Watts tells WBR School Board he can help improve school system

Zachary principal entertains board

The fourth, and final, candidate hoping to replace West Baton Rouge Parish’s outgoing school superintendent entertained the School Board during his interview Wednesday night with a plethora of jokes and anecdotes.

But Wesley Watts took a more serious tone when he talked about his passion for education and his desire to lead the school district into becoming an A-rated district like the one where he works.

“Y’all have all the ingredients of a great school system here,” Watts, who is the principal at Zachary High School. “There’s stability here. There’s care and concern. You guys are working together. You have the potential to be an A school district in the next five years and I don’t see how that can’t happen.”

Watts was interviewed publicly before the School Board for 30 minutes before concluding the interview in executive session.

“I nailed this interview Friday while cutting my grass,” he quipped. “I asked myself all the questions, and I got all of them right.”

Watts praised retiring superintendent David Corona, but promised he could bring a fresh perspective to make West Baton Rouge Parish Schools better.

Watts, 45, has been the principal at Zachary High since 2010, after having served as the school’s assistant principal the previous year.

Prior to that, he worked as the athletic director and head basketball coach for the Central Community School District for two years following a yearlong stint as the dean of students for Central High in the 2006-07 school term.

Watts, who holds degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and McNeese State University, told the board he grew up in a family of educators.

Even though Zachary is one of the top-performing school districts in the state, Watts said, Zachary High was the lowest-performing school in the district when he became principal.

He attributed the school’s two-year gains to his teamwork mentality.

“A superintendent must collaborate with the people he has in place,” he said. “I’ve had my teachers involved in a group this year to set our Common Core curriculum. It’s going to be tough, but teachers have had their say in it so they know it and they know how to teach it.”

In his application, Watts notes that Zachary High’s school performance score jumped from 118.3 in 2010 to 149.9 in 2012.

He touted a schoolwide reading program that helped boost students’ ACT scores, and a student-driven leadership group in 2009 called Teen Influence Motivating Others.

“I energize people,” he said. “I’m likeable. I try to find a connection with everyone.”

In addition to Watts, the board interviewed Frances Annette Mire, the school district’s associate superintendent of human resources and staff development, last week and John Jackson, the administrative liaison for the University of North Georgia, on Monday and Cynthia Ourso, the district’s elementary supervisor, on Tuesday.

The board hopes to appoint a new superintendent by July, before Corona vacates office at the end of the month.

Board President Jason Manola said the board could possibly make a decision at its regular meeting next week.

“We’ll go into executive session to discuss all four candidates again,” Manola said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to announce a new superintendent at that time.”

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.