STARKVILLE — With 14 years of experience as a superintendent under his belt, Tony McGee will begin his first year as superintendent of Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District on July 1.
McGee was formally introduced at SOCSD on Tuesday evening at the Greensboro Center in a press conference and public meet-and-greet.
Board president Wes Gordon, who said the board narrowed the search down to three then eventually one after combing through and vetting 38 applicants, 19 from Mississippi.
Prior to his public debut, McGee and the board came to an agreement for his contract, which currently goes to 2026 with an annual salary of $185,000. Outgoing superintendent Eddie Peasant’s salary is $180,000.
“We decided on his salary which is comparable to his experience and what Peasant makes,” Gordon said. “He’ll also receive usual benefits like insurance and vacation.”
McGee took to the podium to thank the board for the opportunity to lead SOCSD.
“This board really impressed upon me … the care that they have for the staff and faculty here in this school district,” McGee said. “One of the main concerns that they had was that we have a connection from that boardroom to the classroom, that we have good communication from our office down to the classroom and from that classroom back up to the boardroom. We’re building relationships with teachers, and building relationships in the communities so that all families can be included in the school district, and that all families feel like they’re a part of the school district.”
McGee was accompanied by his daughter and her fiance, who are both teachers in the Scott County School District, and his son, who is a fourth year medical student at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. His son’s wife, who was not present but McGee mentioned, is also a teacher.
One of the things McGee is going to work on within the district is teacher relations. He plans on being active in schools and classrooms and hearing firsthand from the teachers their needs.
“The biggest thing I’ve seen with teachers is you’ve got to be out there with them — be in the classrooms, in the hallways and spend time with them,” McGee said. “It’s about building quality relationships with them. I want to be where I can call our teachers by name and them call me by name. I’ve got to spend time in that school building and in those classrooms.”
Another goal McGee said he would like to do to improve relationships with teachers is develop a sharing and decision-making counsel with teachers across the district. The purpose would be to share decisions with teachers but also hear concerns.
For his first year, McGee said he is going to observe administrators before making a decision on changes within the district at the different schools.
“Right now, I do not plan on making any (administrative changes),” McGee said. “I want to get in and find out where our skills and abilities are. I think we’ve got good leaders in the school district. Starkville has done a tremendous job with their schools and their students. The first year I just want to get in, meet our people, find out where we may need to make some tweaks and turns. But early on, we’ll just start school as normal.”
McGee noted that there are currently three schools in the district that are in school improvement based on low Mississippi Department of Education ratings: Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary, Partnership Middle School and Starkville High School.
“We’ve got to get in there and find some target focuses for those students to make sure that every child has a chance to meet that achievement gap, so that will be one of the early things we focus on — addressing any achievement gap needs,” McGee said.
In the same vein, McGee would like to focus on the ratings of each school by first focusing on state test scores, which will be reported to the district in July. McGee has experience with keeping high state ratings in his previous districts. In the Kosciusko School District, he helped maintain an A rating for his seven years as superintendent, and in the Scott County School District, he helped bring the district up from a D to a B rating.
“We’ve got to look at the data, … and one thing we’ve really got to do is break that down and make sure we’re looking at those students that may be scoring in that bottom 25 percent quartile,” McGee said. “We know that for those students it’s crucial that early in the school year we’re giving them interventions and remediations so that we can make sure they stay ahead of that process. If we know that they’re starting school already behind, we’re not paying attention to them and they get further behind, it’s going to be difficult to catch those kids up. Attention to detail and early data breakdown is going to be the key.”