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Waccamaw Middle School: New principal eager to get started

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

When a career in professional baseball didn’t pan out, Mark Phillips turned his attention to education.

He has never looked back since and he took another step on his career path earlier this week, when he was selected to be the next principal at Waccamaw Middle School.

“It’s very exciting,” said Phillips, who has served as assistant principal at St. James Middle School for the last five years. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to lead such an accomplished school and work in an excellent district. I can’t wait to get started.”

Phillips was one of five finalists for the opening, and his performance during last week’s forum for candidates aided in his hiring. Superintendent Randy Dozier said he received many positive comments about Phillips’ presentation, and those combined with his performance history served to make him the top choice. The school board approved the hiring this week.

“People were impressed with his personality,” Dozier said. “They responded to what he had to say. His references from Horry County are exemplary, as is the work he has done there. I know they hate to see him go.”

Richard Kerr, a member of the school improvement council who attended the board meeting, said he thought the district made the right decision.

“I was impressed with the turnout” at the forum, Phillips said. “It was good to see so many parents who wanted to be involved. You always love to see that type of support.”

During the forum, Phillips noted Waccamaw Middle’s record as a top performing school in the county and the state. He believes maintaining that standard is a challenge in its own right.

“Staying the course and being able to continue the record of success is something that will be expected of me,” Phillips said. “There is pressure involved with that. We have a great team in place and the job they have done speaks for itself. Every school has unique issues and challenges, but if something isn’t broke, I’m not going to try to fix it.”

Phillips, 43, played several years of semi-professional baseball before earning his bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sciences from North Texas University in 2002.

He earned a master’s in educational administration from the University of South Carolina in 2006 and a doctorate in educational leadership from Walden University in Minnesota last year.

He is a father of three sons – Cole, Carson and Cody – and he said that he and his wife, Jennifer, have already started the process of relocating from Conway to the Waccamaw Neck.

Phillips said his initial task as principal will be getting to know school staff, parents and community members. He hopes to organize a parents night prior to the start of school to further the process.

“One of my first steps will be to meet with parents, teachers and staff,” Phillips said. Also, I want to be able to get out into the community and establish contacts. Being able to build strong relationships with everyone involved will be important for me as I move forward.”

Phillips began his teaching career as a special education teacher and has personal experience with special needs children since his own son Cole suffers from Down syndrome.

His passion for helping special needs students and his expertise in special education factored into his hiring.

“We have more kids coming in who have special needs and different challenges,” Dozier said. “Mark’s experience in those areas can’t be overlooked. It will benefit Waccamaw Middle and, hopefully, our district as well.”

“Every child has a right to an education,” Phillips said. “Making sure they are being given that opportunity is a priority for me.”

Other finalists were Jamie Curry, assistant principal at Waccamaw High; Craig Stone, assistant principal at Carvers Bay High; the current Waccamaw Middle assistant principal, Darryl Stanley; and Paul Sparado, assistant principal at Forestbrook Middle School in Horry County.

Phillips will replace Bill Dwyer who resigned last month to take a job in the private sector.

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