Two new principals were hired last week by the Neshoba County School Board, who will take over their new positions on July 1.

Jason Gentry, the current principal at Philadelphia Elementary School, will become principal at Neshoba Central High School. He replaces John Bowen, who is retiring.

Cody Killen was named Neshoba Central Middle School principal. A Neshoba Central graduate, he has been employed by the school district for 10 years. He replaces Ken Barron, who will become alternative services director along with dropout prevention coordinator.

Neshoba County Superintendent of Education Lundy Brantley said Gentry was among a number of people who interviewed for the high school job.

“He is very motivated,” Dr. Brantley said. “He has high expectations and he is very data driven. He convinced us that he was the person to take us to the next level.”

Brantley said he met with his staff to gather their input on a new principal.

“We crafted our interview questions from those meetings,” he said, noting that there was a five-member committee compiled for the hiring process.

Brantley believes Killen is ready for the additional responsibility as middle school principal.

“I knew what kind of person he is,” Brantley said. “He is a reader. He is a forward thinker and has a high level of emotional intelligence.

“I have been watching him since he got his Master’s degree. He is a motivator and that is what we are looking for. He is data driven and knows how to get into the data and help our kids.”

The school board unanimously approved both hires.

“I am happy with it,” said board president Shan Winstead. “Both are good moves. Cody is an up-and-comer.

“When you see him, you can see he enjoys what he is doing. I have seen him interact with the kids. I think he will do a good job.”

Winstead said he has watched Gentry over the years.

“I go by people’s actions,” Winstead said. “When he coached at Philadelphia, I remember the intensity he had. He had an expectation and was very successful. Dr. Brantley believes he will bring good leadership to the high school.”

From Tornado to Rocket

Gentry is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. He received his Masters Degree from Mississippi State, and Specialist Degree from Arkansas State University.

Gentry has been in education for 24 years. He has been employed by the Philadelphia School District for 17 years. He served seven years at the girls basketball coach. He had his teams playing in Jackson five years in a row and won the state championship in 2006. He moved into administration in 2008 and has served as principal of the elementary school and the high school.

Prior to working at Philadelphia, Gentry taught and coached at Noxapater High School for six years and Carthage High School for one.

He and his wife, Marley, have seven children.

 “I am very excited about the opportunity,” Gentry said. “This was a family decision. Leaving Philadelphia is tough. I have been here 17 years and it’s like family to me.

 “I met with the Neshoba faculty (Thursday). I am looking forward to working with them and seeing us grow. We will be setting expectations for the staff and students. Our goal will be to become one of the top school districts in the state. And with the resources we have, I believe this will be sooner than later.”


Lifetime Rocket

Killen, who is now the assistant principal at Neshoba Central Elementary School, said he is ready for the challenge.

Killen is a lifetime Rocket, having attended Neshoba Central from kindergarten until he graduated from high school. He is a 2007 graduate of Mississippi State University and received his Masters degree from the University of West Alabama in 2012.

He has been employed by at Neshoba Central for 10 years. He spent the first eight years teaching chemistry and biology and later Special Education at the high school. Two years ago, he was moved to the elementary school.

Last year, he worked with kindergarten through first grade. This year, he is working with fourth and fifth graders.

“I wanted to be head principal at the middle school and I am ready for the challenge,” Killen said. “I have been a Rocket all of my life and I am very much vested in this community.”

Killen and his wife, Courtney, have a son, Cruz.