Every day, new PGSD superintendent Billy Ellzey can be found visiting the 19 schools which make up the Pascagoula-Gautier School District – seeing parents as they drop off their children, eating lunch in the cafeteria with students and teachers and checking in with principals to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Building those relationships – with teachers, administrators, parents and students – is important to Ellzey. For the past two months, Ellzey has been busy doing just that – getting to know the faculty, staff, families and residents – immersing himself in the community by visiting schools, enjoying ball games, dining at local restaurants and attending church services.
Ellzey said building those relationships creates a “strong culture where everyone works together to provide an outstanding education for all students who are recognized as individuals, and are given opportunities to reach their full potential and be successful.”
In having the opportunity to meet the employees who make up the PGSD, Ellzey said he has seen firsthand that the district is thriving with great people who truly care about children and want to help them build a future.
“We have an amazing, diverse student population who are eager to learn and reach new heights,” he said. “Our communities are very supportive of our schools and want the very best for our students and staff. We have strong traditions already in place for providing an excellent education for all students, and we want to build upon that foundation for an even better future for our children.”
With a solid foundation in place at the elementary level, Ellzey said he wants to provide even more opportunities for students at the middle school and high school levels through academic houses where students can gain experience in the field of their choice.
“We want to provide even more unique opportunities for internships and extracurricular experiences so every student can be successful,” he said. “We want to have a culture where students leave our schools asking ‘where am I going next’ not ‘if I am going somewhere.’ They will have a clear understanding of where their interests are so they can pursue their passion once they graduate from high school.”
Ellzey said his own decision to go into the field of education was inspired by his coach.
“I knew I wanted to coach because I was inspired by my high school basketball coach,” he said. “Once I got into the classroom, I developed a love for teaching and seeing students have that ‘aha’ moment when they figured out a tough problem or saw the evidence in an experiment.”
Ellzey received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis in education from the University of Southern Mississippi, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northwestern State University, and a specialist degree in educational leadership from William Carey University where he is currently working on his doctoral degree.
He began his educational career in 1996-97 as a chemistry and physics teacher and also served as an assistant football coach, basketball coach and softball coach in his career before making the leap into the administrative side as assistant principal at South Jones Middle/High School and then principal at Purvis High School. He served as superintendent at Forest County Agricultural High School from 2015-2017 and superintendent in the Kosciusko School District from 2017 to 2022 before coming to the PGSD.
An avid fisherman, Ellzey, said he has always wanted to live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with its abundance of beauty and resources and the diversity of people who live here.
“This is an area where we have great family values, and we can be progressive in preparing our children for their future. This brings about the best opportunities to enrich our students’ lives for a bright future,” he said.
In addition to fishing, playing golf, and attending sporting and music events, Ellzey spends his vacations hiking in the West and has visited more than a dozen national parks across the United States, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, the Grand Canyon, Glacier, Zion, Arches and Olympic, and is always looking for new and interesting places to visit.
As if those journeys weren’t enough, some of his more adventurous pursuits have taken him into the skies – skydiving twice – once over Las Vegas with his son, Ben, to celebrate his 18th birthday, and once in Mississippi as a tribute to his dad on the anniversary of his death. He has also hiked rim to rim across the Grand Canyon.
In his role as an educator, Ellzey said he has seen many changes in the world of education. “The biggest challenges are the increasing pressures on educators to meet the demands of parents while also filling the needs of students whose parents are not available,” he said. “The stress of reaching the needs of all students has increased more and more as we try to prepare them for the many different opportunities they have in the world.”
As he settles into his role as PGSD superintendent, Ellzey said he values every member of the PGSD team. “I want ideas shared freely and openly because I love seeing students and educators succeed. The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing our students go on to great success in their careers. I especially love seeing those who come back to our schools to teach and lead our children. I love seeing our staff grow and become leaders, both in our district and our community.”
Ellzey said his favorite quote is one from Sir Winston Churchill: “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”
“I have found that serving my community and schools has made for the most rewarding career I could have ever imagined,” he said. “I look forward to working with everyone in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District to make a difference in the lives of all of our children.”