WBR new schools superintendent signs contract, begins Aug. 1

Updated at 8:49 p.m. West Baton Rouge Parish’s new school superintendent, Wesley Watts, signed the dotted line of a two-year contract with the school district Wednesday night, and will be assuming the role as its new head Aug. 1.

Watts was selected for the position a month ago.

The approval of his contract Wednesday came shortly after the School Board said goodbye to David Corona, who retires from the position July 31 after serving 10 years with the school system.

In his emotional farewell to the board, Corona, who is now on leave, called his time with the school system “the best 10 professional years” of his life.

“I just ask y’all to give Mr. Watts the same autonomy you gave me,” Corona said. “Y’all are noted for being a professional board because you don’t get involved in the day-to-day activity of the school operations. That helps because it keeps the politics out of things. Do that same thing for Wes and his team and I don’t see how things will not continue to progress.”

Board President Jason Manola credited the board’s unity to Corona.

“I’m not going to say we had a board that was in disarray, but under his leadership this board came together,” Manola said. “One thing I’ve heard around town is that whoever comes after David will have some big shoes to follow.”

Watts, the former principal at Zachary High School, signed a contract giving him authority as the school district’s superintendent from Aug. 1 until midnight Dec. 31, 2016.

Watts, 45, will be paid $118,000 annually.

The School Board also will provide Watts with a $7,800 annual car allowance and has agreed to pay dues and registration fees for his membership in local and state professional associations.

The School Board included in the contract nine performance objectives and five performance targets Watts must meet in the next two years.

Watts will be expected to present to the board an annual school improvement plan for the district and work with staff to ensure the school system makes a smooth transition into the Common Core standards.

The contract requires that the district’s 10 schools and overall school system must improve by at least one point at the end of each school year — commencing with the 2014-15 school term — in the state’s annual performance scores.

The district is currently graded a B in the state’s 2013-14 performance report.

Any schools that are graded a D by the state must improve to a C or higher by the end of the 2015-16 school year, the contract states.

Under Watt’s leadership, the district’s end-of-course scores from the state will need to be equal to or above the state average by the close of the 2014-15 school year and the school system’s graduation rates must continue to improve annually.

The state’s most recent graduation data for West Baton Rouge Parish shows that 63.7 percent of its students complete high school within four years, according to a 2012 report.

The School Board’s final performance target for Watts requires that the percentage of teachers receiving “effective” or “highly effective” performance ratings has to increase by at least 1 percentage point annually.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.