Cox is new Paris High School principal

By NANCY ZEMAN nzeman@prairiepress.net
Posted 1/27/20

A Paris native and Paris High School graduate has been hired as the new principal of his alma mater.

Mark Cox, who has served as PHS assistant principal for 10 years, will begin his duties July 1, …

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Cox is new Paris High School principal

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A Paris native and Paris High School graduate has been hired as the new principal of his alma mater.

Mark Cox, who has served as PHS assistant principal for 10 years, will begin his duties July 1, 2020, following action by the Paris Cooperative High School board at a special meeting Monday, Jan. 20.

“I’m a Paris native and I chose to return to this community, work at a great school and raise our family here,” Cox said Friday. “I wanted to come back here. Once a Tiger….”

Cox succeeds interim co-principals Carol Jones and Lorraine Bailey, who will conclude their employment June 30, 2020.

“I’ve been lucky to be able to work with and observe three experienced principals to prepare for this — Lorraine, Carol and David Meister,” Cox observed. “Those years working with them has been important in my growth as an administrator.”

A graduate of Crestwood School and a 1989 graduate of PHS, Cox left Paris to attend Lake Land College to prepare for a career as a dentist. While at Lake Land, he was required to enroll in a humanities elective, assigning him to help Charleston students. “I liked it and that class changed my life,” he said.

Instead of entering a four-year college to prepare for dentistry school, Cox enrolled at Eastern Illinois University where he graduated with an education degree in zoology.

Following graduation, Cox accepted a biology position and assistant coach of everything at Decatur St. Teresa where he taught for two years. Cox then moved on to Shiloh School for eight years

teaching junior high science and general science as well as serving as an assistant football coach and head baseball coach.

Cox said 15 years ago, Meister called him and asked if he wanted to come back to PHS as a science teacher, a position he held for five years. “I went back to school and got my administrators degree,” he said. When the assistant principal’s position came open, Cox was hired.

For the past decade, Cox has been in charge of discipline at PHS. “Yes, I handle discipline but I’m most proud of the program making sure our freshmen stay on track en route to graduation,” he said.

The program began at PHS after Cox attended a conference featuring a similar program. Originally called the Lunch Bunch, the PHS program eventually morphed into the current after school Study Tables program.

Cox spends a portion of his week checking in on freshmen who have or who are falling behind in classes required for graduation. Teachers provide make up work, tests and other information to Cox who places them in individual folders. He also speaks to parents for each student to keep them informed of what’s going on at school.

The program, he said, has improved school attendance and the school’s graduation rates. “No one wants to come to school if they are failing or behind,” he said.

Cox was also instrumental in the school beginning its computer program allowing students to earn graduation credits — now known as APEX.

Cox said he will only be serving as high school principal and not cooperative director — a position previously held by Meister. “The board and the two superintendents (Danette Young and Jeremy Larson) agreed to change the cooperative agreement between the two school districts to make the position a principal,” Cox said.

While it is five months until he officially becomes principal, Cox emphasized the faculty and support staff at PHS is top-notch. “We have a great staff who work hard to help our students succeed,” he noted. “We will do everything we can to support them.”

Cox said it is also critical a strong bond be established both with the Paris Community Theater and the board of the Paris Center of Fine Arts. “The theater is a wonderful asset to this community, county and school,” he said. “It’s vital we work together to make it a success.”

Another area Cox is focusing on is the agriculture program, including the school’s greenhouse. “We need to make the greenhouse more vibrant,” he said.

Cox also mentioned:

νExpanding STEM opportunities for PHS students, including robotics.

νGrowing the school’s independent study program which makes use of the state-of-the-art STEM lab. Cox said he plans to reach out to both EIU and Indiana State University faculty to help grow that program.

νLook at the entire school curriculum, “to make sure we are serving the needs of all our students whether vocational or college bound.”

Cox and his wife, Tina, are the parents of five children. “She’s very supportive of this phase of our life,” the new principal noted. “She also understands there will be a lot a nights out of the house.”

The son of JoEllen Edmonds and the late veteran Mayo social studies teacher and guidance counselor Burley Cox, the new principal said his mother is excited. “My Dad’s smiling and super proud,” he said, noting “he’d be encouraging me to join him on a motorcycle trip, heading to where the sun is shining and the temperatures are warmer.”

Paris 95 Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Larson said the school has posted the assistant principal’s vacancy following Cox’s employment. He confirmed Cox’s salary will be $90,000.