Williams Embarks On New Experience
Leatha Williams, superintendent of Wetzel County Schools,’ describes her new venture as “the experience of a lifetime” so far.
“I’ve absolutely loved becoming integrated into Wetzel County Schools. We’ve done some great things, and we’ve created a shared mission,” said Williams.
The new mission states the following: Wetzel County Schools strives to create productive citizens and collaborate communicators that are prepared for college and career success. Therefore, Wetzel County Schools will support and promote engaging, standards-based personalized learning for all.”
Wetzel County Schools’ Core Beliefs include the following:
– All staff will provide a positive, respectful, and nurturing learning environment to assure safety and dignity for all stakeholders.
– All staff will collaborate to provide a rigorous, engaging, standards-based learning experience which supports personalized learning.
– All students will become productive, successfull, knowledgeable, responsible, and caring citizens who are civically engaged.
– All students will develop skills through rigorous learning that will allow them to be excellent communicators and collaborators with strong interpersonal abilities that will foster career success.
– All students will be a productive member of a safe and tolerant learning environment.
– All students will become proficient in literacy and mathematic skills through all curricular offerings to successfully master all standards.
This new mission was shared with, and signed by, each school employee at an opening day event held by Williams on Aug. 12.
“Lots of school systems have mission statements,” Williams said, adding that it has been a while since Wetzel County Schools’ sat down and really observed all forms of data and what. “We want to accomplish together.”
When asked what she has enjoyed learning the most about Wetzel County Schools, Williams responds that it is “The commitment and dedication of our staff.”
“Staff members have said to me, ‘Mrs. Williams, we want to be the best county in the state.’ We always want what is best for our students, and whatever it takes, we are committed to doing that,” Williams stated. “At my previous job, I was school improvement coordinator,” she noted. “You don’t always go in on the best of circumstances. Here, I’ve really felt welcome. I know we are all trying our best to focus on student achievement.”
Williams said that at her previous job however, she learned the value and importance of relationships “And making sure that all the stakeholders understand the reasons for doing things the way you are doing them.”
To help establish some of those important relationships, Williams has visited every school building in the county. A second visit will be conducted, in which Williams will set goals with principals. Williams said she hopes to visit each school three times a year, in which she will “walk in every classroom and get that environmental experience of what learning is like in that school.”
Williams has been to one high school sporting event thus far as superintendent, but the very busy superintendent hopes to attend more. She said that each school administrator is responsible for attending curriculum and instructional events at the schools, as well as after schools. Williams said she hopes to attend school leadership meetings herself to see how Wetzel County Schools’ shared mission is being implemented.
Williams’ entrance into Wetzel County Schools has not been complete smooth sailing however. Williams entered the school system after the untimely departure of former superintendent, Dennis Albright, who was arrested for soliciting a prostitute while in Charleston for work. Furthermore, Williams has had to deal with controversy surrounding the placement of former Hundred High School special education student, Roy Stevens, who has since dropped out of school.
When asked of how she has handled this controversy, Williams reflected on a Frederick Douglas quote, which emphasizes as to how we all must expect difficult times in all positions.
“No job is going to be without some sort of controversy,” Williams stated. “We need to work through it in a calm and collected manner. We need to utilize appropriate policy to guide those decisions. That’s why we have policies in place … how do we compromise when there’s a difficult situation?”
Williams said she doesn’t think much about the previous superintendent’s controversy, as it is not pertinent to her situation. She said she does utilize it when reviewing and digging into the policies.
“When working at the West Virginia Department of Education, understanding policy was critical to my job. I know it’s always important in a controversial situation.”
Furthermore, Williams stated that having a shared mission and vision, and establishing what we are about, helps us to get the focus back on the student.”
Williams also stressed the importance of focusing on outcomes.
“For years, we’ve been compliance mode with No Child Left Behind, and we’ve really focused on the end-of-course assessments. Really, education isn’t about focusing on the end-of-year outcome. It’s about being productive and measuring success all year long. One of the things I really hope to focus on, is having assessments all year round, to drive our work all year long. At the end of the school year, those end-of-course benchmarks or end-of-school benchmarks will take care of themselves, if we are more productive all year long on what we have to do.”
“I want to focus on the year-long process, not the end-of-year process,” Williams explained. “That’s important for me to bring that here, so we are focused on having the most engaging classroom experience everyday.”