Life's Road Leads Muse to MHS Principal Job

Thursday, January 21, 2016
MHS principal Bill Muse speaks with the school's German exchange student between classes.(TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

Life is full of twists and turns, sometimes filled with a variety of painful experiences.

"The trick is to survive the things from youth and not let the pain last into adulthood, so you can become the person you were meant to be," Marmaduke High School principal Bill Muse said. "Raising kids and instilling some value in them is priority."

A man who has lived through his own struggles and heartache at long last has found the perfect place and life for himself, changing the lives of children in his care and believing hope can save the world.

In a time when under half of U.S. children live in a home with both parents, children sometimes experience pain beyond their years at an early age. In the case of many single-parent families, educators often spend more time with a person's child than they do in a day.

However, Muse not only knows the pain of a broken home first-hand, but he understands outside experiences can be painful -- leaving scars. A man who has faced his share of struggles sees the potential in every child he comes into contact with, inside school and out.

Muse believes hope is the one thing lost that must be restored when it comes to broken children, because "broken children become broken adults and there's nothing worse than seeing a child lose hope and that sparkle in their eyes."

Muse, who has been with Marmaduke School's for eight years, believes the world can be changed, "if we can take these broken kids and help them become better mothers, fathers and families, then we can do the one thing Walt Disney never could."

Muse thinks educators and mentors, people who genuinely care, are the key to this change. "When the storm blows the strongest you find that you just need to tie on, to anchor yourself to something." He said ultimately the anchor is Christ, but in order for us to be "Christ-like" we must be the anchor for these children.

Muse has seen his share of heartache and understands what it is like to lose hope in life.

Bill Muse was born Dec. 15, 1966, infamously known as the day Walt Disney died, to Bill and Connie Muse in Kennett. He spent the beginning years of his life in Louisiana while his father worked at an ammunition plant, but the family returned to Kennett, where he attended kindergarten. In Kennett his father was a law officer just like his father before him. Muse said growing up he knew two things -- he didn't want to be an alcoholic or a lawman, both of which he knew from his experiences with his father and grandfather.

As he grew, Muse said he "just couldn't get right, was stubborn and hard-headed," and often would worry his mother by not coming home from school at a proper time.

"She threatened to send me to reform school one night," Muse said. "She said if I didn't come home straight after school, she would send me to reform school." As a fifth grader, one day after school Muse realized he had not gone home, so he decided to forgo his mother and went straight to the police department. "The officers were really good with me," Muse said. "I walked in and asked where is reform school?" He explained his mother was sending him there anyway, but the officers took him home and Muse found out if he had just gone home, she would've never known, as she had worked late.

After several incidents of not coming home on time and getting into multiple fights, his mother decided to send him back to Louisiana, where he lived with his Uncle Buddy. He woke in the morning, worked on the farm, went to school and returned to the farm in the afternoon, where he worked until bedtime. His uncle had two ways of discipline, "a cattle prod and a bullwhip." Though extreme the measures, he learned how to be responsible working for his uncle, who also ran a gas station alongside his hay operation, cattle and horses.

He moved back and forth from Louisiana to Senath, where his mother lived, until the 10th grade, when she decided he needed to stay in one school. He had attended Senath High School in his time home and he recalls the first time he saw his wife Lisa.

The first day of eighth grade "the most beautiful dark haired girl I had ever seen walked in; I asked Brad Jones who she was and he said it was Lisa Emerson," Muse said. "I told him I'm going to marry her some day and Brad just chuckled."

This is the point in the story where generally the two would become high school sweethearts; however, fate can sometimes be a twisted path.

Muse went into the Army in 1983 during his junior year of high school. He remained active for two years before leaving. "It was such an honorable thing and a privilege to serve; I just wish I had realized it at the time," Muse said.

He then enrolled in Southern Baptist College, where he became a pastor. He decided being a pastor was not for him as well, and became an associate pastor instead. He remains such at the Lafe Baptist Church to this day.

Muse had no idea during these decisions his life was about to take an even more dramatic turn when he and his fiancée Kristi were tanning -- "she had wanted both of us to get a tan for prom." While the two were tanning Kristi went into sudden cardiac arrest, which has been associated with tanning beds, but is rare. "She was never the same," Muse said.

Her father moved her to Memphis and refused to allow Muse to see her. However, the young man moved to Memphis to be near her all the same. Kristi had been very much in love with Basset hounds. Muse called Lisa Emerson, because she worked with Bassetts. The two met again and began talking, thus beginning another chapter and twist of Muse's life. Over time Lisa and Muse became close and began dating.

Muse worked for an offshoot organization which supplied undercover work for the Memphis Police Department. His captain convinced Muse he would make a good chief in a rural area of Arkansas, so Muse moved to McGehee and began attending the law enforcement academy. The couple wed April 30, 1990, at Emerson's Funeral Home, where, according to his mother-in-law, "could be the place his life began and ended," Muse chuckled.

Muse left the academy number one academically and, while home visiting, the former Greene County Sheriff James Danley asked Muse if he knew of Marmaduke. The local police department was looking for an officer and, after interviewing with former mayor Burl Poe and former chief of police Roger Cooper, Muse began work.

He worked second shift and went to college at Arkansas State University, where he first earned a bachelor's degree in mid-level education in 2002, a master's degree in special education in 2003 and a specialist degree in special education director, building administrator and superintendency in 2006. He started out teaching special education, which lasted six years. In 2009 an opening in gifted and talented came up and he earned a master's degree in gifted and talented teaching in 2010. Then, when Keith Richey moved to assistant superintendent, Muse moved into the principal position.

"I love it. It took a lot of people to get me grown and I know everything has to be about the kids," Muse said. "As long as it's about what's in the kids' best interest it will work out, getting the privilege of watching these kids grow up is the biggest blessing; it's the greatest job you could ever have."

Muse has three children of his own -- 22-year-old Haley Edwards, who is a respiratory therapist at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center; 18-year-old Hannah Muse, who attends Arkansas State University, and Ty Muse, who is a 15-year-old sophomore at Marmaduke High. His wife Lisa works for Families Inc. and works with the ALE program at Marmaduke and runs counseling for the school. Muse is also an alderman on the Marmaduke City Council.

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