By CARL SMITH
Incoming Assistant Superintendent Toriano Holloway says his goal for Starkville School District is simple: make sure the city’s schools are a continued source of pride for its residents.
Holloway was named SSD’s new superintendent for federal programs and operations following Tuesday’s public budget hearing. The hire fills a void created by former Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin’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 school’s assistant principal and took a similar job two years later at St. Martin High School. He became St. Martin’s principal in 2005 and later moved to the same position at Harrison Central in 2009.
St. Martin was named one of America’s best high schools by U.S. News and World Report during Holloway’s tenure. He also guided Harrison Central to a 30-point increase in its quality distribution index.
“I’m excited to come into a strong school system, but there’s always room for improvement,” Holloway said. “I 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 it’s imperative they have the right skill sets. We have to continue to prepare our students for these challenges.”
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 district’s previous superintendent search.
“His 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),” Lewis Holloway said. “I think if Tori works in any central office for three or four years, he can write his own ticket anywhere.”
Gulf Coast educators who worked with Holloway say their school district’s loss is Starkville’s gain. Harrison Central Assistant Principal Charles Dubra said Toriano Holloway has left a great impact on the school’s quality of education.
“He’s an awesome leader who has vision for students and a deep concern for them. He’s young, he’s intelligent and has a great outlook on the future of the world,” he said. “In this new era of education, he’s pushing that idea of world competition. He knows (the U.S.) is losing ground in science and math, and we can step up,” he said. “I see him in his future greatly helping education in the state of Mississippi. We haven’t had a day without him (since joining Harrison Central), so we’re going to experience a great loss.”
Harrison Central teacher Reginald Middleton was originally hired by Toriano Holloway when the duo worked at St. Martin. Middleton said Toriano’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.
“The motivation (at Harrison Central) then was not there, and I was concerned it was something he couldn’t overcome. He smiled at me and said he was going to go and take the job. Dr. Holloway is a go-getter. There’s nothing he would consider too hard to do,” Middleton said. “After 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.”
Besides pushing teachers for classroom success, Middleton said Toriano Holloway also promoted their own personal development.
“When I was first hired, I only had a bachelor’s degree. He pushed me to get my master’s, and now he’s helped motivate me to get my doctoral degree,” Middleton said. “There are at least six or seven individuals at Harrison (Central) he’s aided, coached, motivated and encouraged to get their degrees. It’s made me who I am right now.”
Both Dubra and Middleton say Toriano Holloway is an approachable administrator who prefers to leave the office to take the pulse of the school’s students and teachers in person.
“When you see him on the campus grounds, it seems like he is a magnet for the kids,” Middleton said.
An SSD statement released after Tuesday’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 administrator’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.