New SA leader looks to continue predecessor’s progress

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2008

FRANKLIN—Southampton Academy will kick off the school year with a new head of school.

Dr. Milton Mercer Neale III and his wife, Betsy, are getting settled in Franklin this week after making their way from Little Rock, Ark., where he was headmaster at another school

since 2004.

Neale said the decision to get back to the East Coast was an easy one, even though he and his

wife spent a pleasant four years in the &uot;Natural State.&uot;

He said, &uot;Our daughters are in New York City, all of our relatives are in Virginia, and

our closest friends are in Maryland — they are all far from Little Rock.&uot;

Neale was at the end of a four-year term he had agreed to serve when he discovered the vacancy at Southampton Academy.

&uot;The location was right and the school was the right size,&uot; he said.

Neale earned his undergraduate degree from Hampden-Sydney. He also received his master’s degree in secondary education from Towson State University in Maryland, a master’s degree

in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University, and a doctorate degree in education from the University of Maryland.

Along with teaching and coaching responsibilities, he was headmaster of Boy’s Latin School of Maryland in Baltimore and headmaster of Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock.

Neale’s first day is officially Monday, although he has been meeting with outgoing Headmaster Craig Jones to get to know the board and staff and to familiarize himself with the school, to &uot;ensure a successful transition.&uot;

He said that it is important that the transition is handled in a way that highlights the outgoing headmaster’s accomplishments and shows appreciation for his work while the leadership change takes place.

Jones has accepted a job at St. James School in Montgomery, Ala., as interim high school principal.

He said he was excited for the academy to be getting such an experienced, warm-hearted veteran.

&uot;I’ll miss Southampton County and Southampton Academy greatly,&uot; he said.

Neale said he is &uot;absolutely&uot; excited about getting started and wants to focus on several areas: to increase enrollment modestly; to ensure the highest quality of education possible

for the students; and to ensure its future through sound fiscal management.

&uot;I came out of a tradition of teacher and coach — a tradition in which there wasn’t a lot of difference between good teaching and good coaching,&uot; he said. &uot;I consider that the bedrock of educational philosophy today, just as I was taught 40 years ago.

&uot;A lot of things have changed, but the focus on each individual student each and every day should not change.

&uot;Education takes place on a scale of one.&uot;

&uot;Craig Jones has been great for four years (he has been here),&uot; said SA Development Associate Anne Pittman. &uot;He has done some important things for the school academically.

&uot;Mercer Neale comes to us with a wide range of experience and new perspectives.

&uot;It’s like a natural, upward progression. (Jones) raised the bar, and now (Neale) will raise it even higher.&uot;

The Neales have two daughters, Ramsey, 31, and Brent, 27, both of Manhattan.