Cliff Kling Accepts New Appointment, Jack Milne To Succeed Him


Chair of the Jackson Academy Board of Trustees, Gregory M. Johnston, announced yesterday that school President Cliff Kling has accepted the position as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Gulliver Schools effective January 1, 2018. Jack F. Milne has been unanimously selected by the Board of Trustees to succeed Kling and lead Jackson Academy as Head of School beginning January 1.

Gulliver is the fifth largest school in the National Association of Independent Schools serving over 2,200 students on four campuses in Coral Gables, Pinecrest, and Miami, Florida.

“It is a testament to the high caliber of Jackson Academy’s leadership team that our President would be selected to lead one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious independent schools,” said Johnston. “We wish Cliff the greatest success in his new position.”

Kling has served Jackson Academy for over 17 years, first as Chief Financial Officer and General Counsel, and he is currently serving in his fourth year as President. His contributions to the school have been immense and include spearheading land acquisition to double the size of the main campus; overseeing the design and construction of over $25 million of campus improvements; providing financial leadership to facilitate the implementation of JA’s Apple one-to-one program; implementing a STEM curriculum and installing three STEM labs; leading the processes of creating a new mission statement, branding identity, and a new crest; negotiating the refinancing of JA’s bond indebtedness at a savings of $165,000 per year; and working with the development office staff to raise record amounts in the JA Annual Fund, including over $420,000 this past school year.

“I am so grateful for my many years at Jackson Academy, and I will always love this school,” said Kling. “JA has afforded me such incredible opportunities for both personal and professional growth. I’ve had the privilege of working with the finest colleagues anyone could hope to have. Our school is blessed with great students, wonderful families, and an incredible faculty and staff. Heather and I are especially grateful for the many teachers who have nurtured, inspired, and equipped our daughters who have attended JA since they were three years old.”

jack-and-caroline-milneMilne joined JA June 1 as Vice President and Dean of the School, the senior administrator overseeing academics, arts, athletics, and student life.

“Jack Milne was the obvious and clear choice following so closely after the national search process that we conducted last year, which resulted in our hiring him for the role of Vice President and Dean of the School. We considered many high-quality candidates during our search, including sitting heads of school. Even with such outstanding candidates, Jack stood out head and shoulders above the other candidates. We recognized when we hired Jack that he has the skills, qualities, and attributes to lead a school as Head of School. More than that, we recognized what a great fit Jack is for JA, and his time on campus since joining us has certainly confirmed that,” said Johnston. “Jackson Academy is in an enviable position of leadership succession with its next Head of School already on campus, which will allow Cliff to spend this semester working with Jack to continue to orient him to Jackson Academy and the responsibilities of leading the school.”

Milne came to Jackson Academy after serving as a teacher, Middle School Head, and Associate Head at the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida where he served for 17 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Vanderbilt University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Florida College of Law.  The Bolles School is a selective boarding and day school serving 1,750 students in grades PK to 12 on three campuses. He taught Economics, Economics and the Law, and U.S. History for four years before becoming Associate Head of School for Student Life. After 10 years as Associate Head, during which time he continued to teach, he was tapped to lead the Middle School campus. In 2004, he was awarded The Bolles School Dewan Teaching Fellow Award. Among numerous areas of service, he was faculty sponsor of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, board member of the Boy Scouts, president of the Jacksonville Historical Society, chair of the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board, vestry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and trustee and chair of the Board of Trustees for St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School.

“When Caroline and I first set foot on the Jackson Academy campus, we could immediately sense that this was an energetic, progressive, caring, student-centered school,” said Milne. “I am grateful and deeply humbled at the trust that has been placed in me by the Trustees. I have learned a great deal under Cliff’s leadership and look forward to the next several months working with him in preparation for this critically important role. Caroline and I have been made to feel so welcomed by JA and the broader Jackson community and are excited about our future years with the school and in our new hometown.” Milne and his wife Caroline reside on Sheffield Drive near the school. They are the parents of three adult children.

Dr. Jimmy Abraham Gives Keynote Address at Teacher Work Week


During teacher work week, faculty and staff gathered to hear motivating messages from JA speakers and a guest speaker, Dr. Jimmy Abraham. Wright Busching opened the day with a devotional about humility. He offered a quote from noted Christian apologist C.S. Lewis that “there are no ordinary people.” All people are immortal, and we should conduct our interactions with one another with this in mind.

Greg Johnston ’91, Chair of the Jackson Academy Board of Trustees, welcomed faculty and staff to the start of another school year. He shared fond memories of teachers, especially a dean at JA whose kindness made a lasting impact on his life. “Every time I come back to campus, it is special to me,” Johnston said. Faculty and staff represent one of the “most incredible assets we have on this campus. JA is so blessed to have you,” he said.

Vice President and Dean of the School Jack Milne spoke about fostering a culture that is “relentlessly positive.” He stressed the opportunity each faculty and staff member has to demonstrate a caring spirit each day.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Jimmy Abraham, who served Mississippi State University for 38 years in associate vice president roles throughout development, alumni, and student affairs, and as executive director of the university’s alumni association. Several former students who worked as university ambassadors and orientation leaders under Dr. Abraham were in the JA audience and gathered with Dr. Abraham afterward for a photo. Dr. Abraham also mentioned that he and Sherard Shaw graduated from high school the same year, were friends, and played baseball on opposing teams. He recalled stories of the times Coach Shaw had thrown Dr. Abraham all curve balls during a game…three and out.

