By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
After a months-long search process, the Starkville School District Board of Trustees named Lewis Holloway the new district superintendent yesterday during a special meeting.
Board President Keith Coble said Holloway’s extensive experience as a superintendent made him stand out from the other candidates.
“He’s been a superintendent for many years. He’s been a superintendent in many districts. He’s been a superintendent in college towns,” Coble said.
Holloway signed a four-year contract at $175,000 per year beginning July 1. He is the superintendent of Bulloch County School District in Georgia where he is still under contract until June 2013. Holloway notified the Bulloch County school board of his resignation during a meeting last night.
He said the appointment came as a surprise, but he and his wife are looking forward to becoming a part of the Starkville community.
Holloway plans to visit the district Tuesday through Friday next week to meet administrators and teachers.
“I would like to visit each school to get a feel for what’s going on curriculum-wise and instruction-wise,” he said.
Holloway said he wants to meet with Mayor Parker Wiseman and some of the city aldermen to hear their concerns on the state of the school district.
“One of the things that I think impressed us about Dr. Holloway was that he told us he was going to come into the district and listen,” Coble said. “I think his intent is to come in here and get up to speed before he makes a strong statement about direction.”
Holloway said he is going to wait until he is settled in the district to outline major goals, but has already set technology as one of his priorities. He said he firmly believes technology can improve instruction and make a teacher’s daily life easier. He also plans to pay particular attention to any potential legal issues within the district.
“At this point, I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all plan for school improvement. Each school and each district has their own DNA, and you have to take the time to understand that before you can make any plans to improve it,” he said. “It can’t be done overnight.”
Holloway participated in a public forum Monday night with the other finalist candidate Michael McInnis, superintendent of Union City School District. The candidates gave presentations that offered different visions for the future of the district.
The board went into executive session following the public forum to review the public feedback and discuss the candidates. Coble said the feedback from Monday night’s public forum assisted the board in making its final decision.
“First of all, I think it was helpful that we had a lot of people there and they helped sell the candidates on our district. The community, you know, not everybody was unanimous, but I think we got a lot of constructive comments,” he said. “People had different perceptions of the candidates. Ultimately, we talked quite at length about the comments and the things that we received.”
The search process began last spring after former superintendent Judy Couey abruptly resigned her position, citing her health as the reason for her departure.
The school board enlisted the help of the Mississippi School Board Association for guidance and assistance throughout the process.
Last summer, MSBA hosted several sessions with stakeholders, faculty and staff to find out what qualities the new superintendent should possess.
The school board used those responses to draft a brochure for the job, which asked for a candidate with a doctoral degree, successful data-driven administrative experience and knowledge of fiscal management, among several other qualities. MSBA used the brochure to advertise the position around the country.
The district accepted applications from Sept. 12 to Oct. 31. The search received 23 candidates from eight states, though one withdrew. MSBA handled the first round of interviews and reference checking and compiled an extensive report for the school board.
Based on that report, the school board named five semifinalists — including Holloway, McInnis, Jackson County School District Assistant Superintendent Michael Van Winkle, SSD Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin and Bay St. Louis-Waveland High School Principal Andy Parker — and conducted interviews with those candidates last week.
After those interviews, the pool was narrowed to Holloway, McInnis and Van Winkle, who withdrew on Monday morning without citing a reason. Ultimately, the public forum was the deciding factor that led to hiring Holloway, Coble said.
The school board president said the board members are relieved to come to the conclusion of the search and are happy with the end result.
“For the community, the staff and the board, they’ve been very diligent. We’ve put in some long hours. We’ve gone through some kind of difficult choices to make along the way that we’ve struggled with, but I think we’re very comfortable with where we’re at right now,” Coble said.