Amanda Simmons, firstname.lastname@example.org
As the 2017-18 school year comes to a close, Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith already has a goal for next year.
“My vision is to be the highest performing school system in the state,” he said.
“We’re gonna have to work hard and we’re going to have to step up our game, but we can do it. We have the kids and the educators to do it.”
After a very successful year, it’s not hard to see why Smith wants to aim even higher next year.
For the first time in its history, Bossier Schools achieved an A district ranking from the Louisiana Department of Education.
Four of the six high schools are A rated schools while Bossier High and Waller Elementary “moved the needle” and increased a letter grade. Cope Middle, Plain Dealing High and Stockwell Place Elementary were all named Top Gains schools based on individual student progress.
Bossier Schools ranks No. 6 in the state for average ACT score with a 20.7. And Bossier’s LEAP scores are 10 percent higher than the state average.
It’s not just academic successes as music, arts, and sports all saw achievements.
In March, Parkway High School’s 67-member wind ensemble performed in Indianapolis, In. for the “Music for All” National Concert Band Festival. This is an invitation only opportunity that showcases the best in the nation. Parkway’s Mark Minton was named the 2017 Louisiana Band Director of the Year.
The district also launched its i3 Arts Expo, which Smith called a “huge success.”
“A lot of work went on behind the scenes and we had generous sponsors that helped. We’ve grown to the point where we can do this on our own and it’s going to be a yearly thing now,” he said.
Benton baseball just claimed their first state title in the sport, while the golf team won its sixth state title in seven years. Parkway wrestling also claimed a state title, while Kingston Elementary’s archery team won the national championship and will defend their world title next month.
“That’s all part of the overall experience for our students,” Smith said with pride.
In other developments, Bossier has taken a proactive approach to its school security and is catching the attention of statewide media and other school districts.
In April, Bossier Schools was featured on an episode of a Louisiana Public Square episode titled “Making Schools Safe.”
That same month, the BPSB approved a three pronged approach to continue their proactive security efforts – hiring five new SROs (school resource officers) that will mean there are two SROs at every high school campus except for Plain Dealing (which has one), developing a detection system that will find students who have social and emotional needs, and helping at-risk students get help through outside resources.
“We feel like this is the best approach and we have one of the best, if not the best, security plan in the nation. Other districts are contacting us and inquiring about how the program works,” Smith said.
The system also made sure to improve the experience for military children by giving military dependents living on Barksdale Air Force Base the choice of which K-12 public school to attend. The Bossier Parish School Board also approved zoning of students living on Barksdale’s East Reservation to attend schools in the Haughton area. While Military Liaison Georgette Price secured $3.6 million in grants to help assimilate military children into Bossier Schools.
The district continued with the Professional Learning Communities, which Smith made a district wide priority when he was elected Superintendent in 2016.
“It’s a way for teachers and administrators to collaborate in order to meet the needs of every student,” Smith explained. “It allows them to better understand where the students are and where they need to take them academically. It’s something that progresses with the student. It’s not just a one-year thing.”
The school board approved a three-year new teacher induction program called Bossier CARES (Coaching and Retaining Educators for Success).
“This is our approach to helping those first year teachers be successful and stay in the district,” Smith explained.
In Plain Dealing, the school board approved the reconfiguration of Plain Dealing schools that will move elementary, middle and high school onto a single campus starting in the 2018-19 school year.
Bossier Schools will be establishing a parent center at the former Carrie Martin Elementary campus. The Bossier Council on Aging and Plant a Seed in our Youth Foundation will locate in that facility.
Smith made sure to note the support of the Bossier Parish School Board for the system’s continued success and growth.
“There’s a lot of things we couldn’t do without our school board. They’ve been supportive and we’re all working in the same direction to continue pushing the district forward.”
And speaking of moving forward, Smith is always looking at how to carry the system into the future. Which gets back to his vision of being the best in the state.
It’s because aiming low is not something to get excited about.
“The higher the vision and the higher level you have to reach to achieve it, people tend to rise up to the challenge,” Smith said.
“There’s already a school system that’s number one. Why can’t that be us?”