Public forum introduces top two candidates for Pascagoula-Gautier School District superintendent job

At the meeting, they got to introduce themselves and answer questions in front of an audience of teachers, parents, administrators, and community members.
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 10:25 PM CDT
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Pascagoula-Gautier School District will soon have a new superintendent for the first time in 17 years and the search has been narrowed down to two candidates.

On Monday, the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce held a public forum to give people the opportunity to learn more about the two men: Billy Ellzey, who currently is Kosciusko School District’s superintendent, and Christopher Williams, currently Ocean Springs School District’s assistant superintendent.

The Pascagoula-Gautier School District Board of Trustees has narrowed its nationwide search for...
The Pascagoula-Gautier School District Board of Trustees has narrowed its nationwide search for a new superintendent to two finalists: Billy Ellzey, left, the current Kosciusko School District Superintendent and Dr. Christopher Williams, right, the current Ocean Springs School District Assistant Superintendent.(Kosciusko and Ocean Springs school districts)

“This is a very exciting time,” Williams said. “I am looking forward to engaging with our community tonight and having some great conversation on how we can move the district forward, and to getting input from them to see what direction they like to see the district go.”

The two recipients were chosen last month by the school board. At the meeting, they got to introduce themselves and answer questions in front of an audience that included teachers, parents, administrators, and community members.

“What you are going to hear from me is going to be real,” Ellzey said. “I am just going to tell you where I am and how I feel. You are going to see that I have a passion for education. I have a passion for boys and girls and making sure they are learning, and I have a competitive side that I want to be the very best. Whatever we do, we want to be the best.”

One of the topics that kept getting brought up was English Language Learner students. Jackson County Chamber of Commerce CEO Paige Roberts said the Pascagoula-Gautier district serves a lot of ELL students compared to the districts both recipients are currently serving.

“Just because they do not know English right now does not mean that they have a deficiency somewhere else,” Ellzey said.

“All of those groups have to also show the same academic growth each year, and are we paying attention to those groups,” Williams said.

Another timely topic that was brought up was teachers’ pay.

“We do not want any of our staff to not have tools and resources they need to help our students to be the best that they can be,” Williams stated.

“It is important for us to work together to make sure that we are retaining our teachers that are the good teachers,” Ellzey said.

Other highlights of the meeting included diversity, school regulations, and questions about what makes them suitable for the role.

“You are going to know what is going on. We are going to make sure we are meeting the needs of diversity, meeting the needs of equity,” Ellzey stated.

“I was a high-fiver and I wanted to ensure that every student that walked off the bus and came into that building had what they needed to be successful,” Williams said.

Click here to read the biographies on each of the candidates

The school board makes the ultimate decision, but they are taking stakeholders’ opinions into account. District officials said Monday they expect a decision to be made within the next two weeks. A special called school board meeting is set to take place on Wednesday at 6pm where, according to the agenda, school board members are expected to go into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.

The vacancy comes as Wayne Rodolfich retires from the position after 17 years as superintendent and an additional six years in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District.

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