Manila Assistant Superintendent offers a loving farewell
Manila Assistant Superintendent Chris Ferrell is saying goodbye to MHS with mixed emotions. It is sad to leave the school he loves but exciting to move forward to a new educational venture as he assumes his duties as superintendent of McGehee School District in Southeast Arkansas.
Ferrell reached one of his lifelong goals when he returned to Manila four years ago to serve as assistant superintendent. In the middle of his four years at MHS, he stepped in to serve as high school principal for two years.
The Manila 1989 high school graduate always dreamed of someday returning to his home school as a teacher, coach or administrator. Through the years he had considered positions open at MHS but the timing wasn't right when the jobs were available.
Four years ago the time was right and Superintendent Pam Castor made his dream a reality when he was offered the assistant superintendent position for the Manila District.
Ferrell's career spans several years of coaching, teaching and administrative positions in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. In addition to coaching boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, track and football, and serving as assistant principal, he has been a bus driver for over 20 years.
He gives credit for his love of teaching and even to his decision to attend college to teachers and friends at MHS who encouraged him during his high school years.
"I was a little upset when we had to leave Missco and come to Manila my 10th grade year, but it did not take me long to see it was a positive thing," he said. "I made lifelong friends."
He became a true Manila Lion and it has been said Ferrell will bleed black and gold.
"When I was in high school one of my teachers, Lynda Edwards, told me with my grades I really needed to go to college,” he remembers. “When I told her no one in my family had gone to college she asked me why I didn't consider being the first. Some of the area farmers let me work for them during the summers. Wayne Wagner, now the mayor of Manila, also allowed me to work for him during the summers. I appreciate each and every one of those people who helped me and encouraged me.
"Sadly, I lost a good friend and teammate, Bryan Towells, in an automobile accident. He was in the graduating class before me. When I graduated I was the first recipient of the memorial scholarship given by his family. Also, I received a scholarship from the Booster Club. Those scholarships led me to to realize these people had faith in me and I was determined not to let them down."
Ferrell went into the Army Reserves and earned a bachelor's degree from ASU.
After many accomplishments in coaching, including three trips to the state tournament (two Mississippi championship titles and one runner-up title), he went into administration becoming assistant principal. He said in Mississippi superintendents are elected and serve over all the schools in the county.
Another accomplishment for Ferrell was taking one of the lowest academically achieving schools in Mississippi and helping it become one of the highest.
His goal in coaching or as principal has always been to encourage his students to be the best they can be.
He and his sister, LeAnn Ferrell (Manila Middle School principal), decided to go back to college together and earn their master degrees.
“I was in Mississippi, she was in Manila, and we would meet at the college for dinner and our night classes,” he said. “We wanted to do this for ourselves, but also for our parents.”
Ferrell said one of the bonuses of serving in the Manila District has been working with his sister and living closer to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Roger Ferrell.
"Our parents have encouraged us, instilling positive work ethics, and I think they are proud of the career choices we have made," Ferrell said. “God has always put the right people in my path. I have worked for three wonderful superintendents, Don Randolph, Jerry Moor, and Pam Castor. I hope to take what I have learned from each one of them as part of my own fit as a superintendent. The time is right for me to step up and I am so thankful for the school board of McGehee for giving me this opportunity.”
Ferrell said during his interview and visits at McGehee he has been very impressed with the school and the people.
“The District is similar to Manila in size,” he said. “It is a good school and I hope we can all work together to make it an even better one. My goal has always been to do better today than I did yesterday."
He feels the move is a good opportunity for him and his family. His wife Shannon works in Memphis. His son Buck is a seventh grade student and is excited about the move. His older son Chase is a student at ASU pursuing a degree in wildlife biology. His oldest son Chad lives outside of Dell and works at the Plum Power Plant. Chad's wife Billie is an elementary teacher at Gosnell.
Ferrell said they are looking for a house large enough so when they all visit they will have lots of room.
He enjoys fishing and will miss Mallard Lake, but there is great fishing at McGehee, also he said.
"My goal throughout my educational career is to see the kids succeed," Ferrell said.
"Manila is blessed to have the students and teachers we have. They represent our school and our town so well. The people in the district do a great job. Manila students have good work ethics will make great community leaders wherever they settle. I see those same traits in McGehee. They have some good veteran teachers and administrators. I am looking forward to working with them."
Ferrell shared his personal story how Manila teacher Mary Smith and her students have helped him as he lost 55 pounds.
"Mrs. Smith told me she was starting a new dietetics class," Ferrell said. "I asked her to let me be the guinea pig. Her students planned my diet each week and I would go in and weigh. They helped me be accountable and take off weight."
Ferrell said he has seen a lot of changes in his years in public education. He has gone from hand cranking out copies to 3D computers of today.
"Kids have the entire world of knowledge in their hands today," he said. "They are meeting the demands of a global world. It is a great time to be in education. I want the kids to know I love my career and I want only the best for them. I want the people of Manila to be excited for me as I move on to take the leadership role at McGehee."
He said he will always be thankful for his years as a student and an administrator at Manila High School.