Cedric Collins isn’t from Pike County, but he’s always been well aware of North Pike schools.
“North Pike has always stood out in Southwest Mississippi, and in Mississippi in general,” said Collins, the new high school principal at North Pike. “I’m from Franklin County, and I’ve worked around this area, and anywhere I was, we always checked out what North Pike was doing.
“North Pike has always had good test scores and good accountability ratings. I want to continue that legacy here.”
Collins grew up in Bude and attended Franklin County schools.
He went to Copiah-Lincoln Community College and briefly attended the University of Southern Mississippi before transferring to Alcorn State University, where earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
He taught middle school English in the Wilkinson County and Amite County school districts before returning home to teach English at Franklin County High School.
Moving into administration, he was assistant and then head principal at Franklin County Elementary School, then high school principal at Franklin County High School and Collins High School in Covington County.
He spent the past five of his 18 years in education in Lawrence County as director of personnel, then assistant high school principal and the last three years as principal. He was Administrator of the Year for the past school year.
He had an eye on a career in computer programming in high school, and took his elective courses mostly in computer and business topics to advance that goal.
His aunt Lucille Smith, a teacher, nudged him toward education, however, even though she undermined her own message a bit.
“She said, ‘We need more men in education,’ and we talked about that,” Collins said. “I asked her what the starting salary was, and she said $18,500, and I said ‘What?’”
Despite the seeming financial disincentive, Collins, as a Black man, was attracted to the idea of being a role model to Black students, especially males.
“In rural areas especially, the only positive Black male role model some boys may see is at school,” Collins said. “If they don’t see any role models ... they may feel they have no one they can go to with their concerns.
“I went into education, not for the money, but to be a positive role model and a male presence for those who need it.”
It wasn’t just that, of course.
“My aunt saw something in me that made her think I would be good at this,” Collins said. “What has kept me in education is my Christianity. We are all servants, and when we come in tact with people in need, we don’t miss an opportunity to help them. I’m going to use the talents and gifts I have to do that.”
Collins’ approach to education is to educate the whole child, not just academically, but psychologically and socially as well.
“Children need education, and they need to be able to operate in society,” Collins said. “They’re not all raised the same, and they don’t always know how to deal with people from various backgrounds. They’ve got to learn to think outside the box.”
Education goes beyond teaching the students, as well. For students to make academic growth, Collins said teachers need to continue to learn, as well.
“For students to grow, they need to be educated in the current trends,” he said. “Teachers need quality professional development opportunities, so the students can get what they need, so when they graduate and go to college or into a career, they are ready to compete.
“I think it’s important in my position to help others develop and fulfill their greatest potential — students, faculty and staff, including teacher assistants. If they want to go back to college and get their degree, I want to empower them to do that.”
He said he recognizes that not every students will or should go to college, and he wants to help students find the path that is right for them, whether that is two-year or four-year colleges, or going directly into the workforce.
“If they want to be a barber, they don’t need to go to a four-year school,” Collins said. “If they want to be an engineer, we can talk about Mississippi State University. If they want to be a pharmacist, we can talk about the University of Mississippi. If they want to be a nurse, we can talk about Alcorn State.
“We can help connect them with the right school or program or resource, so they do what they enjoy. Stresses will come, but their life can be better if they’re doing something they enjoy.”