Dr. Abraham’s message brimmed with guidance from his leadership and personal experiences. He emphasized seizing opportunities to positively influence others, responding well when thrown a curveball, and recognizing the influence of words spoken. He recalled his year as a college freshman in which he did not believe in himself. Encouragers around him would counter his statement, “I can’t do that,” with the positive words, “Yes, you can. I will help you.” He compared people to shrubs that need pruning. With the right attention, they will grow.

JA President Cliff Kling closed the morning by remarking how many of the talks had paralleled one another. He announced that faculty and staff would be given a book to read this year as school faculty. Faculty and staff were also provided a list of 25 suggestions for working at a school from Dr. Abraham.

JA Welcomes New Faculty and Staff


New staff were welcomed to JA and participated in orientation in the Learning Commons the week before school opened. New full-time faculty include Jackye Barbour, PK full day assistant; Sara Bannerman, US English; Jonathan Blackwell, graphic artist; Amanda Cross, K3 half-day teacher; Ali Dinkins, Preschool librarian; Rachel Eason, interactive media coordinator; Ashlee Flechas, K3 half-day teacher; Jennifer Funderburg, K full-day assistant; Megan Logan, MS eighth grade English; Evan McCarley, ARC facilitator, debate coach; Vickie Neal, LS fourth grade teacher; Lance Pogue, varsity football defensive coordinator; Kerri Sanders US theatre; Chevis Taylor, ARC facilitator; Jennifer Wahl, US geometry; Brandt Walker, associate athletic director, Richard West, US science; LaDonna Whitney, LS fourth grade teacher; and Krayleon Winston, JV boys basketball coach, varsity assistant. Staff members joining JA in part-time or contract roles include Annelle Anderson, assistant volleyball coach; Bryan Eubank, sports information director; Datti Jinkiri, part-time soccer coach; and Matthew McMullan, part-time basketball coach.

STAR Teacher Inspires Students to Explore Science and Engineering


Chemistry teacher Richard West-Griffin joins the Jackson Academy faculty this fall and brings with him a garland of Star Teacher honors strung together by his philosophy that “It’s all about the kids.”

West-Griffin’s interest in chemistry began in his pre-teen years with summers spent in school in Naperville, Illinois. At North Central College he was too young to be in the summer program, but enrolled thanks to the guidance of a caring teacher – who was also his godmother. In nearby Chicago, a chemistry set caught his eye.

“Go get it,” she told him. “From that day forward, I just got fascinated with chemistry,” West-Griffin says. By the age of 13 he was studying chemistry and physics, and was completely fired up for science.

His passion for science continues to burn brightly, igniting sparks in his students. “You show excitement and be sincere … and have a passion for it, and the kids will see that” —and they will also draw inspiration from it.

This Star Teacher’s honors could fill a flag. He earned several at Bailey Magnet School in the ‘90s and added seven to his collection while teaching at Clinton High School in the 2000s. The STAR program recognizes students for scholastic excellence, and the teachers those students found most inspirational in their studies.

“I’ve got so many kids now that I taught that are chemical engineers, it’s amazing,” he said, “medical doctors, yeah — all kind of engineers,” says West-Griffin. At Clinton High, he started a biomedical research course as a way to push his brightest students. As a high school teacher West-Griffin “always wanted to deal with those who were preparing themselves for the next level.”

“I’m a teacher first,” says West-Griffin, but he is also a former coach. At Mississippi Valley State University, he coached NFL football great Jerry Rice.

With the birth of his youngest son, Zeke, 15 years ago, “Mama said no more coaching,” he said, chuckling over his wife’s insistence. “She said, ‘I raised the first five, you’re going to raise this one,’ and I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’”

Outside of class, he’s working on his third degree black belt in Taekwondo. He’s also a minister. “That’s my passion. I draw everything from that,” he said of his faith. He and his wife are involved with several ministries at New Mt. Calvary Christian Center.

“West is “a Mississippi legend,” said Jackson Academy Upper School Dean Steve McCartney. “I was fortunate to work with him in the 1990s at Clinton High School and saw this master at work firsthand. His classroom experience, content expertise and commitment to students has been recognized and celebrated for three decades, but, more importantly, he is a great man.”

“I want to have an impact,” West-Griffin said. “I want to make sure that … we can make an impact on some kids’ lives that may not have had that interest in chemistry or scientific fields, that will fall in love again.”

“We need more medical doctors, we need more research scientists, we need more engineers,” says West-Griffin. He wants students to develop a passion for science as a career. Building on the foundation laid by the STEM programs at JA, this STAR teacher is poised to continue inspiring students to explore the world through the lens of science.

Apple Distinguished School


What is an Apple Distinguished School? This designation is reserved for programs that meet criteria for innovation, leadership, and educational excellence, and demonstrate a clear vision of exemplary learning environments. JA is Mississippi’s first K3-12 school to receive the designation and is part of a small group of schools and colleges worldwide recognized as Apple Distinguished Schools.

“An Apple Distinguished School must provide tangible evidence of academic accomplishment and offer an innovative and compelling learning environment that engages students,” said Cliff Kling, JA president. “Teachers have enhanced the teaching and learning occurring inside and outside of the classroom by incorporating innovative use of technology.”

What is Apple Teacher?

An Apple Teacher has participated in a self‐paced professional development program created to empower and support educators. Apple Teachers provide Multi-Touch Apple Teacher Starter Guides in iBooks for Mac and iPad, so they always have the tools they need to connect with their students. The program is available to all educators and is free for all schools and districts.

In Sandra McKay’s American and English literature classes, being an Apple Distinguished School creates a paperless space where students build skills in creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. “I think the one-to-one program has made us all better teachers,” says McKay. Through this program, our teachers are supported and empowered to educate the leaders of tomorrow with the leading technology of today.