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New Bossier superintendent talks successes, future of school system

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Bossier Schools continues to be the fastest growing district in north Louisiana.

In fact, there are more than 700 students enrolled in the Bossier Parish School System than there were this time last year.

“That’s like gaining a 3A high school out of no where,” Superintendent Scott Smith said. “Families and people move to an area for many reasons…but they want to make sure they have a world class education for their (children). We must do our very best job to give these kids the very best education to give them the best chance in life.”

Smith highlighted both growth and advancements at the 2016 State of Education. His presentation was centered around his vision — Inspiration. Imagination. Innovation. It’s something he truly believes in and said the district wants to draw from its partners — the Cyber Innovation Center, CSRA, BPCC, the Bossier Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation — to create opportunities in education, workforce and the economy.

Smith boasted of the Bossier School System’s accomplishments, beating the state’s average ACT score and earning the highest overall score last year from the international accreditation program AdvancED of all systems accredited last year internationally. He also touted the new Project SOAR grant and how that STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) curriculum would expand parish-wide, beyond the 11 schools included in the grant.
With growth comes construction. Airline High School just moved into a new three-story classroom wing; a new Haughton Middle School, which will hold 1,500 students, is under construction; and the first phase of Haughton K-5 will be completed next month.

Land has been acquired for a new Benton High School with a projected completion of 2019 and Benton Middle School will expand to include the current high school property once the new one is built. Improvements have been made to existing campuses as well: Carrie Martin, Princeton, Benton, Legacy, T.L. Rodes and Platt Elementary schools as well as Bossier High School.

Another expansion will come from Bossier Schools’ Virtual Learning Academy, a hybrid program offering an online platform and in-class instruction at two campuses for the non-traditional student in 6th-12th grades. An official announcement regarding this program will be made Aug. 31.

“We’re competing against charter schools, private schools, home schools, and virtual schools,” Smith explained. “We are expanding what we believe will be a virtual learning academy that we will be bringing to Bossier High School. Kids will be able to work online and interact with a real, live teacher and not someone from some far off country. They will also be able to participate in extracurricular activities.”

Smith also highlighted the dedication the Bossier School System employees have to success: “We have people’s most precious commodity in our hands.”

The event also featured BESE member Tony Davis, who spoke on the successes and challenges at the state education level. While there are many things to celebrate on the state level — higher numbers of students qualifying for TOPS scholarships and the highest average composite ACT score of any class since the state required all students to take the ACT — there are also challenges ahead for the state when it comes to education.

Some of the challenges Davis pinpointed were: as academic expectations are raised, student achievement must also increase and achievement gaps must be closed; disadvantaged students experience lower levels of access to enriching experiences that may spark lifelong interests, the educator profession must be strengthened.

Davis’ presentation touched on ways these challenges are being tackled, including increasing science standards that are nearly a decade behind and changing the standards for educator preparation programs to include a yearlong apprenticeship or residency.

Davis said having teachers spend more time in residency will “elevate the profession of teaching.”