JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Robert Taylor, a 30-year educator and deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, has been chosen to serve as Mississippi’s new state superintendent of education.

A Mississippi native and University of Southern Mississippi graduate, Taylor will succeed Kim Benton, who has served as interim state superintendent of education since July. He will lead the Mississippi Department of Education starting in late January 2023. In a news release Monday, a spokesperson for the department said the Mississippi State Board of Education selected Taylor after conducting a national search.

“Dr. Taylor possesses all the qualities the Board sought for the next state superintendent of education. He brings extensive leadership experience at the school, district and state levels and the skill and commitment needed to continuously improve student achievement statewide,” said Rosemary Aultman, chair of the State Board of Education.

Taylor started as a teacher’s assistant in Mississippi and went to work for North Carolina public schools as a teacher, principal, district superintendent and state education leader.

Benton became interim superintendent after Carey Wright retired on June 30. She previously served as the chief academic officer and deputy superintendent. In recent months, Benton helped transition the Tunica County School District back to local control after years of state conservatorship.

“She devoted her service to MDE once again when the Board needed her to lead the department as the interim superintendent,” Aultman said. “The Board is deeply grateful for Dr. Benton’s commitment and service to Mississippi’s students, educators and school and district leaders.”

Benton will continue to serve as interim superintendent until Taylor assumes the role in January.

In a statement Monday, Taylor said he was looking forward to helping school districts in his home state identify barriers to success for students.

“The opportunity to return home to Mississippi and work hand in hand with all stakeholders to improve education is perhaps the pinnacle of one’s career,” Taylor said.