Headlines Cont. – 7/1/2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 1, 2005

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – July 1, 2005


Stephen Johnson anticipates July 4 celebration at home
The Johnson family includes dad Stephen, mom Dorothy, son Nicholas and daughter Stephene.
By Rita Howell

Stephen Johnson will spend this Fourth of July on American soil. Last year, he was in Iraq.

The 1990 South Panola High School grad, son of Cedell Johnson of Pope and Earl Johnson of Batesville, said he’s glad to be stateside after being stationed with the Army for a year in Saddam’s old hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq.

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Staff Sergeant Johnson is with the 9th Engineer Battalion and was stationed in Germany for four years before leaving for Iraq in February, 2004.

He worked in the brigade command section and lived, along with about 350 other soldiers, in one of Saddam’s palaces, dubbed FOB (Forward Operation Base)-Dagger.

The combat engineers group was charged with clearing the roadways and making them safe for convoys.

Overall, Johnson said, FOB-Dagger was "pretty safe."

"We owed a lot to those who went before us and made it safe for us," he said.

Still, in that part of the world, you can’t take the relative security for granted.

"You wake up everyday and thank God you’re still alive," he said.

In February Johnson left Iraq and returned to Germany to be reunited with his family, including wife Dorothy (SPHS Class of ’89) and son Nicholas, 12, and daughter Stephene, 2.

This week they have been visiting relatives in Batesville (Dorothy’s mother is Ister Turner of Batesville) and now they are preparing to move to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Johnson has been in the Army for 12 years.

NP Board meets new Como principals
By Jason C. Mattox

Concerned parents and members of the North Panola School District Board of Trustees got the chance to meet the new principals at Como Elementary School and Como Middle School during a meeting Monday night.

During the board meeting, North Panola Superintendent Robert Massey introduced new Como Elementary principal George Knox and Como Middle School principal Rodney Flowers.

"Mr. Knox is a former employee of the Mississippi Department of Education," Massey said. "The district is happy to have him on board."

Knox told the board and those in attendance that he felt like he found the right fit for him professionally with North Panola.

"I have been working in the field of education for a long time," he said. "I am excited about the opportunities that are in front of me at Como Elementary," he said.

Knox said he felt like it was important to go back to the past to prepare for the future.

"We have to show today’s generation the way past generations grew up," he said. "We need to show them what worked with the past generations."

Knox added that in order for the school to be successful, everyone has to be on the same page.

"We have to have one team working together to achieve the common dream for Como Elementary," he said. "We have to make this a school where the child wants to be and where the parents want to be involved.

"We all want the school and the school district to do one thing," Knox added. "We want it to lay the foundation to give our children a better life."

Once Knox finished his remarks, Massey introduced Flowers.

"We all talk about wanting to have a level five school," he said. "Well Mr. Flowers comes to us from North Pontotoc that is a level five school.
"We feel confident that he can help us reach that goal here in the North Panola district," Massey added.

Flowers told the board that every school wants to be a level five school, but it is not all it’s made out to be.

"Even when a school reaches level five status, there is still room for improvement," he said. "That seems to be something a lot of people don’t think about.

"I will tell you that I have worked in some very good schools," he said. "The biggest thing I have learned is that one person is not going to make the difference."

Flowers echoed Knox’s sentiments about parent involvement in the schools.

"If we are going to make the changes that people want to see, we are going to have to get the support from home," he said. "The only way we can make this happen is if everyone works as one."

Flowers said he, like Knox, intends to restart the parent teacher organization in the school.
"Our parents need to tell us what changes they think need to be made," he said. "We have to get the parents interested in the school again. Once that happens changes will come.".




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