Starkville School District superintendent candidates Walter Gonsoulin and Michael McInnis share a common thread: They each wear many hats in their current position.
Though McInnis is one of two semifinalists with experience running a district, he often oversees the alternative school and aids in federal programs because he doesn’t have assistants. McInnis is in his sixth year as superintendent at Union Public Schools,
Union Public Schools has more than 1,000 students in three schools; Starkville School District has more than 4,000 students.
McInnis, who, along with Gonsoulin, interviewed for the vacant position Tuesday night, said his experience as a superintendent has more luster because he’s worked without delegating tasks.
“It’s the same philosophy and style, just on a bigger level,” McInnis said of possibly moving to a bigger district. “Of course, there are challenges and more to learn, but the thing about being in a small district is the experience that you get.
“It’s been very, very advantageous to me.”
Entering his fifth year as an assistant at Starkville, Gonsoulin has been a cog in the district’s growth and ascension in accountability rating. Currently, the Starkville School District is rated successful.
Gonsoulin is in charge of operations for the district but has been involved in federal programs, budgeting, finances and curriculum. He said he’s gained extensive knowledge from being a part of more decision-making processes.
“Experience is more than the title,” Gonsoulin said.
Gonsoulin said he emphasized to the board his ability to get multiple departments — like federal programs and curriculum — to work together instead of operating in silos. The result, he said, has carried over into student achievement.
“Each department has progressively gotten better each year, which is evidenced by our accountability rating,” he said. “And in terms of child nutrition and transportation … when I first came here, we didn’t have radios, cameras or GPS on the buses. But through grants, we were able to get those things.”
McInnis shares Gonsoulin’s opinion that the district is on a steady track of success. He said Tuesday that the district “has everything in place to be a star district,” the state’s highest accountability rating.
He faced a similar situation when he became superintendent at Union. The district was considered a star school. And to avoid complacency, he set ultra-specific, yet realistic goals, like raising the school average of English scores on the ACT by two points and raising third-grade language arts scores on state tests by 5 percent.
“We took goals to our subgroups, also looking at how our economically disadvantaged kids are doing and what goals needed to be set for them,” McInnis said. “Our challenge was two-fold: How do I keep them at a Level 5 (star school) and also inspire the faculty, staff and community? All of our schools are high performing and we’ve done it by never being satisfied.”
Gonsoulin has done his best to downplay any notion of having an inside track because he’s an in-house candidate. However, he said his relationship with stakeholders and support from faculty and community members is a reflection of how he’s worked to build those relationships.
Bay-Waveland High School Principal Dr. David Andy Parker will interview Thursday to complete the executive session interview rounds. The board hopes to set a list of finalists Friday and finalize plans for the public round of interviews sometime next week.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.