She’s been a teacher, a curriculum supervisor, an assistant principal, a principal,
and a director of teaching, learning, and assessment for the largest school system in the state. And on September first, Michele McClung will bring all those different
points of view with her as Superintendent of Escambia County Schools.

She’s determined to simplify things and as a former math teacher, uses several
common denominators to make Escambia County Schools among the top in the
state. It starts with having the backs of teachers and spending time with them. “We must know how to make teachers’ lives easier. And make teaching
fun. If you want to make your system thrive, you need to get in the classrooms.
You have to build relationships.” She also doesn’t believe in “teaching to the test,”
a concept that often leaves students without the skills they need. “Teach them
what they need to learn… better-educated students will be the result.”

Another common denominator: is discipline. McClung believes in a positive
discipline approach noting the standards need to be the same from kindergarten
through high school. “Teach every child what is to be expected. They must act
responsibly, be respectful, and be resourceful. That needs to be a common goal in
every grade. The faculty and staff in each school need to remind students they are
loved by us all. We are here for them.” McClung, involved in several charitable
organizations, also believes in showing kids the importance of giving back. The
former math teacher has a simple equation when it comes to education.
“Outstanding teachers plus strong leadership equal a well-educated child.”

During her time at the blackboard, McClung brought “math to life” to
keep the interest of students. “It’s important to convince kids concepts are relevant
to them.” She taught statistics and fractions by using different colored M&Ms, and
ratios by showing students how they could use their arm length and height
measurements to determine if they were in the middle of a growth spurt. “When
kids love what they’re learning, discipline problems disappear.”

She hopes to make things easier for parents as well, using the new “Power School
platform” to send progress reports every Friday. This doesn’t create any additional
work for teachers, as the system takes the grades entered by teachers and
automatically sends them to parents in an email. Keeping parents in the loop is
critical to the academic success of students. “Please encourage your child, stay on
top of things. Be involved.” She believes there is no greater return on investment
than the time parents spend with their children being actively involved in the
school and community. McClung hopes every student has at least one adult in their
school each can go to with problems.

She learned from personal experience how important it is for students to keep
trying, even if they fail the first time. As a teacher, McClung was selected to go to
NASA’s Space Academy and was chosen to be the commander of a flight. She
crashed the shuttle on the first try, but begged for a second chance. The subsequent
mission was a success. NASA later contacted her and she developed a solution for
a crystal that was placed on a payload in space. She also had her students enter a
writing contest about space and her students won a personal flight with the
legendary pilot, Chuck Yeager.

She’s been the principal of the Alabama Teacher of the Year, and her school
received the Alabama Performance Excellence Award and National Blue Ribbon
School of Excellence Lighthouse Award. Her school was home to many National
Board Certified Teachers, several Presidential Award for Excellence Teachers of
Math and Science, Dolly Parton’s Chasing Rainbows Award Teacher and the
Chiquita Marbury Technology Award. As a leader, McClung believes it is her job
to create a culture of excellence by putting students first.

McClung, the daughter of an airline executive, moved a lot as a child, living in
Louisiana and Colorado before settling down in Mobile as a teenager. She’s
worked in the Port City’s school system nearly thirty years. She has a son and a
daughter along with two grandchildren. When asked what she does for fun, she
said, “Family is everything. I really enjoy slumber parties with my ten-year-old
granddaughter. I love cheering my son on in golf tournaments. I enjoy my job
working with children.”