There’s not much James Meece hasn’t done for Ardmore City Schools, and now the former high school principal is returning to the position for next year.
The retired Take Two Academy director started in the district as the principal of Ardmore High School. Since then, he’s driven buses, coached new teachers, served as a hearing officer, and served as the adult education director. For years, he carried business cards that simply read “general flunky,” as he hopped from role to role.
During an interview with The Ardmoreite, a parent came to the high school office to pick up paperwork for the upcoming school year. She was a former student of Meece’s. He said after 22 years with the district, it’s more than common to run into former students.
“I’m here for as long as they need me,” Meece said.
Meece served as Ardmore High School principal for 10 years before he was abruptly removed from the position. He said he felt discarded and heartbroken, becoming depressed. In 2001, he became a Take Two Counselor, a decision he initially made almost apathetically.
“I was at the bottom of my own pit,” Meece said. “I look back and I’m ashamed, but I was sick. They’d decided they didn’t need me and my pride just went to the bottom.”
He said after several months with Take Two, he started to recover and see his students and his role there in a different light entirely.
“They were the kindest, sweetest, most loyal kids you could have asked for,” Meece said. “They just needed to learn in a different way. I wouldn’t trade that time in my life for anything.”
Meece has also worked as a teacher coach mentoring new teachers. He said all new teachers, especially first-year teachers, need extra support.
“You do everything you can to help them along because man, my first year was tough,” Meece said. “Had it not been for the two little old ladies across the hall, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Meece said supporting new teachers is crucial to retaining them, something Oklahoma schools have struggled with over the last five years in the face of budget cuts. Meece said his district is no exception.
“You lose them if you don’t take care of these new teachers, then all of a sudden they go somewhere else and three years down the road, you’re looking at someone else’s Teacher of the Year,” Meece said.
He said Superintendent Kim Holland and Assistant Superintendent Jill Day has formed support networks for new teachers that address the problem.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Meece said. “And we’re doing things that haven’t been done in the past.”
Parental involvement is also key in his eyes.
“Someone might say ‘oh that’s just corn, because everyone always says that,’” Meece said. “But it’s not, it’s real and the more a parent is involved, the better off the student is. They want more structure and I do too, so that’s one of my goals this year. Everything we’re doing is for the safety and good of the kids.”