By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Newly appointed Starkville School District Superintendent Lewis Holloway briefly outlined some of the areas of improvement he saw in the district during his first official visit during a special school board meeting Friday morning.
Holloway spent the last few days meeting with district officials, teachers and community members to discuss the next steps for the district. Among the priorities the new superintendent listed were updated technology, facilities improvements and policy issues.
Though he was worried about finding the resources to make the necessary improvements, after working with district Comptroller Rob Logan, Holloway said he believes the district could raise up to $7 million for projects.
“It makes me feel good that there are some possibilities for things we could do, and I think there is a possibility of realignment of some resources,” he said.
Holloway said he would like to get SMART Boards and other technology in every classroom to help teachers provide engaging lessons, though he was pleased with some of the technology already present in the district.
His current school district in Georgia purchases computers and other technology items, like iPods, for teachers and then slowly deducts the cost of those items from their paychecks. The program is just one of several his district uses to keep teachers up-to-date on technology.
“I think it’s a very positive thing for the staff because they feel like the district is trying to help them,” Holloway said. “I’m not coming in with a plan — there are some things that we might have to consider, we might have to adapt, to change in some way.”
Busing and transportation was also one of his priorities. Holloway and Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin are looking into the possibility of leasing some buses to help update the fleet.
“When I see these buses driving around town, I’m thinking that you must have a great maintenance staff to keep those buses going,” Holloway said.
The new superintendent said he would also like to explore making changes to the staffing policy. If a school needs to add a new staff member, a principal has to go to the superintendent for approval. Holloway said he would like to see the policy change to a more mathematical approach to prevent favoritism.
“I’ve found that X-number of students means you get X-number of teachers, and you get a guidance counselor, you get an assistant principal load, so it’s all very mathematical. That way, all the staff know how the schools are staffed and it’s all fair. There are no favorites,” Holloway said.
Holloway has pledged to spend the first 100 days of his employment observing how things work within the district before implementing any significant changes, but he’s eager to get started.
Holloway will be back in the district during the first week of April. That visit will focus less on meetings and more on getting the work started, Holloway said.
His contract officially begins on July 1, but Holloway said he would like to move to Starkville and get started by early to mid-June.
Among the strengths he witnessed within the district, Holloway highlighted the work going on within Starkville High School’s White House, where the art department is located.
“It was probably the greatest example of multidisciplinary education I’ve ever seen. You had art; you had music; you had woodworking; and you had kids that were engaged that were music students, art students, athletes,” he said. “All throughout the district, I think the theme that needs to get out is the strength of your art, your drama and your extracurriculars.”
Holloway said it was clear that the whole community was strongly in support of the school district, from the local government to the parents, which he described as the most passionate he’s ever met.
“The resounding theme from (the parents) was that the district was communicating to them. I don’t know if that’s the perception or the reality,” he said. “They want to be heard, and there needs to be some sort of vehicle there to show that we are listening to what they have to say.”