Biloxi makes progress on search for new schools superintendent

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi Public Schools should have a new superintendent in place by the end of June, according to School Board President Kenny Holloway. The Biloxi School Board hopes to interview the top five candidates within the next couple of weeks, after state-mandated background checks are completed.

The board chose the top five candidates in the past two weeks, after reviewing interviews and information on a list of 20 nominees submitted by the Mississippi School Boards Association, a statewide group that has helped dozens of school districts identify and recruit qualified administrators.

The new superintendent would replace longtime Biloxi educator Dr. Paul A. Tisdale, who plans to retire this summer.

"What we'd like to do is have the new superintendent in place before Paul leaves," Holloway said. "But we're not going to rush just to meet a timeline. We want to make sure we find the person who is best for the position."

Holloway said the board hoped to begin interviews within the next week, "but the challenge we're running into is that these folks are trying to wrap up their school year, and they have graduations to attend through the weekend. So timing will hinge on a lot of things."

Holloway did not identify the candidates, but said an announcement would be made at an appropriate time.

"We have gone to great lengths to make sure we received good input from the public, from teachers and from administrators on the qualities they want to see in the new superintendent," Holloway said. "We're using that input to help us make the right choice."

The search for a new superintendent was prompted by Tisdale's Nov. 22 announcement that he would be retiring at the end of the current school year.

Two months later, in January, after interviewing several firms, the school board chose the Mississippi School Boards Association to help solicit, screen and interview qualified candidates for the position, and in February, the association met with teachers, administrators and the public about the search.

The association, which routinely helps districts identify and recruit top educators, then sent information about the position to a database of nearly 500 individuals in a network that included superintendents throughout Mississippi, University Education Administrator Programs and school boards association executives in other states.

Additionally, the position was advertised with such national groups as the American Association of School Administrators, Education Week and the National Alliance of Black School Educators.

"From the outset, we realized that it was important to get good input from the community, and our teachers and administrators about the qualities they wanted to see in their new superintendent," Holloway said. "The state association also brought a wealth of experience in conducting a search like this. They have contacts on the state, regional and national levels, and that provided us with an excellent start. Now, it's our obligation to take all of the input into account and make the best decision for the people of Biloxi."

Holloway also noted that the new superintendent would be stepping into a school district that has seen its share of challenges and successes. Three Biloxi schools have been nominated for national Blue Ribbon awards in the past five years. At the same time, the district's post-Katrina student enrollment -- still down 22 percent overall since Katrina and 45 percent off in east Biloxi -- and significant cuts in state and federal funding have led to the closure of four schools.

"This school district, not unlike the city itself, has had to deal with its share of challenges, but, the fact is, our teachers and students are continuing to set a standard of achievement that is being recognized nationally, and we're accomplishing this while dealing with budget cuts that were made even more drastic because of our reduced enrollment," Holloway said.

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