Photo: Hernando Middle School principal Dr. Jerry Floate talks with bookkeeper London Warner in her office at the school. Floate has been named DeSoto County Schools Administrator of the Year. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
Hernando Middle School principal Dr. Jerry Floate has been named the Administrator of the Year by the DeSoto County School District, which made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 3.
Floate said he was very surprised when he learned about the honor, saying, “There are so many great administrators in this district, but I am very honored. I was surprised to say the least.”
His education career in DeSoto County began as a special education teacher, later as a coach and department chair over special education. At the same time, Floate was taking night classes through Arkansas State University to earn his administration degree.
That brought him to Hernando Middle School as assistant principal, spending six years there before becoming an assistant principal at Lake Cormorant High School for one year.
Floate then went to Olive Branch Middle School to lead that school as principal for five years before coming to Hernando Middle School, where he’s been the school principal now for seven years.
He admits that growing up in Independence, Mississippi, elementary school was difficult for Floate. However, his desire to go into education came through the coaches and teachers he connected with.
“They saw value in me and I had several of them tell me that I could be a perfect “A” student if I just applied myself,” said Floate. “I’d had several coaches stay on me and spend time with me. They kept encouraging me because at one point I didn’t think I’d finish elementary school.”
The encouragement was what made Floate want to become an educator and administrator so he could have a similar impact on youngsters, as well. He reminds his teachers they need to be the teacher they would want their own children to have.
Floate received a B.S.E. in education from Delta State University, a M.S.E. from the University of Mississippi, a Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Liberty University.
He says the students are what he likes the most about his job and purposefully wants to be a part of their school day.
“I like to be just out in the hallways, talking to them,” Floate said. “I talk with them about academics and how their weekend went. We do cafeteria duty every day and I’m in the cafeteria for at least an hour every day, and I’m in the hallways every hour when the bell rings.”
Floate also encourages his students to be involved in activities at school, whether it be sports, clubs, music or theater.
At the same time, Floate says apathy for education in students at middle school age is his biggest challenge as a principal, aware that technology and social media today takes more attention away from concentrating on school.
“Education is important and students need to see that it’s important,” Floate said. “They don’t see it as important at this age, because when you’re young, you only think about the present.”
The Hernando Middle School principal has shown he will follow through on a promise, recalling an event two years ago when Floate challenged his students to sell books for a book fair.
“We had a goal to sell so many books and I really didn’t think we would meet that goal,” Floate said. “We met the goal and the deal was I would spend the night on the roof. I camp a lot so it really wasn’t a problem for me.”
The principal pitched a tent and spent the night on the roof after his students met the goal of 1,000 books for the Scholastic Book Fair.
As district Administrator of the Year, Floate will now be in consideration for a state administrator award. He is married to his wife Tonya, a teacher at Hernando High School, and they have three grown children.