Howard brought years of education experience to NCSD

By L. AGNES RUSSELL,

My first year in Decatur and as teacher at Newton County High School was 2000.  In 2001, Mr. Ken Stringer became the assistant principal.  He was also my Principal the last four years before my retirement.  I knew him to be a wise and kind Christian man that I much respected.

Kendall Howard Stringer was born Oct. 13, 1964, in Hattiesburg, his home town. His father, Howard Stringer, was a farmer and nursery owner.  Ken’s mother, Frances Kendall Stringer, served as the director of food nutrition at Forrest General Hospital for 36 years. His younger sister, Sarah Brace of Millbrook, Alabama, is his only sibling.

Ken’s father, Howard, had been a bachelor before marrying Frances Stringer at the age of 38. As a young man, he had served in World War II and was spared from death miraculously on two occasions. In 1973, he survived two or three massive heart attacks. The family’s pastor, Bro. Ed Jussely, prompted him to a salvation decision with the words, “The Lord has spared you for a purpose.” He was 50 and lived for the Lord until his death 23 years later in 1996.  Thankfully, Ken’s mother will be 82 in September.

Both parents led young Ken to faith in Christ and God’s Word throughout his early years, even being sure he went to two Christian camps — one in Belhaven and one in Pensacola —every summer; but he made his actual public profession of faith at a James Robison evangelistic crusade in Hattiesburg in 1976 when he was 12 years of age. 

Mr. Stringer commented, “You know when you’re living in the will of the Lord and when you’re not. He tugs at you.” 

He quoted the common truth, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” an actual reference to one of his father’s experiences. He says he was brought up in a home where he “had a drug problem. He was drug to church every time the doors were open. But I’m glad.” He said he knew he was loved, and his parents were Christlike examples.

“I’m thankful. I want to set the Christian example and show them the way.  The children will still have to make their own decisions.” He also spoke of his attitude toward the trials of life. “Look upwards. We can’t handle it on our own.  

The church the family attended as he was growing up was Bay Street Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg. The church started a school, with Ken’s father on the Board. Through the school, he learned about French Camp Academy, attended there his senior year, and graduated in 1982. He attended Belhaven College three semesters of 1982-83, but left to go into the Air Force. 

Paula Denise Floyd, daughter of Glen and Eva Floyd, was from Mendenhall; and, because of family connections, Ken had known her all his life. They began dating seriously in his senior year. In 1984, after his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, they moved the date of their wedding from December to April, being forced to plan it in ten days. Ken said, “I didn’t want to be stationed in Wyoming alone.”

They just celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary, on April 28, 1984. They were actually married three days, then separated a month, as Paula was a student at Hinds Junior College and had to finish out the year.

They lived in Cheyenne, Wyo., two years and then were stationed in Panama City, Fla., in 1986-87.  Their first little girl, Morgan Nichole was born July 1, 1987, and Madison Noel came along on January 17, 1994.  Madison is married to Blake Gordon and is in graduate school, working on her Speech Pathology degree. 

Morgan is now married to Jeremy Joiner, and is a teacher at Newton County Elementary School. The Joiners have given the Stringers two grandbabies, a boy, Easton, three, and a little girl Kenlee, who came very premature. Mr. Strin-ger sees this as the primary miracle they have ever experienced, as baby Kenlee only weighed two pounds, five ounces when she was born. She is now at about 17 pounds and doing great! 

Upon leaving military service, Mr. Stringer realized he had to prepare for a career in some field.  He attended the University of Southern Mississippi, earning his degree in Elementary Education, being certified to teach Social Studies, K-12, and graduated in May 1993, with preparation under his belt to be a coach and teacher.

He did that for six years in Rankin County schools, before he was coaxed by his friend Greg Paes, to apply at Mendenhall.  He had met Mr. Paes, now superintendent of Simpson County Schools, at William Carey when he earned his Master’s in Educational Leadership in 1999.  Ken became head baseball coach there, living a quarter mile from the school, for about three years. 

Mr. Stringer then sent out resumes and applications to several school districts, looking for a place he could coach a winning team. He came to Newton County through the contact of his friend Todd Mangum. Mr. Rodney Tadlock was principal and asked him to consider going straight into administration, as he needed a new assistant principal.  Mr. Tadlock told him, “The only way to know if you will like that kind of position will be to occupy the seat, and you will know after a year on the job.” 

When I asked about it, he said he liked the job all right, but “I missed interaction with the kids.  And I missed Friday night football and baseball in the spring.” In his new position as school disciplinarian, a favorite saying of his was, “The mind can only absorb what the butt can endure.”

He was assistant principal from 2001-2006, then became principal from 2006-2011. In July 2011, he became the director of Newton County Career and Technical Center.  He enjoyed this position, as it gave him more involvement with a smaller number of students. 

Finally, in July 2016, the then new superintendent, Mr. J. O. Amis, who had been assistant principal with him at the high school, asked him to come help him at the main office, taking on the position of director of Federal Programs. I asked what he has to do in this position, to which he replied, “My job as director of Federal Programs is to ensure that federal tax dollars are spent according to the Federal Guidelines.” The money involved is actually less than three-quarters of a million dollars, of which most goes to several elementary school needs, to what is known as “Title I.” 

“I’ve been here about 17 years. We liked what we saw when we came, and we haven’t been disappointed, in the schools, the people in the community, and the church where we have been members since we moved here.”  Concerning their church membership, I must note that Mr. Stringer is a deacon at Clarke-Venable Baptist Church, he and Paula are on a cooking team there, and they have made mission trips to Montana a couple times.  He declares, “Unless the Lord moves me, this is where we’ll stay.” 

As a credit to Mr. Stringer’s good-natured personality, I think it would be appropriate to close this out with another quote from the framed list on his wall of “Favorite Stringer-isms,” given to him by co-workers when he moved to the main office. 

“Because you teachers do such a great job, all I ever have to do is walk around and drink coffee.”

Thank you, Mr. Stringer, for your excellent work and good memories! 

You may contact me at lagnesrussell @gmail.com or 601-635-3282.