Superintendents hope for consistency in next leader

TUPELO – Northeast Mississippi superintendents offered mixed reactions to Tuesday’s announcement that state Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds will likely become the next commissioner of higher education.
“I understand why he would be interested in the job and I understand why they would be interested in him,” said Harvey Brooks, superintendent of the Baldwyn School District. “But every time we have a change of state superintendents, we have a change in the direction of where we’re going.”
Brooks was referring to the state’s new accountability system, which has more rigorous tests and whose goal is to put Mississippi students on par at the national level.
Bounds has touted the change as “victorious” for students “because we finally have a curriculum in place that has a level of expectation that is at the same place in every other state in the nation.”
That’s all well and good, but without Bounds’ leadership, Lee County Superintendent of Education Mike Scott is concerned.
“I’m happy for Dr. Bounds, but I also would like to see some continuity in K-12,” Scott said. “I think he was doing a really good job and had the state headed in a really good direction.”
“I hate to see him go from K-12,” said Charles Garrett, superintendent of the New Albany School District. “He’s been a courageous state superintendent … I hope whoever succeeds him keeps the same direction.”
In the search for Bounds’ successor, the state Board of Education wants to stay on the course of improvement that Bounds helped to set, said Claude Hartley, past chairman of the board.
“We have developed a strategic plan with his help that will continue,” Hartley said, noting that Bounds “has raised expectations.”
The board’s strategic plan outlines values and goals, such as reaching national averages on standardized tests, having all students reading on grade level by the end of third grade and reducing high school dropouts.
“We’re on the right course,” Hartley said. “The strategic plan will keep us on the right course.”
Meanwhile, Bounds meets the approval of those in higher education.
“I have the greatest professional and personal respect for Hank Bounds,” said Tom Burnham, dean of the School of Education at the University of Mississippi.
Added Richard Blackbourn, dean of education at Mississippi State University: “Knowing Dr. Bounds, he will be very successful in this position,”
He noted that since Bounds already has guided a state agency, he has relationships with state officials and legislators that will serve him well in his new role.
“He understands a lot of the players,” Blackbourn said.

Contact Michaela Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com. Contact Ginny Miller at (662) 678-1582 or ginny.miller@djournal.com.

Ginny Miller and Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal