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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Community College Board Executive Director Eric Clark announced Friday that he will retire at the end of June 2015.
Since 2008, Clark has led the board that coordinates the operations of the state's 15 community colleges, which are governed by local boards.
Clark, 63, made the announcement during a state board meeting.
He told The Associated Press he will have 40 years in the state retirement system by next summer, dating to when he started teaching at Taylorsville High School. Clark, who holds a doctorate in history from Mississippi State University, has taught history and government at Taylorsville High, Jones County Junior College, Mississippi College, and Belhaven University.
"It's just time for me to make a change," he said. "I look forward to having more time to be with my family. I look forward to having more time to do church work. And I look forward to finding out what job opportunities are out there."
Clark, a Democrat, served three terms as secretary of state from 1996 to 2008. Before that, he served 16 years in the state House, representing Jones, Smith and Covington counties.
Now a Brandon resident, Clark said he does not intend to run for office. He said that since he's been executive director of the board, it has improved its internal operations and negotiated an agreement with the College Board allowing for smoother transfers between community colleges and Mississippi's eight public universities. He also said the board has improved remedial education and developed better ways to measure colleges' performance.
"I have tried had to make the people of the state, and particularly legislators, understand that the community colleges are a co-equal partner with K-12 and the universities in educating the citizens of our state and I think we've made some progress.
Bruce Martin of Meridian, chairman of the Community College Board, praised Clark's stewardship of the college system during the recession, a period when state aid was cut at the same time that enrollment ballooned to record levels, hitting nearly 90,000 students in 2010.
"Dr. Clark piloted the community colleges through a very financially troubling time and also met the increased demand of more people wanting to get education and job skills to come out of the recession," Martin said.
He said he board will name a committee to thoroughly search for a replacement.
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