we want to provide those services that prepare our kids for that and for what they choose to do.”