Jefferson County Board of Education Makes History With Appointment of First African American as Interim Superintendent

Posted

 1478974578 
1569255819
Dr. Walter Gonsoulin Jr. was named interim superintendent for JefCoEd on Sept. 18, 2019.

Jefferson County Board of Education

bw-logo-color-2

By Robert Carter

It was a history-making moment for the Jefferson County Board of Education.

The board on Wednesday unanimously selected Dr. Walter Gonsoulin Jr. as interim superintendent, making him the first African American to head the system in its 200 years of existence. Gonsoulin is temporarily replacing the departing Dr. Craig Pouncey.

“I feel humbled and honored to be chosen by the board,” Gonsoulin told reporters after the meeting.

Gonsoulin joined JefCoEd as a deputy superintendent of school and community support in 2017. One of six deputies currently on the JefCoEd staff, he has had oversight over half of the system’s schools. Before that, Gonsoulin served as superintendent of Fairfield City Schools, a job he took in 2012 after moving from an assistant superintendent’s post in Starkville, Mississippi’s city school system. His wife, Jennifer, is a reporter for ABC 33/40 television.

The appointment came during a special meeting of the board, during which Pouncey officially tendered his written resignation. Pouncey is leaving after five years as the head of JefCoEd and has accepted the presidency of Coastal Alabama Community College in Bay Minette.

Gonsoulin was recommended by the Jefferson County School District Administrators Association, according to Dr. Joseph Garner, principal of Hueytown High School.

“When it was announced that Dr. Pouncey was going to resign … we started looking at those with power within the Jefferson County School District with whom there was a trust and a relationship, someone who could work with all stakeholders to provide the best for our young men and young ladies,” Garner said.

The choice of Gonsoulin also was well received with leaders of both the county’s Alabama Education Association delegation and the American Federation of Teachers local, who added that they would like to see Gonsoulin be the permanent replacement.

“I’m very pleased with Dr. Gonsoulin. I really feel he’s going to bring a new personality to the leadership role, and one that we really need,” said Tracee Binion, local UniServ director for the AEA.

Garner echoed that sentiment. “He has the overwhelming support of the administrators’ association,” he said.

Gonsoulin did not rule out applying for the superintendent’s position on a permanent basis.

“We’ll cross that bridge when it comes, but of course (I might), because it provides exactly what the board members talked about in the meeting — a seamless transition,” he said. “It provides unity and cohesiveness. I’m very knowledgeable of all of the initiatives we have going on at this time.”

Gonsoulin will be part of the process that Pouncey began to have the federal desegregation order that has governed JefCoEd since 1971 lifted. Pouncey told the board that motions will be filed in the next few weeks with U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala to make changes in the court order in Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education. Those motions will start the final leg of a process that could give the system “unitary status,” which is the legal finding that JefCoEd is fully desegregated and no longer requires court supervision.

State law stipulates that school boards must announce the process for hiring a replacement within 90 days of the outgoing superintendent’s last day and that the replacement must be hired within 180 days. Pouncey said that laws were changed a few years ago because some school systems would hire interim superintendents who served for two or three years before the permanent position was filled. The opening must also be advertised for 30 days.

Pouncey’s official last day is Thursday, Sept. 26, which is the date of the next JefCoEd regular board meeting.

Changing Climate: In Pursuit of the Disappearing Alabama Oyster. Will They Ever Return?
11-6-2019

Oysters, one of the vital signs of the health of Alabama’s coastal waters, were once a jewel of the state’s economy and a local delicacy. Now, wild oysters from the Mobile Bay area have almost entirely disappeared. With few exceptions, the oysters most of us now enjoy originate elsewhere.

Birmingham Council Chips in on East Lake Grocery Revamp as Part of Battle Against Food Deserts
11-5-2019

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve a slate of economic incentives for one East Lake grocery store, continuing the Woodfin administration’s pledge to work toward eliminating food deserts in the city.

Cloudy Future for Dauphin Island, a Canary in the Coal Mine of Climate Change
11-1-2019

Dauphin is one of perhaps 2,200 barrier islands that make up 10% to 12% of the globe’s coastline. They help absorb the blows of nature and suffer greatly for it, either eroding dramatically from catastrophic hurricane forces or gradually, almost imperceptibly, from constant wave action.

The Partisan Divide Isn’t That Wide Between Alabama’s Two US Senators, Though It Still Is a Canyon Among House Members
11-1-2019

Although they differ on many high-profile issues, Alabama’s two U.S. senators voted together about half the time on key issues during 2019.

Jefferson County Is on the Brink of Shedding Personnel Consent Decree
10-31-2019

U.S. District Court Judge Lynwood Smith wished Tony Petelos a happy Halloween, one in which he would get more treats than tricks.