Whether it’s on the field or in the classroom, this school administrator thrives on seeing students succeed. Dr. Mike Skelton just completed his first year as superintendent of Benton Public Schools, and it’s his passion for student success that drives him every day.
Like many people, Skelton went to college with another career path in mind. “I started in the business world and thought I would go into banking,” he says. “I wasn’t around money growing up, and it interested me.”
However, without much direction or idea of what career to pursue in business, Skelton says his second year of college he had a life-changing conversation with a relative. “He encouraged me to do what I love doing. I love being around sports, and the next thing I knew I changed my major to education.”
Education and coaching seem like it was always a good fit for Skelton. “I have a love and passion for helping people and want others to be successful,” he says. “I played sports growing up – baseball, basketball and football – and love seeing kids being successful on the field and court and seeing that light come on for them.”
Skelton first got a taste of coaching in high school when he coached his brother’s little league team. He adds, “I grew up on a farm in Kennett, Missouri, and spent my early life in the fields, so going to school was enjoyable for me and a treat. It’s where my friends were.”
When his son, Tyler, was younger, Skelton coached many of his sporting adventures. “I was hard on him and the other kids but with the goal of getting the best out of them.”
Skelton came to Benton from the Jonesboro School District. His wife, Jamie, is a fifth-grade teacher, and it didn’t take much convincing to move the family to central Arkansas, he says. “We love the fact that it’s centrally located. Benton is a great community. The people are awesome.”
“I feel very fortunate to be here,” he says. “To work with others who have the same passion for helping kids, but also adults. We want to see our staff be successful. And the supportive nature of our families, it’s just a great place.”
During his early career days, in addition to coaching a variety of sports, Skelton taught biology and science as well as physical education and health. He started in West Memphis, and then entered the administration field in Pocahontas. From there he went to Paragould and then Jonesboro.
A major accomplishment from this past school year is the voter approval of the district’s debt extension plan. “It passed by 80 percent and will generate more than $13 million without having to raise taxes,” he says.
This measure will allow the district to move forward on construction and renovation projects, such as expanding the cafeteria at the middle school and junior high. Also, Cook Field House is being renovated and the bus facility will be relocated to the sports complex. The band program’s space is being expanded to meet the demands of its growth as well.
Of all his career accomplishments, Skelton says he’s most proud of two indirect things. “Awarding my son his high school diploma and the opportunity to see my wife earn two separate Teacher of the Year awards – these accomplishments stand out most to me.”
As the new school year approaches, Skelton says he looks forward to the district focusing more on career and technical education with the opening of the Saline County Career and Technical Center. He also looks forward to professional development programs and student-centered initiatives like Capturing Kids Hearts and The Leader in Me.
With his love of sports and school pride, it’s no wonder Skelton relishes in the Salt Bowl rivalry game. “With 30,000-plus people in the stadium, the atmosphere is electrifying. And with the tailgating and vendors, it’s almost like a college atmosphere. I’m excited about the game again this year.”