CHS names new principal


Also, longtime Jefferson Middle leader retires

The Columbia school board hired North Panola High School Principal Braxton Stowe Tuesday as the next principal at Columbia High School, succeeding the retiring Sheila Burbridge.

The board also accepted the retirement of longtime Jefferson Middle School Principal Raymond Powell effective June 30.

Stowe, 31, is finishing his third year at North Panola and has been able to increase the average ACT score by 3.4 points and the graduation rate by 3.3 percent. He said he’s excited and ready to get started here July 1.

“I’m just blessed at the opportunity to serve and lead one of the best high schools in Mississippi,” he told the school board, adding he wants to build on some things to make it one of the best schools in the country.

He said in an interview afterward that he was attracted to the job here because of Columbia’s history of academic and cultural excellence, including the music and drama programs, as well as talking to Superintendent Jason Harris about the opportunities to continue to grow.

Harris said they knew it would be a huge task replacing Burbridge, known as Ms. B, and had many very highly qualified applicants. There were 16 in total.

Harris said Columbia High is the flagship, and that he was impressed with what Stowe has been able to do in a short time at the schools he’s worked at.

“He has moved to a school and moved them immediately, taking schools that were struggling and moving them instantly,” Harris said.

He said they would have a great leadership team at Columbia High with Stowe and Assistant Principal Jay Rayborn.

Stowe is a Fayette, Ala., native and holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in public policy and administration, both from Mississippi State, and an educational specialist degree from Ole Miss through its Principal Corps. That 13-month program gives future administrators both classroom and real-life training as interns in successful districts.

He started his career by teaching in Marks through the Teach for America program, which places recent graduates in areas with teacher shortages. After three years he was hired as assistant principal at Coahoma Agricultural High School in Clarksdale and became principal two days later when the principal quit. He served there in 2014-2015 before becoming North Panola principal in 2015.

The board met at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the central office in a special meeting.

Harris said he was surprised when Powell came to him recently “grinning like a Cheshire cat” to announce his retirement after 22 years leading Jefferson Middle.

Powell said his wife is also retiring in July. He thanked the school board for the opportunity to serve so long.

“I’m from Columbia. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be happy to help out with any committees,” he said.


Pictured Above: Braxton Stowe smiles after being appointed the next Columbia High School principal Tuesday at the central office. The Alabama native, 31, has been the principal at North Panola High School in Sardis for three years. | Photo by Charlie Smith