School curriculum takes center stage

Training, accountability discussed by Rowland, Board

The Webster Parish School Board held their monthly meeting Monday evening, with a special meeting of the curriculum committee held beforehand.

The board once again went into executive session to discuss the ongoing litigation regarding alleged promotion of religion in parish schools, though the session was over quickly compared to January’s session on the same topic. As with all executive sessions, no action was taken by the board.

In the committee meeting, Dusty Rowland and Becki Brown informed the school board of several grants the school system had either received or is in the process of applying.

One such grant was a federal Circle Grant in the amount of $120,514, which is the maximum amount that could be awarded for Webster Parish’s size. Part of this grant goes toward the implementation of writing training teachers of sixth-to-eighth-grade students in the parish.

This training, put on by Writing Revolution, begins Feb. 15 and will help instructors learn to better teach writing to students by starting with sentences and building to multiple-paragraph structures, according to Brown. Every ELA, social studies, and science teacher in the parish will receive this training.

Dusty Rowland, who recently took on the role of Curriculum Supervisor for the school system, told the board about one of her first acts in her new position: working toward improving the delivery of the Eureka math curriculum.

“I’ve scheduled meetings in every school to meet with all the math teachers and principals to go over some things,” she said. “The state department did a math audit on how we were teaching the curriculum. I got the data from that audit and I’m sharing that with them to see what we can do to make the presentation and things like that better.”

The principals from five parish schools gave updates on the schools’ improvement efforts, including attendance and certification data as well as the implementation of the math and ELA curricula. Afterward, at Superintendent Johnny Rowland’s behest, the board moved to bring in some outside perspective on the state of the parish schools on these criteria.

“I would like to have representatives from the state department come in and give an objective view of what they’re seeing and not seeing in our schools,” Rowland said. “They’ve done Eureka math audits, they’ve been in our schools, and they’ve looked at our data like we have, inside and out. I think it would be educational for us to hear from them.”

Soon after the actual school board meeting began, Rodney Taylor of Taylor & Sons presented Employee of the Month honors to Stacey Martin, secretary at North Webster Jr. High.

“Ms. Stacy is one of the kindest souls I know,” Taylor read from a statement. “She has come back to school after hours in search of jackets, homework, and phones. She recently went through numerous steps to make sure one of our students had heat in his house. She spends time to invest in students who just need to know someone cares.”

The board approved roughly eight additions and repairs to school facilities. These included a 16-foot double gate at J.L. Jones Elementary School, door locks at Central Elementary School, and a replacement heat exchanger on a boiler at Webster Junior High.
The board also approved several purchases, such as two school buses for over $80,000 each, two maintenance trucks for $26,000 each, and playground equipment for Central Elementary in the amount of $5,450.

In his superintendent’s report, Johnny Rowland informed the board of the recent meeting of the collaboration between school leaders and business leaders that was reported in the Press-Herald last Thursday. The meeting included executives from five local businesses, as well as Rowland, the president of Northwest Louisiana Technical College Earl Meador, and the mayor of Minden.

“We just had open, frank, honest discussion,” Rowland said. “We asked them what they’re seeing in our kids. It was comical when four out of the five [business executives] said, ‘Well, they have to be able to read a tape measure.’

But at the same time it wasn’t comical. We’ve got to bridge the gap and get our kids who may not be going to college teamed up with our local businesses.”

Rowland also answered questions about the status of board member Brandon Edens, who was not in attendance for health reasons.

“Brandon is battling severe health issues at this time,” Rowland said. “It would be inappropriate to say when he will be able to return. What I’d like to say is that he is an outstanding man, an outstanding board member, and we’re all praying for his health at this time.”



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