Skip To Main Content

Main Header

Aside Header

Ocean Springs School District

Utility Menu Toggle


Mobile Toggle


Dr. Jennifer Pope Named OSSD Interim Superintendent

Dr. Jennifer Pope Named OSSD Interim Superintendent


OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss (OSSD) -- The OSSD Board of Trustees met for a special called board meeting on Friday to approve the recommendation of Dr. Jennifer Pope, current Oak Park Principal, as OSSD’s Interim Superintendent, effective Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023.

Dr. Pope will step in for the retiring Dr. Bonita Coleman, who is set to step down on Tuesday to pursue other career opportunities. While Dr. Pope serves as Interim Superintendent through June 30th, Oak Park Elementary Assistant Principal, Dr. Stewart Smirthwaite, will serve as Interim Principal of OPES. Pope and Smirthwaite will return to their respective positions when OSSD’s next Superintendent takes office on July 1st. 

“The board of trustees, along with the district, would like to thank Dr. Coleman for her exemplary service to OSSD the past 10 years,” said Dr. Vickie Tiblier, Board President. “We wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors.” 

In an effort to maintain an unbiased and fair superintendent search, Tiblier also said when determining who would fill the Interim Superintendent role, the BOT were looking for someone who could provide necessary leadership to the district, but was not a candidate to be OSSD’s next Superintendent.

Dr. Pope began her career in education in 1991 and joined Greyhound Nation as a teacher at Oak Park Elementary in 1998. In 2004, Pope was named Lead Teacher at OPES, and in 2008, was named Assistant Principal. Pope moved into her current position as Principal of OPES in 2011 and has since earned OSSD’s Administrator of the Year Award three times, winning in 2013, 2020, & 2023. Outside of OSSD, Dr. Pope enjoys spending time with her family, including her children and two grandchildren, as well as going fishing and boating.

Dr. Smirthwaite steps into the Interim Principal role of Oak Park Elementary during his second stint serving OSSD. Smirthwaite joined the Oak Park family in 2007 after moving to Ocean Springs from Georgia. During his six years, he served as both a teacher and Interim Assistant Principal. Smirthwaite worked as a Behavior Specialist and Assistant Principal in other coast districts before returning to OPES as Assistant Principal in October. 

The search process for OSSD’s next Superintendent will continue on schedule, with the position being officially posted earlier this month. Applications are currently being submitted for the position. Next, HYA, the search firm hired by the OSSD BOT, will begin screening and conducting research on the interested applicants, which will then be presented to the BOT in early April. The OSSD BOT plans to have a new Superintendent start on July 1, 2023.

For more information and updates regarding the search process, please visit our website