June 3, 2009
JACKSON -- The state college board has selected a fast-rising administrator who was a city school superintendent just four years ago to oversee Mississippi''s higher education system, and it named a medical doctor who specializes in high blood pressure to lead the University of Mississippi.
State Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds is the board''s pick to be Mississippi''s new higher education commissioner. Ole Miss medical school chief Dan Jones has been tapped to be the university''s next chancellor.
The state Board of Institutions of Higher Learning announced their selections Tuesday after interviewing several candidates in recent weeks for the jobs.
The 12-member IHL board did well in picking Bounds and Jones, said Gov. Haley Barbour.
"Each has made a real difference in his current position. I know they will continue with the same high level of successful public service in their new positions," Barbour said in a statement issued by his office.
Bounds and Jones will go through a series of public-feedback sessions with various constituency groups in two weeks before the IHL board decides whether to confirm their appointments.
Jones'' public meetings will be June 15 at Ole Miss Oxford campus. Bounds will meet with higher education constituents June 17 at the IHL board office in Jackson.
Jones is to replace Robert Khayat, who''s retiring at the end of June after serving as Ole Miss chancellor since 1995.
Bounds is to replace Aubrey Lucas, who''s been interim commissioner of higher education since Tom Meredith resigned under pressure in October amid a scandal over the planting of magnolia trees at taxpayers'' expense in his yard.
Bounds -- whose school leadership career has been only in elementary and secondary education -- and Jones - considered one of America''s foremost hypertension physicians -- may seem incongruous appointees to lead institutions of higher learning. But they have the "core leadership qualities" needed for the two posts, said IHL board member Amy Whitten.
"We''re really fortunate to have identified two of those people at the same time," she said.
Bounds has since 2005 been in charge of administering the laws and policies that govern Mississippi''s 149 school districts. A former high school principal who had been Pascagoula''s school superintendent since 2001, he was elevated at the age of 37 to the state post by the Mississippi Board of Education.
Since then, said IHL board member Ed Blakeslee, Bounds'' dynamic leadership has "changed the landscape of education" with initiatives that include decreasing the state''s dropout rate and implementing a new, more rigorous curriculum and assessment program.
"His track record in K through 12 as a principal and school superintendent is simply outstanding," Blakeslee said. "What he brings to us is vision and the ability to motivate."
A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and Ole Miss, the 41-year-old Bounds is to become the chief executive overseeing the state''s eight universities for the IHL board.
"While it is difficult to think about leaving my position as state superintendent, the possibilities of this new role are exciting," Bounds said in a statement he issued Tuesday.
"Overseeing our school districts for the past four years has only further confirmed my long-standing belief that no matter what the question is, education is the answer. Joining the institutions of higher learning community would provide an opportunity to build on my K-12 experience, push a P-16 (preschool-through-college) mentality and move our state forward by providing more opportunities in education for all Mississippians."
The state higher education commissioner''s annual salary is $341,250. Mississippi''s eight universities have about 71,200 students.