After a decade at the helm of the West Baton Rouge School System, an emotional David Corona invited newly hired WBR Parish Schools Superintendent Wes Watts to come take his seat during the regular school board meeting July 23.
Corona, who officially retires July 31 after 10 years as superintendent, offered his chair to Watts, explaining that Watts should “get a feel for it,” as he would probably be spending many meetings there.
Watts inked a two-year contract worth $118,000 a year with the school system and will officially take over as Superintendent on Friday, August 1.
Upon Corona’s urging, Watts joined the school board in the superintendent’s designated seat, but not before Corona received a standing ovation from the audience and board members for his years of service.
“I want to thank everybody that works for the school system,” Corona said. “This has been the best 10 professional years of my life.”
Jason Manola, school board president, said that under Corona’s leadership, the West Baton Rouge School System soared.
“I’m not going to sit here and try to recount all the gains that we’ve made under his leadership of the West Baton Rouge parish school board, but I do want to thank him for his leadership,” Manola said. “I also want to thank you on behalf of the children of West Baton Rouge Parish. You’ve done a lot for them, including my two sons. I really appreciate that.”
Manola said that Corona helped bring unity to the board through his management style, and he earned the respect of nearly everyone he encountered.
“I’m not going to say we had a board that was in disarray, because we didn’t,” Manola said. “But under his leadership, this board came together – I’m not saying we agreed on every single thing with David, but we had mutual respect, the Superintendent and the board, that we could professionally disagree and go about our business.”
Manola joked that Corona’s shoes wouldn’t necessarily be difficult to fill, because Corona often didn’t wear shoes, adding that he will certainly be missed.
Corona said that the school board is to be commended for its professionalism throughout his tenure.
“Y’all are noted to be a good professional board, because you don’t get involved in the day-to-day running of the system. I’d like for you all to continue that so that you will have the respect of other communities like you have now,” Corona said. “I’d ask you all to give him (Walls) the same autonomy you gave me.”
In other business, Corona announced that the school board had been awarded a BESE Grant worth more than $200,000 to go toward technology.
“We were one of only five school districts that were awarded this grant. And we were awarded slightly over $200,000,” Corona explained. “With that, we increased our connectivity – we have the best infrastructure available.”
Also included in the grant was help in purchasing Google Chromebooks for each parish middle school student.
“In our grant we wanted to buy 875 Chromebooks for all of our middle school kids, which we did,” Corona said. “Yes, we’re spending some general fund money, but we were going to have to spend it anyway for testing. “We bought 875 Chromebooks and you got them at about a 50 percent discount, that’s about how you can look at it.”
Tammy Seneca, WBR Parish Schools Supervisor of Information Systems and Education Technology, further explained that the grant, called “iAchieve,” is a one-to-one initiative, meaning there should be one Chromebook for every single WBR middle school student this school year.
“The Chromebooks will all be housed at the school, and the kids will move from class to class and all their materials will be stored in “the cloud,” she said. “They will simply log in at each class and each subject.”
Seneca said that because each Chromebooks’ information is stored wirelessly, in “the cloud,” the devices do not have internal memory, therefore the memory comes with the individual log-ins, rather than individual devices.
“That eliminates a lot possible problems we could have with things getting stolen or looking up things online at home where they don’t have a firewall and those kinds of things that we would be responsible for,” explained Seneca.