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Changes under way for county schools

Pike County schools are finally getting a well-deserved face-lift.

With the sale of capital outlay warrants at the Pike County Board of Education meeting March 10, a series of renovations is already under way throughout the school system.

A new classroom building is under construction at Goshen Elementary and as well as a state-of-the-art building at Pike County High School.

After the school year, the board hopes to tackle a remodeling of sorts at Pike County Elementary in time for the 2003-2004 school year.

No school will be left out.

Paint, floors and lights will all be touched up and replaced within the next two years.

But the improvements aren't just skin deep.

To help save money and continue to improve fiscal responsibility, the board is also making adjustments internally.

One of the groundbreaking improvements is the consolidation of assistant superintendent and maintenance supervisor positions.

The new and improved job title is now Director of Finance and Operations and Tom Hicks is the trailblazer who is tapped for the job.

Hicks, who was officially hired March 10, has a strong financial management background which could mean improved financial accountability and efficiency for system maintenance and transportation.

"My current focus has been maintenance operation, how we're doing business, what we need to do to be better organized and better support our customer," Hicks said.

"Our customer, of course, being the individual schools and students in the system."

His overall responsibilities will include the accounting department, the transportation department, maintenance and information, which includes technology and telephone.

"We're going to add accountability into everything we do," he said after saying he is there to support the goals and objectives of the school board.

In order to improve accountability and organization, Hicks is analyzing the school system's current processes of operation and how its purchasing and performing measures up to state law and county policy.

Hicks' experience is geared more toward business than education, but he is more than qualified for his new job.

Hicks graduated from Mississippi State with a degree in business.

He also has a master's degree in business management from Webster University in St. Louis, Mo.

On top of that, he has done additional graduate studies at Oklahoma State University, Troy State University and the USAF War College at Maxwell Air Force Base.

He served for 20 years in the United States Air Force as a finance management officer before retiring in 1995.

While in the Air Force, he "had experience with operational control of the acquisition of materials and services and the delivery of materials and services."

"I've always been on the financial end of business," he said.

Hicks is looking forward to working for Pike County Schools and is optimistic about his goals of increasing accountability and improving the system's overall structure.

"In time we'll be able to meet our goals," he said.

Hicks said a lot of the success will depend on the staff that he says is positive, friendly and supportive.

"There is a very good staff of people here who are excited to see the changes we've been making," he said.

Hicks lives with his school-teacher wife, Jean, in Montgomery and commutes each day.

But he doesn't mind the drive.

"I use the morning drive as planning time," he said.

"It's when I do mental gymnastics, so it works out really well."