A Teche Area native is making history in Alabama where he was chosen last week as the first black superintendent of the Jefferson County School District in Alabama.
Walter Gonsoulin Jr. was appointed as the interim superintendent, replacing outgoing Superintendent Craig Pouncey.
Jefferson County was at the heart of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The Rev. Martin Luther King singled out Birmingham as the single most segregated city in the country. It was the scene of protests and violence, most notably the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing which left four African-American girls dead in September of 1963.
When he was appointed Wednesday, Gonsoulin became the first black superintendent in the district’s 200-year history. He will inherit a district that is attempting to come out from under the desegregation consent decree it has operated under since 1971.
“I feel humbled and honored to be chosen by the board,” Gonsoulin said after his selection to the interim position.
Gonsoulin began his education career in 1991 as a sixth-grade teacher in New Iberia. In 1994, he taught fifth grade in St. Martinville and served as a physical education instructor before beginning his administrative career in education as a middle school assistant principal and later junior high principal.
From there, he moved into secondary education, serving as an adjunct professor and later a professor at Southern University’s School of Finance.
He then moved to Jackson, Mississippi, serving as an assistant director of Millsaps Career and Technology Department for the Starkville School District.
He returned to Louisiana to serve six years as a consultant in diversity training for Louisiana Parish School Districts. During those six years, he was also assistant professor for diversity, classroom management, and curriculum and instruction at UL Lafayette. He left Louisiana again, this time for Alabama, to serve as superintendent of Fairfield City Schools.
“I have always admired his work as a fellow superintendent in Fairfield City Schools and will seek his leadership ideas to move Jefferson County Schools forward to make a difference for our students,” Pouncey said in 2017, when Gonsoulin was hired in Birmingham as an assistant superintendent.
Pouncey’s official last day is Thursday.