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Top school leaders gather

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Trinity headmaster Les Hegwood is introduced to teachers, community leaders and residents who came to a reception at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez campus welcoming the area’s newest school leaders. The reception was hosted by the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce Education Committee.

NATCHEZ — Business cards and introductions were exchanged Monday evening as the movers and shakers of Natchez and Adams County gathered to welcome school administrators — both new and returning.

The Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce Education Committee hosted a reception welcoming Frederick Hill, superintendent of Natchez-Adams School District; David King, headmaster at Adams County Christian Academy; and Les Hegwood, headmaster at Trinity Episcopal Day School.

But it was a familiar face, Cathedral Principal Pat Sanguinetti, who took to the podium to formally introduce the new faces.

“It’s very important for the community to have this opportunity to meet all these new faces and for them to meet community members,” Sanguinetti said. “We may be from different schools, but we share one goal, and that’s education.

“And if the public schools get better, we have to get better, too, so it’s some competition.”

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — The Natchez-Adams School District’s new superintendent, Dr. Frederick Hill talks to Jefferson Street United Methodist Church pastor the Rev. John Kramer and his wife, Mary Kramer, Monday evening at the reception.

Teresa Busby, vice president of the Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College and chair of the education committee, said the annual reception is normally to give new teachers the opportunity to meet and greet with others from the different schools.

But with some schools starting before and after others, Busby said the committee decided to give the new administrators a chance to meet and greet community members instead.

“When you have all these administrators and community members together in the same room, they see an opportunity to work together instead of as competition,” Busby said. “Regardless of what school we’re talking about, they’re all in agreement that we need the best schools for our children.

“And this gives them an opportunity to open the lines of communication and share ideas.”

Just an hour into the reception, Hill said he had opened plenty of lines of communication with various members of the community and liked what he was hearing.

“A lot of the thoughts I’m hearing here is that they’re welcoming change,” Hill said. “And as an incoming superintendent, that’s something I like to hear.”

Hill, who was previously the assistant superintendent of the Tupelo Public School District, was named the new superintendent of the Natchez-Adams School District in May and officially took over on July 1.

With the first day of school only a short week away, Hill said he enjoyed hearing the response of community members about the district and hopes to use the feedback in a positive way.

“I’m looking for ways to better the school district and educate our children — that’s the goal,” Hill said. “All of the schools in the area have to be in the business of educating children.”

As Trinity started classes last week, Hegwood said he enjoyed every moment of the first days of class but wasn’t able to visit with community members outside of the halls.

“I’ve been driving into work early and leaving late every day, so I haven’t had the chance to plug into the community,” Hegwood said. “This is a great opportunity to do that and meet the other administrators.”

A Jackson native, Hegwood was announced as Trinity’s new headmaster in April and took over on June 1.

Since then, Hegwood said he’s been so wrapped up in preparing for the new school year that he didn’t have an opportunity to extend a greeting to the other area school administrators — until Monday.

“In our time here, I hope we can all sit down, have a meal and talk about what we all think is best for our schools and what we can help each other with,” Hegwood said. “We’re all in this, because we all want what’s best for the children.”

King, who also serves as ACCS head football coach, was unable to attend the reception Monday because of a previously scheduled football practice, but said he looked forward to touching base with all the new administrators in the future.

“This is a tight-knit community, and I hate that I wasn’t available to welcome these guys into the community, but I know we’ll sit down and share some ideas soon,” King said.

“Any chance I get, I love speaking about the good things going on at ACCS, but with me having the dual roles, sometimes I have to miss out on some things.”

King was announced as ACCS headmaster and head football coach in February and took over on June 1.

King spent 14 seasons as Trinity’s head football coach and won four state championships.

And despite missing the Monday reception, King said he’d soon be reaching out to all the administrators — new and old — to pick their brains.

“I look forward to working with all of them, and I know we’ll have some quality time to get to know each other in the future,” King said. “I think the future looks good for all these schools, because we have some great leadership at all the schools.”