By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Following a week of interviews with five semifinalist candidates, the Starkville School District Board of Trustees narrowed the list down to three finalists for the district superintendent position.
The school board voted unanimously for Lewis Holloway, superintendent of Bulloch County, Ga.; Michael McInnis, superintendent of Union City School District; and Michael Van Winkle, assistant superintendent of Jackson County School District as the three finalists.
The board voted on the semifinalists, which also included SSD Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin and Andy Parker, principal of Bay St. Louis-Waveland High School, after the initial interviews wrapped up Thursday.
“We took about two hours (Thursday) ... to discuss the matter and it wasn’t easy,” school board President Keith Coble said. “I think that the candidates did a good enough job that they made our job very difficult.”
The public has the opportunity to meet the finalists for the first time in a forum Monday. During the forum, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Starkville High School Theatre, the finalists will give a brief presentation and will be asked questions submitted by SSD stakeholders.
After the forum, the Starkville Foundation for Public Education, Parents for Public Schools and PTA will sponsor a reception in the SHS library.
Those who attend the forum will have the chance to give the school board feedback on the finalist candidates.
School board members have said public participation in the entire process of the superintendent search was important.
“I think it’s a very important commitment that we made to the community last summer. I think this was really an important step to allow people to see the candidates to see how they perform in terms of their presentations,” Coble said.
The school board will meet as soon as possible after the forum to review the feedback and discuss the finalists. Coble said if the board is able to reach a consensus on the preferred candidate, negotiations would begin as soon as possible, and the process would move on from there.
“My wife and I are very excited,” Van Winkle said. “We look forward to the opportunity to come up on Monday night and meet the community.”
McInnis said he was humbled and excited by the announcement.
“I am very much excited. I’ve heard so many good things about the city of Starkville from the teaching staff, the administration and the students. I’m very excited to meet the community and share my vision of what the Starkville School District could be,” he said.
He has set out the goal of making SSD a star school district but also wants to ensure the students feel safe within the schools.
“We’re here to love these kids, first of all. Some of them come from varied backgrounds and that’s my first concern. Once that gets addressed, we’ll get to the rest,” he said. “That’s the type of district I want to be associated with, and I think that’s the type of superintendent the community wants.”
Holloway was not available for comment Friday.