I had the pleasure of meeting Webster Parish Superintendent of Schools Johnny Rowland this week at the Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors meeting. I say, “Meet,” with reference his new role leading our schools. Rowland and I have crossed paths many times before.

Back in the 90s, I was Sports Editor of the Press-Herald, among other things. At that time, Roland was girls basketball coach at Glenbrook School. I would cover the games, shoot photos, and write stories. I got paid to go to sporting events — probably the best job a 20-something male could ever want.

In the darkness of Glenbrook’s “old gym” I’d try to get a decent action photo during the game. During the timeouts, I’d try to get a photo of then-Coach Rowland talking with his team. It was during these times I discovered something that would define him to this day — passion.

There weren’t many timeouts where Rowland wasn’t passionately coaching his team. It was never demeaning or belligerent, but there was no doubt what he wanted — for his team to live up to, and exceed its potential.

That passion was on display this week as Rowland addressed the Chamber. It was also on display as he accepted the position nearly two weeks ago. “I consider it an honor and privilege to serve our wonderful students and employees in this new capacity,” he said. “I am proud to call Webster Parish my home and I am equally proud to be a product and long-standing employee of the Webster Parish school system. I look forward to working with all employees and board members as we strive to maintain fiscal responsibility, pursue significant gains in student achievement, and improve culture and climate within our district, and more specifically, within our schools.”

That passion will go a long way to improving our schools — and telling our story to others. Rowland’s ability to cast vision can inspire all to greatness. If followed up with accountability and tenacity, we all will be the better for it.

In economic development, one of the first questions asked by prospective industries and their leadership is, “How are the schools?” The quality of education and
economic growth go hand-in-hand.

We have a superintendent that knows this, but also understands the current strengths and challenges in the Webster Parish School System — and he still wanted the job. Last week, he told the Press-Herald about his commitment to this school system.

“The whole experience has been humbling,” Rowland said. “I think because I’m from here in Webster Parish, a 1986 graduate of Sibley High School, and because I’ve spent the majority of my professional career in this school system, it makes this more than just a job. It’s a very personal endeavor.”

I believe someone like Rowland is exactly what our students, teachers, and other employees in the Webster Parish School system need. Given time, resources, and support, our schools can be the envy of the state, and even the region. However, it will be no easy task, and there will be those resistant to change — there always are. However, the vision and mission must take priority over preferences.

We’ll be praying for Superintendent Rowland, and our schools. May God bless them as we all move forward.

David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers, Inc. He may be reached via email at dspecht@press-herald.com.