After more than a week of parish schools being in session, as schools officially began in West Baton Rouge on August 12, WBR Superintendent of Schools David Corona said that the school year began without a hitch.
“The first week of school went very well in my opinion. The buses ran well; teachers were all on board,” he said. “Things went really well for the first week,”
As the summer brought about many changes in school leadership, including the activation of three new principals in Port Allen schools, Corona said that he is excited about the great start of the year, saying that he hopes it’s a testament to what the rest of the year will be like.
We’re prepared every year to begin the school year, but this year with the shift to common core state standards, required a different type of preparation,” he said. “We’re off to a very good start.”
Corona also said that many teachers and school staff attended staff and professional development courses throughout the summer.
“We’ve done a lot of preparation, a lot more than most, in supporting our teachers in preparing to make that shift to common core standards,” he said. “I feel really good about where we are.”
During the summer, former Devall Middle School principal James Jackson was named the new principal of Port Allen High School after Warren LeJeune moved into a new position with the school system. Jackson’s departure from Devall left a vacancy which was filled by Laree Taylor.
Late in the summer, former Port Allen Middle School principal Jonathon Szymanski returned to his alma mater, Brazos High School, in Texas to become their newest principal, leaving a void at PAMS which was temporarily filled by John Arrasmith.
Jackson said that he is getting acclimated to his new role of high school principal, and that after the first week of classes he said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the school year. I hope it just continues that momentum that we started.”
He said that over the summer the school was completely remodeled, with newly painted classrooms and halls, new ceiling tiles and fixed/replaced light fixtures throughout the facility.
“The kids noticed it. When they came into the building you could tell just by the look on their faces that and the things that they were saying that they noticed the changes,” Jackson said Monday afternoon during a telephone interview.
“So they see we’re taking pride in the place and hopefully they’ll do the same and that will reflect in the student achievement moving forward.”
He said that he expects students to excel in what he called a newly established culture.
“We made it very clear to the students that we have very, very high expectations for them moving forward.”
Taylor said that students’ first week back at Devall, like PAHS, went very smoothly.
“I think that the first week of school here at Devall went exceptionally well,” she said. “I’ve found the students to be absolutely cooperative and so eager to begin a new school year.”
She said she was delighted to be able to celebrate 100 percent of students’ good behavior after the first week with a “Fun Friday.”
Taylor comes to Devall from West Feliciana Parish, where she was the school system’s curriculum coordinator. Before that she spent 20 years teaching high school English. She was also a high school administrator.
“When I went looking for a new challenge in my career, I thought West Baton Rouge would be a place that I would truly like to work,” she said. “It has been an excellent fit.”
Corona agreed that Taylor is a great fit for the school system in WBR.
“She has a wealth of experience in education and she also has the confidence of that faculty as that faculty was heavily involved in the interview process,” he said.
Arrasmith, the new acting principal at Port Allen Middle School, was placed as the school’s head after three years as assistant principal during Dr. Szymanski’s tenure.
“I’m not changing too much from what Dr. Szymanski had put in place. Of course I’m putting my own spin on things,” he said. “From what teachers have told me, they just feel things are a little bit different, a little more family oriented as far as the faculty goes. Not that we weren’t a family before, it’s just different.”
Arrasmith, who has worked at Port Allen Middle for 10 years, said that his first week as principal was “the smoothest first week in my professional career.”
He attributed the great first week to the structure put in place by former principal Szymanski, who was principal at the school four years.
“The students already knew me very well, they knew that I’m all about structure and discipline and getting rewarded for the positive, but when misbehavior occurs we’re going to deal with that accordingly and there will be consequences,” he said. “The students are here to learn and we provide them the best opportunity we can to learn.”
With Arrasmith moving into the principal position, the acting assistant principal role will be filled by Jessica Lambert Major.
“My expectations are, we’re not going to skip a beat. We’re just going to keep improving like we have every year for the past three or four years,” said Arrasmith. “I see nothing but positive things happening for the school.”
Corona said that he is confident the three new principals will help move education in West Baton Rouge forward, and that he is ultimately pleased with the first week of school for them as well as the rest of the schools in the parish.
“The 10 members of this school board take the education of the children of this parish very seriously. They take every aspect of the education of the children of this parish very seriously,” Corona said. “We all take what we provide for our kids extremely seriously.
The life blood of this parish, in my estimation, depends upon the educational level of its citizenry and therefore we work hard to do a good job.”