With enthusiasm, hope for the future and humor, Wes Watts, new superintendent of West Baton Rouge Parish Schools, addressed the school system’s teachers and administrators for the first time last Thursday.
Watts, former Zachary High School principal, began by saying he was “a husband of one, and a father of two,”
which was followed with chuckles throughout the room, and went on to thank all those at the district office and West Baton Rouge, in general, for welcoming him and helping with the transition from former superintendent, David Corona, to himself over the past couple of months.
“I’ve fallen in love with the people here,” Watts said.
He continued by saying that education is the most rewarding profession there is, and that without educators, no other occupations would exist. He also said that he believed that teachers are not valued enough as professionals.
Watts began sharing his view for West Baton Rouge Parish Schools by saying that he believes in finding a plan for the district that works and sticking with it.
He said that students need to have time to experience success and teachers need to develop professionally.
“Don’t keep changing things,” Watts said.
He said his philosophy consists of a few simple ideas – First, “It’s people, not programs,” he said, adding that the teachers are the keys to success. Secondly, he said that great teachers “overcome programs, not vice versa,” which lead to his final point, “It’s not what we do, but how we do it,” calling this attitude “service with a smile.”
Watts encouraged teachers to always be positive, be professional, and strive for excellence.
He said that his vision for West Baton Rouge Parish Schools is to become a nationally recognized school system of excellence and said he believed that there is already the foundation in place for that to happen. He told teachers that individually, they could make this vision a reality by continuing to work harder and care more.
He also said that some of his goals for teachers are to raise their expectations for everyone, to focus on character building and make students believe in themselves, and to continue preparing for Common Core, PARCC, or whatever else the state sends their way.
“Whatever happens, we’ll be ready,” he said. “Students will accomplish more than they ever thought possible.”
Watts finished by saying that he is committed to making West Baton Rouge Parish Schools a top 10 district and that it is his hope that one day, other districts come to West Baton Rouge to see what the district is doing right.
“We will be right there with Zachary,” Watts said. “I love them,” he said of his former district, “but I’m going after them.”
Most teachers were in agreement that their new superintendent was very motivating.
“He seemed to be very in touch with the teachers,” said Kelley Stein, Port Allen Elementary second grade teacher and reading interventionist. “ I felt that he recognizes that there are a lot of demands on teachers coming from every direction, but he helped us to focus on just being effective teachers and being passionate about what we do.”
Watts’ last words of encouragement before the school year began were to “Make awesome happen.”