Webster school leaders visit neighboring district to see what is working

Rodney Taylor, right, of Taylor & Sons congratulates Webster Parish Schools Employee of the Month Tonya Harris, a third grade teacher at Brown Upper Elementary School.

As a part of ongoing efforts to improve the quality of education in Webster Parish, officials from the Webster Parish School Board Central Office decided to see what is working in other school districts.

Superintendent Johnny Rowland told the Webster Parish School Board Monday night they didn’t have to look very far. “We thought we would select a neighboring district that is much like us in demographics, size, population that had really done well,” Rowland said.

Officials found the criteria they sought in DeSoto Parish Schools, south of Shreveport.

“In 2010, they were 45th in the state. In 2016, they were 14th,” Rowland said. “That’s rapid growth in a short period of time. And, now they are an ‘A’ district.”

Rowland made contact with Dr. Cade Brumley and a visit was scheduled. Approximately eight members of the Webster Parish Schools made the trip to North DeSoto Middle School.

“What I can tell you from that visit is there is no magic formula,” Rowland said. “You’ve got to set clear, precise goals and standards. You’ve got to establish high expectations of what you want out of your people. You’ve got to constantly, constantly, monitor what you are doing. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.”

Upon returning to Webster Parish, Rowland and others in leadership have been implementing what they learned. “We have been sending that message out to our principals and our teachers every chance we get,” Rowland said. “(During) the first four weeks of school, from the observations I’m seeing and the reports that I’m getting, that message has been well received.”

Beginning at the top, Rowland said, his supervisory staff has heeded the call. “I have challenged them to be out in the schools and to be visible. And, they are doing that,’ he said. “It makes a difference.”

Rowland rolled out the district’s goals and reported that progress was being made, even this early in the school year.

“This supervisory staff has spent untold hours already this school year meeting, and talking, and coming up with action plans of what we can do to help our teachers and principals grow,” Rowland said. “We’ve got supervisors that have been in all 15 schools this year, already.”

One of the district’s goals is to improve the climate at culture at the schools. “Climate and culture go hand in hand with what you are teaching,” he said. “Where teachers want to work; where students want to be — it’s critical.”

From what he’s seen, Rowland said progress is being made. Specifically mentioning a trip to Webster Junior HIgh School. Rowland said, “I was blown away by the things I am seeing about attitudes and the things in place to improve the culture and climate in our schools.”

According to Rowland, the future is bright for Webster Parish Schools. “There is no doubt that we have the potential here in Webster Parish to show tremendous growth in this district,” he said.

“I feel good about what I have seen so far.”

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