Milne. Image: JA

by Sherry Lucas

Jack Milne started the new year with the new job as Jackson Academy’s Head of School, continuing a mission to best prepare students for life ahead.

Milne arrived in Jackson from his Jacksonville, Florida, hometown last June, as JA vice president and dean of school. A swift six weeks later, with former head Cliff Kling’s announced move to a job in Coral Gables, Florida, JA’s board of trustees approached him about the top position. “I was very humbled but pleased to accept,” he says.

Milne attended Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship and majored in history. After finishing at the University of Florida School of Law, he practiced with his brother for a decade, then was involved in other family businesses. But, a different path kept calling.

“The whole time, in my heart, I wanted to be a teacher.” He mentioned that to the private Bolles School in Jacksonville. He soon took over an economics class for a teacher called up for active duty; school leadership roles followed.

He and his wife, Caroline, fell in love with JA from the outset. They bought a house just up the street in LeFleur East. “We love the neighborhood feel, the culture of the town, the culture of the school. Every day, the decision’s been affirmed that it was the right one for us.”

JA’s faculty — “not only a love for what they teach, but a heart for the kids,” he says — and JA’s emphasis on its mission are strengths. That mission, to inspire and equip each student to lead a life of purpose and significance “spoke volumes to me,” dovetailing with goals that led him into the education field.

“The students who we help along — I like what they’ve become. I like their being so well-rounded, their understanding of giving back to the community, their love not only of academics, but of athletics, arts, community service, leadership.”

A governance change in the works at JA will move to a traditional, efficient model June 1: head of school (Milne), associate head of school and academic dean (Matt Morgan); and, associate head of school for finance and advancement (Angie Antici). Morgan and Antici will assume their new roles June 1, and Lisa Lucas will become head of the middle school.

JA has a strategic plan, “which we look at constantly,” Milne says, eyeing trends in education, scheduling and more. The effective and ethical use of technology is important at JA. “I’m all for technology. I’m all for STEM programs, but I am a firm believer in the value of a liberal arts education.

“My number one passion is for character development.” After several months’ work, a committee with student, faculty, administrative and parent representation developed an honor code, honor pledge and honor council system.

“It was our intent that the driving force be the students,” he says. They proposed the honor code and pledge and designed the poster.

“We presented it to the students and had the, I think, courage to put it up for a vote,” he says, “It was overwhelmingly approved.” Education of students, a phase-in and honor council organization with adult supervision come next. “We want to do it right, so that we know it will be effective and permanent.”

Milne looks back on his involvement with the long-standing honor system at Bolles. The code was so key that many young alumni cited it as their most indelible memory of the school.

“That’s my vision, that it will become so ingrained here, the notion of integrity and assuming responsibility for your actions, that it will just be second nature — not looked at as some punitive rule, but yet another tool in the development of good character and maturity and preparation for life at college and beyond.”