By CARL SMITH
Incoming Assistant Superintendent Toriano Holloway says his goal for Starkville School District is simple: make sure the cityâ€™s schools are a continued source of pride for its residents.
Holloway was named SSDâ€™s new superintendent for federal programs and operations following Tuesdayâ€™s public budget hearing. The hire fills a void created by former Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulinâ€™s departure to a leadership role in an Alabama school district.
He began his educational career in 1998 working as a science teacher and assistant basketball coach at Gulfport High School. In 2002, Holloway was named the schoolâ€™s assistant principal and took a similar job two years later at St. Martin High School. He became St. Martinâ€™s principal in 2005 and later moved to the same position at Harrison Central in 2009.
St. Martin was named one of Americaâ€™s best high schools by U.S. News and World Report during Hollowayâ€™s tenure. He also guided Harrison Central to a 30-point increase in its quality distribution index.
â€śIâ€™m excited to come into a strong school system, but thereâ€™s always room for improvement,â€ť Holloway said. â€śI want to have even greater student achievement to ensure students are well served and can compete in a global society. Our kids will compete with others all over the world for jobs, and itâ€™s imperative they have the right skill sets. We have to continue to prepare our students for these challenges.â€ť
Holloway was unanimously selected by a four-person committee out of five finalists and 15 applicants. Before applying for the position, Holloway said he applied for district superintendent, a job filled by Lewis Holloway, who led the selection committee.
A 2010 Meridian Star column by Don Evans, Meridian Public School District Board of Trustees president, also listed Toriano Holloway as a preferred candidate in that districtâ€™s previous superintendent search.
â€śHis background, personality, experience working schools successfully and desire to be a central office administrator (are what the selection committee looked at when making its hire),â€ť Lewis Holloway said. â€śI think if Tori works in any central office for three or four years, he can write his own ticket anywhere.â€ť
Gulf Coast educators who worked with Holloway say their school districtâ€™s loss is Starkvilleâ€™s gain. Harrison Central Assistant Principal Charles Dubra said Toriano Holloway has left a great impact on the schoolâ€™s quality of education.
â€śHeâ€™s an awesome leader who has vision for students and a deep concern for them. Heâ€™s young, heâ€™s intelligent and has a great outlook on the future of the world,â€ť he said. â€śIn this new era of education, heâ€™s pushing that idea of world competition. He knows (the U.S.) is losing ground in science and math, and we can step up,â€ť he said. â€śI see him in his future greatly helping education in the state of Mississippi. We havenâ€™t had a day without him (since joining Harrison Central), so weâ€™re going to experience a great loss.â€ť
Harrison Central teacher Reginald Middleton was originally hired by Toriano Holloway when the duo worked at St. Martin. Middleton said Torianoâ€™s desire to improve education showed when he moved on to Harrison Central. At that time, Middleton said, Harrison Central was not on the same level academically as St. Martin.
â€śThe motivation (at Harrison Central) then was not there, and I was concerned it was something he couldnâ€™t overcome. He smiled at me and said he was going to go and take the job. Dr. Holloway is a go-getter. Thereâ€™s nothing he would consider too hard to do,â€ť Middleton said. â€śAfter a year there, the climate of the campus was totally different. He absolutely changed the mind set of teaching, and the school bought in to what he was building.â€ť
Besides pushing teachers for classroom success, Middleton said Toriano Holloway also promoted their own personal development.
â€śWhen I was first hired, I only had a bachelorâ€™s degree. He pushed me to get my masterâ€™s, and now heâ€™s helped motivate me to get my doctoral degree,â€ť Middleton said. â€śThere are at least six or seven individuals at Harrison (Central) heâ€™s aided, coached, motivated and encouraged to get their degrees. Itâ€™s made me who I am right now.â€ť
Both Dubra and Middleton say Toriano Holloway is an approachable administrator who prefers to leave the office to take the pulse of the schoolâ€™s students and teachers in person.
â€śWhen you see him on the campus grounds, it seems like he is a magnet for the kids,â€ť Middleton said.
An SSD statement released after Tuesdayâ€™s meeting says Toriano Holloway will officially assume his new position on July 1, but he said he will be in Starkville Monday. Lewis Holloway said the new administratorâ€™s contract has yet to be signed, but he will receive $115,000 and will be paid for five days of service before his official start date.
Lewis Holloway is in a similar arrangement with SSD. He was hired as a consultant prior to his official July 1 starting date.