Students in Marianna schools are often heard to say, I am a Bulldog till the day I die! Then, the college the mascot changes to fit the bill. As one goes through life, he sometimes moves on to different interests and their alma mater becomes a thing of the past. That couldn’t be further from the truth with Marianna High School principal Hunter Nolen. Nolen is finishing his second year at the helm of the largest school in Jackson County.
Nolen started his career in education at Marianna Middle School as a math teacher where he did, according to the renowned Mary Hinson, “a fantastic job.” Many parents were saddened when he gave up the academic classroom to teach Physical Education classes in the gym. When long-time coach Art Porep decided to end his coaching career, Nolen was asked to fill his shoes as athletic director, football coach and physical education teacher. It was just a matter of time before Nolen added basketball and baseball to his coaching resume. Time consuming, of course, but Nolen excelled in all these positions. In short, he worked tirelessly to create and maintain a top-notch sports program at MMS. The Bullpups were teams to beat, regardless of the sport. Nolen also created more pride in the sparse facilities at the school with a “clean out and clean up” in the gym and locker rooms. Though funds were scarce, his diligence was rewarded with the addition of new laundry equipment and an updated floor in the gym.
A few years passed and his leadership both in the classroom as well as on the field, court and diamond had caught the attention of the superintendent. He was named assistant principal at Marianna Middle School where he remained until he moved to MHS and became the assistant there. After one year as an assistant at Marianna High, he was named principal and he will begin his third year there the 2018-19 school year.
Any administrative job involves some degree of controversy; Nolen’s is no exception. Nolen is a disciplinarian and does not waiver from that at the whim of students’ cries for leniency. Nolen is fair and he is committed to making Marianna an ‘A’ school, a top-notch school in all areas. He has managed that task well with the school grade rising, athletics achieving their goals, the art program reaping awards, along with outstanding FFA, engineering, medical, culinary, and business programs.
John Donaldson is a long-time friend and has had the opportunity to work alongside Nolen for the past three years, “Mr. Nolen works tirelessly towards the success of Marianna High School. Our school is 24/7 operation between school and events outside the school hours every day. He works hard to ensure that students and staff have as much help as he can provide to achieve their goals. His hard work and personal sacrifice not only serve as a testament to his commitment to excellence but also as a motivator for our staff.”
Luanne Law is the media center specialist as Marianna High School and she speaks volumes for her admiration for the job Nolen has done at MHS, “Mr. Nolen is one of the best administrators for whom I have ever worked. His leadership has helped us reestablish a campus culture that is focused on students’ academic success. When he assumed the role of principal at Marianna High, we were under a mandate by Florida’s Department of Education to increase our graduation rate. He worked with guidance counselors to establish a data room with all of the students’ data and noted specifically what each student needed to graduate. He memorized it. While researching what other high schools around the state were doing to increase graduation rates, he discovered that we could administer the School Day ACT and SAT. He brought this idea to our district. Many students have been able to use this test to earn an equivalent score needed for high school graduation. During his first year as principal, the graduation rate increase from 66% to 75%. This year it will be even higher.”
MHS assistant principal Travis Blanton not only works with Nolen now, he witnessed his work at MMS/MHS in the classroom and on the field as a coach to his son, “Hunter was one of my first hires for varsity boys’ basketball assistant coach at the old Marianna High many years ago. He is one of the most competitive people that I know and always has been. Hunter has always been a great leader and desires the very best for the students and athletes that he has taught and coached. His leadership abilities along with his knowledge of how a school is run efficiently is second to none. The students and teachers always know and understand that Hunter Nolen has their best interests at heart. He was wonderful to work with then and now, for sure, since I am now back at MHS as one of his assistant administrators. I hope that everyone truly appreciates the magnificent job that he is doing for JCSB, this community, and Marianna High School. I appreciate him and Mr. Moore giving me the opportunity to come back to Marianna High and work. Hunter Nolen is a huge asset to MHS.”
Sydnee Goodson has spent the last three years of her high school with Nolen as the principal, “Mr. Nolen loved to see his students do well, both in the classroom and in sports, or whatever extra-curricular activity they chose. He would see me in the hallway after a game whether it was volleyball or softball and he would say something to me about great game or you’ll get ‘em next time.”
Dr. Gayle Westbrook worked with Mr. Nolen as he coached and coordinated athletics at MMS. “I found him to be one of the most reliable, intelligent, and conscientious young men I have ever known. He planned, organized and left nothing undone. His work ethic is remarkable as is his ability to keep his own counsel and maintain his cool in a crisis. Always willing to go beyond what is necessary, Hunter’s aim is to create an exceptional program which serves student needs and emphasizes achievement. Diligent, extremely intelligent and a phenomenal problem solver, he is, committed to doing a great job whatever his assignment. He and I worked well together because we both wanted to win in the classroom, on the field, and on the court.”
Hunter Nolen is one young man committed to success for his school; the new year should be one of continued excitement and even more progress. We look forward to watching it unfold in the coming months.
Nolen is married to Jennifer Nolen who is a guidance counselor at Golson Elementary and they have one son, Press who finishes second grade this year. Education is in his blood as his father, Chuck Nolen is a teacher at Grand Ridge School, his mom Janie Nolen at teacher at Golson Elementary. It doesn’t stop there, sister Maredith Mitchell also teachers at Golson.