Since Webster Parish Superintendent of Schools Johnny Rowland Jr. took office in July, much has been accomplished, but there are still many things to do.
In just 40 plus days, Rowland has made a positive start in what he said he feels is the right direction. He attributes the unfreezing of teacher salaries to the unanimous vote of the school board and the hard work of central office staff to present a way to make it work.
With the addition of Assistant Superintendent Kevin Washington, Personnel Director Robin Tucker and the two principals at Minden (Becky Wilson) and Doyline (Leroy Hamilton) High Schools, things appear to be moving in the right direction.
“I feel very encouraged and certainly feel good about the direction we’re headed, and I’ve had some very good feedback from our employees about their mindset and general state of well-being,” he said. “I sense a real eagerness in our employees wanting to work together and move our district forward. We have identified our top priority deficiencies and our central office staff and our principals are working hard to address those.”
While many positive things have been happening so far, there are areas that need focus, namely increasing math scores. The Eureka math curriculum has not been implemented in all the schools district-wide, and that will be the focus this year. The curriculum is the one most closely associated with state testing, and he said with this curriculum, state test scores should increase.
“I believe if we follow the curriculum and don’t vary from it, we will see increased scores,” he said. “We recognize there are questions and concerns that our parents have as well as some of our teachers. The first thing we’ve done is the supervisory staff, including myself, have met with the principals to point out what we have been doing, what we’ve not been doing and where we need to head.”
Rowland has video-conferenced with all the math teachers in the parish about the importance of embracing the curriculum and getting comfortable with it. He offered support, training and applicable professional development as needed “to make our teachers and our students as comfortable as they can be as they move through this curriculum,” he said.
In August, he and the principals will attend a Eureka math institute where they will learn how to evaluate and offer proper feedback to the teachers in implementing the curriculum.
“On Sept. 14, we are having an all-day math institute with the leading experts from the state on how to implement and teach on a day-to-day basis Eureka Math,” he said. “We’re providing the support to make the teachers more comfortable in teaching this curriculum.”
He also talked about the construction at The Pit as well as the construction of the two new wings on Webster Jr. High School and J.A. Phillips Middle School. While much has been going on, Roland said they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on the completion of those projects.
The Pit should be complete by the beginning of football season, but a contingency plan is in place in case it doesn’t pan out.
Construction at WJHS and Phillips is moving along, he said, and students should be moving in in the middle of the school year.
“We’ve got a lot going and have done a lot in just a brief period of time,” he said.