Shane Phillips is a high school principal with a mission

By L. AGNES RUSSELL,

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (I Corinthians 13:11)

Mr. Phillips quoted these verses to me, saying, "I live this job through I Corinthians 13:13." He went on to explain, "If you don't give kids hope, and have faith in what they're doing - if they don't feel loved, they're not going to perform. Love is the greatest of anything."

Shane Phillips was born Aug 6, 1974, in Carthage, to Sandra Moore and Stanley Phillips, who are both deceased. He has a brother, Michael, a sister, Shaunda, a half-brother, Brandon, and a stepbrother, Scotty. His parents divorced when he was about four.

He declares, "I do believe the good Lord put me here. I had no desire to be a teacher, to be in education. I stand before kids who deal with things."

He tells students, "If you come in here telling me your father is a child abuser, I tell them my father went to jail for that. If you tell me your parents are on drugs, I tell them my stepdad is in prison for life for being a drug dealer. If you tell me you have been kicked out of the house, I tell them I was kicked out of the house in the 10th grade."

They lived in 25 different homes in his early years.

Shane's mother married his stepfather when he was in about the second grade, and they moved to Canton.

"My mother was a Christian and married him, thinking she could change him."

The boys had lots of issues at Canton schools, so they were sent back to Carthage to live with their dad, in 1988.  Later, he was estranged from his father because his father was convicted of abuse of young girls in the family. 

While he was in school in Carthage, some teachers realized how much he needed love and guidance. Jo Betty Aldy was one he named.

He said, "She was hard but always talked to us after class and school." The football coach was Johnny Barfield, the "biggest influence on my life." He told young Shane, "Don't let what you're experiencing define who you are." 

Mike Spence was a baseball and football coach in Carthage, who also became a father figure to Shane. He remembered, "School became my safe haven."

Shane Phillips graduated from Carthage High School in 1993, after joining the Mississippi Army National Guard. He went to East Central Community College on a football scholarship, went to Holmes County Community College on a baseball scholarship, then entered Mississippi State for half a semester. 

In 1996, his grandfather passed away. At the funeral his mother passed out while walking to the grave and subsequently died two weeks later. He said, "She was my anchor." When she died, he started drinking for the first time and dropped out of college.

After his mother died, he was sent to Camp Shelby in August 1996. While there, expecting a promotion, he failed his physical training test and was kicked out of school that day. He sees the hand of God in this. He had no idea why he failed that test, but that fluke caused him to come back to where he would meet his wife, Katie Brown, at the Neshoba County Fair. 

Katie was a Christian, and Shane believes God "orchestrated" their getting together. They were married March 6, 1999, and now live in Sebastopol. Their children are Lanie, in the ninth grade at Newton County, and Brelie, in the sixth grade.

Also in 1999, Shane went back to school. He told me of his motivation. "At a family reunion, a woman told me my mom always bragged, was so proud, that I was the first grandchild to go to college. Nothing was going to stop me." Also, he sat down again with Johnny Barfield down by the field house. The coach said, "Shane, I lived through y'all. Y'all were a part of me. If you ever want to have something good, finish your degree and use it for good." 

Both Shane and Katie worked hard to finish college degrees. He says, "My wife is my best supporter." After her Sebastopol High School graduation in 1997, she played softball at East Central for two years then went on to Meridian Community College. While they attended school, he worked three jobs and she worked two. Katie now serves as the physical therapy director of Medicomp Clinic in Forest.

Shane graduated from Mississippi State in 2001 with a B.S. in Social Studies. He became a football, baseball, and softball coach while teaching history at Sebastopol and stayed there 11 years, as he says, "Loving every minute of it." He earned his masters of arts in administration in education leadership in 2006. 

After doing some administrative work at Sebastopol, he went on to be principal at Lake High School 2012-13, then Union Middle School as Principal 2013-14.  He has been principal at Newton County High School four years in May. After being out for 17 years, he joined the Mississippi Air National Guard two years ago and got the promotion he had expected years ago!

The year 2006 was when, with much emotion, he gave his heart to the Lord.  After fighting it, he gave up and went to the altar to express his surrender to the preacher at Sebastopol Baptist Church.  A direct result of this concerned his father, who had been put out of a nursing home because of his hurtful attitude.  Mr. Phillips prepared a house down the road from them. "I called my dad to tell him I loved him and was going to take him in.  He died the next day. 

He was Brotherhood minister at the church for about three years, but he says he believes his ministry is in the school building.  In this ministry to "kids," he uses James 3, which tells of the misuse of the tongue.  Mr. Phillips declared, "Most kids are sent to this office because of the mouth.  It can set you on a course to hell in a heartbeat."  Speaking of his philosophy of administering discipline in the Newton County High School office, he says, "I tell kids, I will never punish, but I teach them there are consequences."

After talking a while with him, it became obvious to me that Mr. Shane Phillips has a really good idea of his own "Mission Statement."  He says, "I've never used my life as an excuse.  Our past is the reason for our mistakes, but I use it as the reason for success."  He definitely uses his life story as a reason and inspiration for troubled youth to turn their lives around.  As one parent expressed to him, "You made my son look at things differently!"

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

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