Zachary High School principal, Wesley Watts, was chosen to be the new leader of WBR schools during the West Baton Rouge School Board meeting Wednesday, June 18.
The board, during the week prior, completed interviews of their top four candidates for the WBR Schools Superintendent position being left by outgoing superintendent David Corona, who will retire July 31.
“Wesley Watts is a fine young man … It’s my hope that he will do an outstanding job here,” said Corona Monday afternoon.
During the meeting, school board members Alden Chustz and Thelma Pattan nominated candidates Watts and Annette Mire, respectively, to become superintendent. Members then wrote on paper which of the two nominees they wanted for the position.
Pattan, along with Leon Goudeau and Dr. Atley Walker voted for Mire while Chustz, Craig Sarradet, Toby Sarradet, Ronald LeBlanc, Jason Manola, Mike Maranto and Teri Bergeron voted for Watts.
Dr. Walker made a motion, which was seconded by Pattan, to adopt a resolution in support of Watts, which the board passed unanimously.
“Early on in this process, I made the comment that I wanted this to be a tough decision for the school board, because I wanted to have good, qualified candidates,” said Manola, school board president. “Well, I can honestly say that it was a tough decision for all of us … We did have four quality candidates, all who, I think, have done an excellent job.”
Manola said that the school system’s attorney will begin paperwork to begin contract negotiations, which will likely be brought back to the school board for approval in their next regularly scheduled meeting, on July 16.
Watts, 45, received his Bachelor’s Degree from McNeese State University in 1992 and Master’s in Educational Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1996.
He began his career as a teacher and coach at Lee High School and then spent 16 years at Central High School as Dean of Students, basketball coach and athletic director before being hired as assistant principal at Zachary High School.
He has been the principal of ZHS since June 2010.
“We just think that (Watts’) leadership skills and his passion is something that all of us recognized in the public meeting and in the meeting that we had with him in executive session during the interview,” Manola said Wednesday evening after the meeting. “He’s very well respected, not only professionally, but as a person in the communities where he’s been.”
Watts, during a phone interview Monday afternoon, said that he was excited to become the new superintendent of West Baton Rouge Parish Schools and looks forward to beginning his tenure.
“Mr. Corona has done a great job. He’s built a good staff around him and a lot of great people are already in place,” said Watts. “I’m not coming into a school system that’s broken, it’s been successful.”
He explained that he is acclimated to building on successes, as Zachary High was a top tier school when he became principal, adding that he was able to help move the school further forward during his principalship.
“I think sometimes it’s harder to take something that’s going well and move that forward,” he said. “So I think that being able to be a part of a really good school and see it continue to grow and improve (is my strong point). Hopefully I can bring that to West Baton Rouge.”
Scott Devillier, Zachary Community School District Superintendent, said that though he will miss Watts’ enthusiasm and leadership at ZHS, he is happy Watts has been given such an opportunity.
“We never get too excited that we’re losing a good quality employee, but I’m excited for Mr. Watts. It’s going to be a challenge for him just like any other job you go into that’s a new adventure,” Devillier said, adding that Watts’ successes bring pride to the Zachary school system. “It makes us feel good that our people are, in a way, being sought after because of the success that we’ve had. When you have high quality people that work for you, they are definitely marketable for the next job that comes open. I wish him the best and I’ll be there to help him any way I can.”
Devillier said that he has worked closely with Watts throughout the past few years (Devillier was ZHS Principal when Watts was hired as ZHS Assistant Principal), saying that Watts constantly looks to bring out the best in people.
“He’s a very genuine person and he is very energetic. He loves kids and enjoys seeing kids succeed,” he said. “When you’re in education, it’s not about your accomplishments as much as it is about the accomplishments of the kids.”
Devillier said that he wishes Watts the best as superintendent of West Baton Rouge Parish Schools and thanked him for his contributions to the Zachary Community School System.
“We’re not excited that we’re losing him, but we’re excited for him as a person,” he said.
Watts said that he appreciated the Zachary community and said that he realized many of the same great qualities as Zachary in West Baton Rouge, which was a great draw for him.
“They have a lot of the same ingredients over there in West Baton Rouge Parish as they have here in Zachary,” he said. “The people work well together and all seem to have pure motives in terms of how to do what’s best for the students and the people of the community. I want to be a part of that.”
He said that though he feels like he is coming into a great situation in West Baton Rouge, there are always improvements that can be made in every school and school district.
“I’d like to bring some enthusiasm, a positive outlook on things and a support - really to support the people that are on the ground level doing the work,” Watts said. “I’ve been on the front lines as a principal … I’ve been living this with all the teachers – the common core, all the other new things, I’ve been living it with our teachers for the last three years.”
Watts said that he is prepared to lead WBR schools to the next level, and plans to do just that.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity. Everybody that I’ve come in contact with (in WBR) has been awesome, and I can’t wait to get to work with them.”