By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Starkville School District Board of Trustees got its first look at the 22 applicants for the school district superintendent position yesterday during a special meeting that was held in executive session.
Since the Oct. 31 application deadline, the Mississippi School Board Association has been busy checking references and interviewing candidates for the position. MSBA compiled the information from those interviews into a comprehensive report for the school board.
“I thought it was very productive. I really appreciate MSBA doing this work for us — having them use their resources to contact people gives credibility to the process,” board President Keith Coble said. “Their contacts let them do a better job than we would have done.”
MSBA provided the board with an analysis of each candidate based on interviews, references and previous professional performance.
“Coming from an educator standpoint, I’m excited about the pool we were presented with from MSBA,” board member Eric Heiselt said. “There are a lot of other school districts that are looking for superintendents, so we were worried. But based on the presentation today, we have a lot of good candidates.”
There were originally 23 applicants for the position, but one has since withdrawn. The remaining candidates, however, bring a wide variety of experience to the table — six are superintendents, three are assistant superintendents, two are former superintendents, two are directors of curriculum, five are school principals, three are independent consultants and one is an assistant to the conservator of a school district. Two applicants have master’s degrees in education, while the rest have doctorate degrees.
The candidates also come from all around the country. While 14 of the candidates are from Mississippi, there are also two from Alabama and one from Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico and Pennsylvania each.
Nineteen of the applicants are male, while three are female.
Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin represents one of those 22 applicants. He was a top contender for the superintendent of Lafayette Parish School System in Louisiana, but the district ultimately went with another applicant. Gonsoulin previously said he had originally applied for the job in Louisiana to gain experience in competing for a top-level position before he applied for Starkville public schools’ superintendent.
The board members will spend a few weeks to review the MSBA report, which Coble said was rather extensive, and will have a short list of candidates they would like to interview by their January meeting.
“We’re trying to move this along quickly, but we feel like we should do our duty and read all of the material,” Coble said. “People may wonder why it’s going to take so long, but we have quite a bit of material to go through and several logistics to set up when we get on down the road.”
Coble could not say for sure when the interviewing process would begin or when the new superintendent could be expected to take office.
The board will meet again today for a special meeting to receive some financial training from Smith Sparks, a school financial expert.