West Baton Rouge Schools Superintendent David Corona gave his state of the parish schools address during the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce’s last regular monthly meeting of the year at the Addis Community Center on November 28.
Corona praised the school board for their work throughout the year, saying that they have been an integral part of the West Baton Rouge school system’s success, especially in the 2011-2012 school year, in which the system was upgraded to a letter grade of B.
“The board is comprised of people who are passionate about what they do and what they believe in,” he said adding that the board sets policy and allows he and his administration team to run the system. “They avoid getting into micro managing. That’s huge, and it doesn’t happen often. It’s so big for the success that we’ve had.”
Corona told Chamber members about the growth in schools that the parish has encountered over the past few years and what is being planned for the future.
He said that in the beginning of 2010, the school board hired a demographer, who reported to them facts about what to expect in terms of growth in upcoming years.
“It showed that we would have very modest increases in our school population for the next five years,” he explained. “That’s been accurate.”
He said that the demographer suggested that the board use the five-year period of modest growth to plan for the future – a suggestion the board took into account.
In November of this year, the board authorized selected architects to move forward with the process that leads to a classroom addition to Brusly Elementary School.
He said that the BES extension is scheduled to be available for use in August 2014.
He said that the addition will allow the school system to have an array of options at other facilities throughout the parish, as Brusly Elementary currently has four double-classroom modular buildings, which can be moved once a permanent extension to the BES building is completed.
“That allows us to move those four double-classroom modular building to other facilities that will give us more space at other facilities to buy us time until we get down the road until we get to a major building project years from now,” Corona said.
Corona said that the school board was able to save enough money “through being fiscally responsible to pay for this addition without going to the public. That’s an accomplishment.”
Corona told the Chamber members that the school system has had incredible academic success over the last five years, steadily climbing each year from a baseline district performance score of 81.1 in 2007 to 105.5 this year.
“This is the impetus for a better way of life for all of the citizens of West Baton Rouge Parish. That’s why the Chamber is so interested in it. That’s why we’re so interested in it,” he said. “That’s why everybody that lives here is interested in it.”
He said that the parish’s schools had school performance scores in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s in 2007. In the 2011-2012 school year, WBR schools’ performance scores were in the 80s, 90s, 100s and above 100.
“There’s not any school that is below the average back [in 2007] – every school is above the average of 2007,” Corona stressed. “That is what’s important here, is that we’ve had continuous good growth school-by-school.”
He said that each school has shown significant academic growth in a five-year span.
“You would expect your business, in a five-year trend, to be doing better than you were five years ago based on the dynamics in the work,” he explained. “With schools, we expect this kind of improvement.”
During his address, Corona also pointed toward the future of WBR education as it pertains to Common Core Standards, and the changes being made in performance scores, especially in High Schools.
“We’re in for a big transition into what kids must know,” he said. “Kids are going to have to communicate well in writing, in speaking, in the ability to read and comprehend, to organize their thoughts so that they can take a position on a matter and be able to substantiate their position with fact. That’s a huge change.”
He said the type of learning that students must have now, and will have in the future, is not solely based on facts, but also on how well the student can think, rationalize and take a certain position on his/her understanding on the subject.
“What we will need to know now is how to take stuff from two or three paragraphs, organize it in a fashion so that we can solve a problem. We hated the word problem, because it made us think, but everything now will involve thinking, rationalizing, and taking the position,” Corona said. “In 2012 we are seeing much better results than we were seeing in 2007. I believe that in 2017, you’re going to continue to see better results than we have seen in 2012.”