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Akerman takes the reigns at JMPHS

Mickey Starling:

Greene Publishing, Inc.

As students return to classes at James Madison Preparatory High School (JMPHS) in the Fall, they will see a new face in the principal's office. Madison native Mark Akerman is the new principal and he is excited about returning to his hometown after spending many years as a parochial school principal in Florida, North Carolina and Alabama.  Akerman has also held a number of teaching positions and his career in education began in Madison County, as a reading and math instructor for fifth through eighth grades at Greenville Elementary School (GES).

Before teaching in Greenville, Akerman received his Bachelor's of Science degree in Applied History, from Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C.  After leaving GES, Akerman returned to Appalachian State University and earned another Bachelor's of Science degree in History/Teaching. Akerman then taught history and government at Watauga High School, in Boone, N.C.

Akerman later ventured into teaching at private schools, which initially proved to be a challenge.  Akerman taught social studies at Epiphany Catholic School, in Lake City, for two years before becoming principal for four years. "Right off of the bat, they were having problems making payroll," said Akerman. Unsure of his next move, Akerman called his dad, the late Joe Akerman, who was a long-time history instructor at North Florida Community College.  His encouragement to Akerman was simple. "You are in a perfect place. There's nowhere to go but up," said Joe Akerman.

His dad's words quickly took root, as Akerman set about consulting with experts and learning everything he could about how to finance a school.  Within three years, the school was financially strong. "I developed a forte for increasing enrollment and financially flipping schools," said Akerman.

His reputation for success led him to later lead two other schools, one in Greensboro, N.C. and then on to St. Patrick's Catholic School, in Gainesville, where he served as principal for 10 years.

Akerman, like his father before him, is a lover of history and he has quickly made steps to inspire that love in his future students. "I've got a nice portrait of James Madison ordered," said Akerman, who noted there is no sign of the school's namesake on campus.  "He was a great president and everyone should be familiar with him," said Akerman.  Other items on his plate include restoring the vision for JMPHS. "I want to firmly establish the original mission of the school, especially as it relates to being a S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and math) school," said Akerman. "I also want to honor our mission of being a college preparatory school."

Other areas of improvement that Akerman is eager to implement are providing more one-on-one help to students, improving communication with parents and maintaining an open-door policy with everyone. "I may not have the answer, but I will get it for you," said Akerman. "I take pride in being able to come back home and help kids improve their education."

Akerman and his wife, Angie, have two children:  Cole, who is a fireman; and Emma, who enters the University of Mississippi in the Fall, majoring in theatre and journalism.

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