By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Following his first meeting with various parent leaders, newly appointed Starkville School District Superintendent Lewis Holloway said he was impressed by how passionate and engaged the district parents are in the public school system.
“It’s heartwarming to see their engagement and commitment to wanting to see the Starkville School District succeed,” he said.
Holloway met with representatives from the PTA, Parents for Public Schools and the Starkville Foundation for Public Education on Thursday afternoon to discuss any concerns the parents had about the school district.
“The whole goal today was to have a dialog ... between Dr. Holloway and parent leaders. It was just really honest conversation. What was nice was we were able to hear his philosophy on what he wants to do, but really, he was listening to us,” former SFPE President Heather Carson said. “I feel very encouraged by his appointment. I think he’s a good fit for Starkville and I think he has the experience to take what we have and elevate us to a new level.”
Some of the main topics of conversation included technology, use of local resources and the need for open communication between district officials and the community.
“I’m assuming that at some point in time, they were frustrated from a lack of communication, and I really don’t know what that is. Not every superintendent is an extrovert and a ringleader,” Holloway said. “They were passionate about education and passionate about the quality of schools that we have here, and what their students were going to be. They cared about being heard about the school district.”
One of the concerns raised by a parent was the lack of communication about both the good and the bad issues within the district. Holloway said that although there may be instances when he cannot legally discuss an issue, he would be as open with the community as possible.
“I thought it was a very frank conversation. I think Dr. Holloway is here trying to listen,” school board President Keith Coble said. “I really do think it’s great that after accepting, he’s been able to come up here and do this. The community is getting a feel for him, and he’s getting a feel for the district. I think that’s really positive. I’m so glad that he offered to come up here this week because he didn’t have to.”
Holloway spent the last few days touring the schools, meeting with district officials and speaking with teachers and administrators. He said he was impressed with the district’s teachers and recognized the strength of the art, drama and music departments.
One of his main focuses as a superintendent will be improving the use of technology within the district, though Holloway said he was pleased he saw teachers using SMART Boards and other devices to engage students.
“I think we need to think about what our long-term technology (uses) are, how we’re going to fund them, what the possibilities are that are out there ... I think there will be questions that every school district is going to face in terms of iPads, iPods and how that relates to the classroom and how they can be used appropriately,” he said. “I think we’re at the cutting edge of technology and I don’t feel bad about where we are because technology is changing so quickly.”
He also said he would like to continue to improve the district’s facilities as the budget allows.
“In my mind as a new person coming in, we have to chart all of this out — what has to be done — and then you have to prioritize it. Then you put price tags to it, and then you look at how you can use your resources to get it,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done here, but we have a lot of time to do that. I feel good that we can positively improve the Starkville School District for kids. That’s not to say that it’s not operating well because there’s some absolutely incredible teachers here.”
The SSD school board will hold a special meeting today at 11:30 a.m. to receive an update from Holloway on his visit. Holloway will return for a second visit in April.