The State Board of Education has named a North Carolina educator and Mississippi native as the next state superintendent.

Pictured: Robert Taylor
Robert Taylor, a native of Laurel, will serve as the next state superintendent of education. Credit: Mississippi Department of Education

In a press release, the department announced Robert Taylor as the new leader of Mississippi’s 140 public school districts. His appointment ends a monthslong search after former State Superintendent Carey Wright stepped down from the position in June.

Taylor was most recently a deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Originally a native of Laurel, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and has worked in North Carolina schools since 1992. He has served as a teacher’s assistant, classroom teacher, school administrator, and in various district leadership positions before becoming the superintendent of Bladen County Schools in 2011. He served in this role until 2021 when he became a deputy state superintendent.  

During his time in North Carolina, Taylor also helped to draft legislation restructuring state testing in public schools and served on multiple public education advisory boards, according to the release.  

“The opportunity to return home to Mississippi and work hand in hand with all stakeholders to improve education is perhaps the pinnacle of one’s career,” Taylor said in the MDE statement. “This opportunity has been afforded to my family and I and we look forward to our homecoming.”

He will start the position in late January 2023, according to the Department of Education release. Until then, Interim State Superintendent Kim Benton will continue to serve.

Taylor is the state’s second Black superintendent; the first was Henry L. Johnson, who also came to Mississippi from North Carolina in 2002.

The Mississippi Department of Education told Mississippi Today Taylor will be paid $300,000 annually, the same amount his predecessor, Wright, was paid.  

The state board selected McPherson and Jacobson, a national superintendent search firm based in Nebraska, to conduct the search. The firm received $51,200 for its services.  

“Dr. Taylor possesses all the qualities the Board sought for the next state superintendent of education,” Rosemary Aultman, chair of the State Board of Education, said in a statement. “Mississippi has become a national leader for improving student outcomes. The Board is confident we selected the right person to lead our state to achieve at even higher levels.”

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Julia, a Louisiana native, covers K-12 education. She previously served as an investigative intern with Mississippi Today helping cover the welfare scandal. She is a 2021 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied journalism and public policy and was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has also been published in The New York Times and the Clarion-Ledger.