Principals Mack Douglas, Linda Herrod stepping down|[5/09/06]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2006

He’s known to students at Warren Central High School as &#8220Daddy Mack,” a kind and compassionate head principal who is always looking out for their best interests – even if detention’s involved. To co-workers, he’s a supportive and encouraging friend.

Around South Park Elementary School, the principal is a team leader, a fair player and a wonderful cheerleader. And by three of the nearly 500 students she oversees on a daily basis, she’s simply called, &#8220Grandma.”

Both started work for local public schools on the same day in September 1978 and Mack Douglas and Linda Herrod will both retire May 25.

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Although their reasons for retiring are different – Douglas thinks it’s just time for some fresh leadership at Warren Central, and Herrod wants to spend more time with her 93-year-old mother and eight grandkids – they both agree they’ve learned a lot in their positions and are feeling bittersweet about handing over the reins.

&#8220It’s been a challenge, but I’ve had wonderful people to work with,” said Douglas, 55.

He said he thinks a new leader with fresh ideas will be good for the school. &#8220I’ve exhausted everything I know how to do to move Warren Central forward. I just think it’s time for someone else to try.”

Herrod, 58, said she just wants to ease on out unnoticed.

&#8220Acquaintances I’ve had in the past who have retired have always told me I’d know when it was time. And now, it’s time. It just feels right,” she said.

A Leaksville native, Edwin McCloud &#8220Mack” Douglas went to work for the school district in 1978 before a two-year stint in the Cleveland public schools. He came back to work at Vicksburg Junior High in 1982 as a football and track coach, also assisting with the high school teams.

He went to Warren Central as assistant principal in 1987, the same year the Warren County Public Schools and the Vicksburg Municipal Separate School District consolidated. He’s been there since, achieving the position of head principal in 1995.

&#8220I’ve seen a lot of changes,” he said. &#8220There have been big changes in the accountability system with the district report cards and technology changes. Things don’t get lost on paper like they used to. Dealing with students has changed because society as a whole has changed. Children are robbed of their childhood now.”

Douglas said the most rewarding part of his job has been having former students come back as successful adults.

&#8220They’ll say, ‘I remember when I used to spend so much time in your office. I wish I had listened to you more than I did,’” he said. &#8220That feels good.”

Herrod, a Natchez native, started at Halls Ferry Elementary, where she taught third and fourth grade until 1987. After serving as assistant principal at Grove Street Elementary for a year and a half, Herrod headed back to Halls Ferry as principal during spring break 1988.

&#8220That was a fast change, but I got settled,” she said. With consolidation and other changes – a Walgreen’s is now located on the Halls Ferry site – she moved over as principal of South Park in 1991 and has been there since.

&#8220I feel good about leaving this job. I’m not burned out. I don’t dread going to work every day. We’re a team here. We’re very family-oriented, and I like to think of the principal as being at the bottom rung of the ladder as support for the teachers who are up above,” she said.

Herrod said she, too, has seen many changes throughout the years.

&#8220I’ve seen us go from ability-grouping or homogeneous grouping to heterogrouping and back. I’ve seen academics become more stringent with more demands placed on teachers,” she said.

&#8220I’ve seen discipline change. There was a time when teachers could handle discipline on their own in the classrooms. They could pick up the phone, call home and it was taken care of. I’ve seen changes from much parent involvement to not as much each year,” she said.

Co-workers of the two know they will be missed as principals.

&#8220She’s fair with all kids regardless of their backgrounds,” said Jane Brock, a counselor at South Park who also worked with Herrod at Halls Ferry.

&#8220Every place she’s been she’s made the faculty feel like family. She doesn’t want to be the boss. She wants us to all be in it together,” Brock said.

Candace Logue, a GATES teacher at South Park who has worked with Herrod for 15 years, said faculty members feel comfortable sharing ideas with her.

&#8220She follows the rules that have been set. There’s no unpredictable situations to her. It makes it a very comfortable work environment,” Logue said.

Mary Frances Warren, a counselor at Warren Central, has been working at the school since 1966 and said she’s sad to see Douglas go.

&#8220I’ve worked with a lot of principals, but he’s right there at the top. There are many of us who can’t talk about him leaving without crying,” she said.

Warren said she can’t say enough positive things about Douglas as an administrator.

&#8220He’s always been very supportive of his co-workers and students. He sets high standards,” she said. &#8220He always encourages them to take the most challenging courses available – ‘no bubble gum for the brain,’ he says.”

New principals for both schools will be named by the Vicksburg Warren School District’s board of trustees this summer, but Warren said Douglas’ shoes will be big to fill.

&#8220In my opinion, he’s the ideal administrator,” she said. &#8220He’s one of the reasons many of us who can retire haven’t.”

Current students seem sad to see him go, too.

Senior Kyle Mainous said Douglas is good about letting students express individuality in the dress code.

&#8220He’s all right. He’s pretty lenient about the rules for that. He lets us get away with a lot when it comes to ID badges, shirts tucked in and that kind of stuff. That’s not what’s important to him,” he said.

Sophomore Matthew Mallory, who transferred at the beginning of the school year from Birmingham, Ala., said it’s easy to see how it can be hard for Douglas to manage the more than 1,000-student population every day.

Douglas said his philosophy from Day 1 has been to be more of a supervisor than an administrator.

&#8220I never wanted to be known as an administrator. I am a steward of this school. This school belongs to the community,” he said.

It’s also the same school that Douglas’ three children, now 29, 26 and 19, call their alma maters.

&#8220It’s definitely close to my heart for many reasons,” he said.

Douglas’ last day of work is June 30, then he plans to move back to Leaksville and enjoy retirement by doing &#8220something different.”

Herrod said she’s looking forward to spending more time with family.

&#8220I have a 93-year-old mother who’s still active and wants to see the mountains. I think it’s time for this only child to spend time with her mama,” she said.

&#8220And I’m ready to be a full-time grandma. I have three grandkids in school here, and they call me Grandma here, but they know I’m principal here and Grandma at home,” she said.

But in the meantime, Herrod said Monday the countdown has begun.

&#8220I’m feeling giddy. I can tell you right now that there are 13 days left for the kids, 14 days left for the teachers and 27 days left until my contract ends,” she said.