Pascagoula — On August 1, Dr. Hank M. Bounds will become the state superintendent of education after serving as superintendent of the Pascagoula School District for four years. Before that, the Hattiesburg native was principal of Pascagoula, Lumberton and Forrest County high schools. He also taught at Petal and Moss Point high schools.
During his time as superintendent of the 7,500-student Pascagoula district, test scores improved at every school in the district. He designed and implemented a leadership/school improvement model that provided the impetus for both high schools in the district to be nominated as National Blue Ribbon Schools in 2005.
Bounds, 38, started a Kindergarten Induction Program for parents and students, created a Center for Teaching and Learning and developed a New Teacher, Experienced Teacher and Administrator Academy. He was responsible for numerous other innovative programs including a strategic planning process that involved more than 300 community members.
He stressed his belief in reading through the implementation of an individualized student reading program that gained national recognition. Students in kindergarten through eighth grade read an average of 100 books each per year. They were rewarded with prizes and a community-wide celebration attended by 10,000 people. Bounds was honored with the Reading Renaissance Award for the most improvement in reading nationally as measured by Accelerated Reader in 2003.
This educator has received many other honors including Alumnus of the Year for the School of Education at the University of Mississippi in 2003 and the Distinguished Leadership Award for the School of Health and Human Performance at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1991.
He and his wife, Susan (also an educator), will be relocating to Jackson with their son, William, and daughter, Caroline.
As he prepares to lead the state’s 500,000 students involved in public education in kindergarten through 12th grade, Bounds answered questions for the Mississippi Business Journal.
MBJ: How do you feel about becoming the state superintendent of education?
HB: I’m very excited and humbled by the opportunity and appreciative to the state board for the confidence they showed in me. I understand there were 30 to 40 applications.
MBJ: Was becoming state superintendent your goal?
HB: No, it was not a goal. I really enjoyed being a high school principal and thought I would be one for a long time, but the opportunity came to be superintendent of the Pascagoula School District and I accepted. Then this opportunity came along, and I certainly look forward to serving.
MBJ: What is your philosophy of education?
HB: The single most important issue in terms of accountability for student learning is the quality of the teachers in the classroom. The state must utilize every resource to help teachers improve every day.
Leadership is important, too. Principals and leaders must understand the teaching process. They should understand that they are motivators and know how to bring the stakeholders together for education.
MBJ: What are your objectives as state superintendent of education?
HB: To have an accountability system in Mississippi. Dr. Johnson and the staff are to be commended for putting the system in place. Now the department must focus on helping schools be successful with those models.
We will focus on ensuring that the curriculum has the appropriate level of rigor; that teaching and learning are appropriate; and help ensure that we have a high level of leadership.
MBJ: How do you feel about the No Child Left Behind model?
HB: I support and believe in the major levels of No Child Left Behind. Overall it’s a very good law. I think about the name and what it means. As an educator, isn’t that what we should strive to make happen? But, I have some issues with it and will work to make it better.
MBJ: What do you see as the biggest problem with public education in Mississippi?
HB: We have several issues — there’s a shortage of teachers and administrators, and the funding base has been quite contentious for the last couple of years. We all must come together to make sure teachers have the resources to accelerate learning for all boys and girls in Mississippi.
We must improve the curriculum, the rigor in our assessments, the quality of teaching and of leadership. We have a broad spectrum of issues.
MBJ: Do you take something from your tenure in Pascagoula that you will implement statewide?
HB: I sought community support and involvement in Pascagoula. I will work to engage the business community and general public in education. We have tremendous possibilities and opportunity to change the face of things.
Mississippi is near the bottom in many areas of education, but we are near the top in the rate that test scores are improving. They’re improving at a rate higher than in most states, and we must continue that upward trend. We can do special things and bring positive attention to the state.
MBJ: You gave reading programs a big boost in Pascagoula. Will you do the same as state superintendent?
HB: Reading will definitely be a focus of mine. I believe in the saying that the first three years in school you learn to read and the rest of your education you read to learn. We must have reading specialists in the state. I am building and looking at what is already in place. I’m looking at test scores and want to fill in the gaps.
MBJ: What do you hope to accomplish as state superintendent?
HB: We must ask, what can we do to ensure that students come out of school with everything they need to be successful? Then we have to make sure we can do it.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.