SBJ conducts Q & A with Caddo Schools Superintendent

Dr. T. Lamar Goree – Caddo Parish Schools Superintendent

JOURNAL STAFF

You could say Dr. T. Lamar Goree was destined to become an educator. After all, both his parents were career educators in Caddo Parish Public Schools.

A product of Caddo Parish schools, Dr. Goree began his career as a math teacher in Georgia before moving to Texas, where the Huntington High School graduate was a teacher, principal, and administrator – most notably as Area Superintendent with Mansfield Independent School District.

In December 2013, Dr. Goree returned to his hometown district to take on the role of Superintendent of Caddo Parish Schools – and the rest, as they say, is history. Dr. Goree, now the longest-serving superintendent in more than 30 years, was named the 2019 Louisiana Superintendent of the Year.

In Part Two of our preview of the upcoming 2022-2023 school year, the Journal reached out to Dr. Goree to get his answers to some important questions facing administrators in today’s public education field.

SBJ: What do you think your biggest accomplishment has been since taking over this role?

LG: One of the biggest highlights over the last nine years has been the creation of the Transformation Zone. When I entered the role of Superintendent, I was immediately met with the task of keeping 10 schools from state takeover.

The Board allowed staff the freedom to work with the state to develop a comprehensive plan to address these long-neglected schools and put in place innovative programs to turn around school performance. The Transformation Zone was launched in 2014. The Zone took long-standing issues including teacher quality, school climate and culture, and student behavior and tackled them head-on.

The results were powerful. Arrest rates at high schools in the Zone went from 400 the previous year to 10, eight of the 10 schools exited failing status, schools became inviting places that embraced the parents and community members as partners and the numbers of certified teachers in classrooms increased at incredible rates.


SBJ: What is the biggest challenge you are now facing as Superintendent?

LG: Teacher recruitment and retention is a concern affecting districts across our nation — including right here in Caddo Parish.

Among the single greatest indicators of student success is having a highly effective, engaging teacher. Therefore, the stakes are incredibly high. Today, the greatest majority of teachers receiving certification today are doing so through alternative certification programs where they are coming from another degree field. Still, districts are not receiving the numbers of applicants we need.

SBJ: What is the biggest challenge facing teachers?

LG: These recent years have been nothing short of difficult. The demand that comes with students who have distinct needs following the pandemic not only academically but socially and mentally asks a lot of teachers. Further, teachers over the years have been asked to do more and more. This is a time to lean in and have some candid conversations about where they are in this moment and how we can support their time in the classroom.


SBJ: What is the biggest challenge facing students?

LG: Mental health is absolutely top of mind regarding students and their wellbeing. Even before the pandemic, high school students were surveyed on their issues. Overwhelmingly, mental health was the most often cited concern. And those findings have only increased since this time.


SBJ: What steps are being taken to ensure the students’ safety on the campuses?

LG: Student and staff safety is the top priority of our school system. If students and staff do not feel safe, they cannot focus on learning. We have made strides in recent years to invest in enhanced physical security at campuses to limit who can come on campuses. Caddo also continues to train our principals, teachers and staff including drills and mock scenarios.

Further, our district has law enforcement officers on every campus as well as security coordinators and district staff dedicated to campus safety. We also work with law enforcement to collaborate on training opportunities for their members as well as work through our crisis response plans. 


SBJ: Teachers nationwide are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. How is this impacting your school district and what can be done to meet this challenge?

LG: Educators leaving the profession or not entering the profession at all is a source of great reflection for not only myself but other superintendents and the work we do as a whole. Caddo continues to actively recruit while reviewing our salaries and benefits to ensure we are competitive.

 

SBJ: What is your message to teachers, parents, and students going into the 2022-2023 school year?

LG: First, we are so excited to welcome our families back starting Aug. 3. This is a year of great hope and promise for our district. Between increased and updated technology, top-rated curricula and resources and well-trained teachers, we have the right people in the right places with the right resources to provide students with what they need for success. It’s going to be a great year!

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