By Paul Keane
The Wayne County News
Tommy Branch on Friday was formally named the first-ever appointed Superintendent of Education in the history of the Wayne County School District.
Branch and the Board of Education made it official during a special called meeting Friday at noon. The Board announced that it had voted 4-0 to hire Branch to a 30-month contract effective Jan. 1, 2020. Only four members voted because the Beat 5 seat is still open after the resignation of Robert Dean.
Branch will take over after the elected term of current Superintendent Bobby Jones’ ends on Dec. 31. He currently is entering his fourth year as principal at Beat Four School but has served in administrative roles with school districts in Laurel, Jones County, West Jasper and Meridian. He’s been in education for 23 years.
“This is an opportunity to serve the people of Wayne County, an area that I have enjoyed being a part of since I came here.
“When I was hired at Beat Four, Cindy Cooley and Belinda Singleton told me that Beat Four was the best kept secret in Wayne County and that Wayne County was the best kept secret in the state. I quickly found out that they were not exaggerating.”
While admitting that the financial crisis the district is facing will still be in place when he takes over, Branch said his main focus will be with the students.
“With the majority of the news right now focused on our finances, our students — which are one of our best natural resources — have been overlooked a little bit,” he said. “The finances are going to be worked out, and I have a plan for that and for helping our students.
“The students will be front and center, and they will always be our main focus. No decision will be made without this administration first answering the question of how will this benefit our students.”
Married to Tanya Branch, the couple have two children, River, 13, and Colt, 10.
Since Branch won’t be starting until January, teacher, staff and administrative contracts will already be in place through June 30. He said that’s not a bad things, as it gives him time to evaluate things before making major decisions.
“Coming in in January allows me to evaluate things,” he said. “Of course, I know the staff because I’ve worked with them for the last three years. I will tell you that we have top-notch students, teachers and staff.
“This community supports us as well. They send us their best every day, and we will give them our best every day.”
For more on the hiring, be sure and pick up a copy of the Thursday, Aug. 15 edition of The Wayne County News.