By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Starkville School District stakeholders came out last night to meet the two finalists for the district superintendent position: Michael McInnis and Lewis Holloway.
A third finalist, Michael Van Winkle, was expected to participate in the public forum, but he called SSD Board of Trustees President Keith Coble at 8 a.m. Monday morning to withdraw from consideration, though a reason was not given.
The remaining candidates each gave presentations focusing on their experience and what they could bring to the district. Questions from the school board followed.
McInnis, who has been the superintendent of Union Public School District for five years, said he feels SSD has all the resources it needs to become a star school district.
“Starkville Public School District has every ingredient that there is. There is no question that we can make it a star and there is no reason why we cannot lead nationally,” he said. “I want people to come and see all the great things that we have here. That’s why I’m interested — I see all the possibilities of what could happen here.”
As superintendent, McInnis said he wants to first ensure all the schools are safe environments where students are loved and cared for. He said he would foster a strong relationship with parents, the community, local businesses and Mississippi State University by maintaining an approachable attitude and open ears.
His goals include increasing the graduation rate, closing the achievement gap with economically disadvantaged students and implementing preschool, after-school and summer programs within the district.
Holloway, who is the superintendent of Bulloch County School District in Georgia, said his educational philosophy focuses on rigor, relevance and relationships. He said he believes every student should receive a year’s worth of progress, learning should be relevant to real life and the district should be based on respectful relationships.
“I think my background is in assessment, technology and building; I think those are my strengths,” Holloway said.
Holloway highlighted some of his achievements with his current district, including the implementation of advanced technology, the construction of a number of new facilities and the achievements of the teachers and students he serves.
“My background is Mississippi; I’ve always wanted to come back to serve,” he said. “I think living in a college setting and the resources, the people that live here and the quality of life, in my opinion, would be very high.”
The school board members asked a series of questions which were submitted by community members. Each candidate said they were impressed with the tough questions, which ranged from community involvement to standardized testing.
“(The community members) shared the same goals that I have. They demand excellence from their superintendent. They want to progress to the next level,” McInnis said. “They’re not satisfied with the status quo. They know that the resources we have here are here; we just need to take advantage of them.”
“They seemed responsive to what I had to say. It felt good to be in Starkville and they had good questions,” Holloway said.
The board members excused themselves from the reception and went into executive session to discuss the candidates. Coble said he was not sure if they would reach an agreement during the evening or have to return this morning to continue discussions.
Stakeholders were asked to fill out feedback forms for the board on each of the candidates to aide members in their decision.
Once the board comes to an agreement, Coble said negotiations will begin with the preferred candidate as soon as possible.
“We will notify the public just as soon as we reach an agreement,” he said.