By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD
Chad McDowell joked that he didn’t know what he was thinking when he accepted the position of superintendent of Calvary Baptist Academy back in the spring of 2016.
In Part II of this “Lunch with Harriet” feature, he lets us in on his thoughts about going into school administration. And he tells us the origin of “Get You Some!”
“Hey coach, I’m the president of the school board at Calvary,” said Michael Watts. “Several people have dropped your name. I just wanted to know if you’d be interested in becoming the next superintendent of the academy.”
That phone call opened a new window of opportunity for Chad McDowell, who had already established himself as a successful basketball coach – at Southwood High School, Byrd High School, and LSUS.
At the time, McDowell was the athletic director at LSUS. This would be a big change.
One that made perfect sense.
“My kids were there (at Calvary Baptist Academy), my wife went to school there through the eighth grade, and it’s where I gave my heart and life to Christ at the age of 21,” McDowell says over our recent lunch at Ferrier’s Rollin’ in the Dough.
“There was a lot of history there. I knew they were good in athletics, and I knew the elementary school seemed really strong because my kids were there.”
“At the end of the day I said, ‘Hey, let’s do this. I think the Lord has called me to take a different route.’”
From basketball coach to superintendent of a private pre-K through high school academy? Yes, it would be a different route, but it was also a perfect fit.
While he didn’t have experience as a school administrator, McDowell did have his master’s degree in educational leadership.
And he had something else.
“I don’t think there’s any better training ground to lead a school than that of coaching,” he says. “Without good players, you’re not going to win. Without good teachers, we’re not going to win.”
One of the biggest challenges McDowell faced in his new position was the perception that the school was for “athletes.”
He had heard all the talk.
“When you grow up in the community, you hear the naysayers,” he says.
The “talk” included things like: If you want to go there, you’re going to get a subpar education. They’re hiding behind their football (and numerous other) state championships.
McDowell knew what some people were saying. But he also had first-hand experience with his three children and the foundation they were getting in the classroom at Calvary. Martin, who graduated from CBA last year, is a freshman at East Texas Baptist University – where he is playing basketball – while sisters Molly (senior) and Megan (freshman) are current Cavaliers.
“We (Chad along with wife Jennifer) were comfortable with our kids there,” explains McDowell. “We had had our kids tested a couple of different times only to see how they’d score on the test.” (Martin, by the way, scored a 32 on the ACT).
“We wanted them there for the environment and the Christian-based education we knew they were receiving,” he adds.
What McDowell learned quickly was that there were some gaps that needed to be addressed.
“Were there as many gaps or were they as vast as people were saying?” asks McDowell “Absolutely not.
“We’re trying to put the best of the best teachers in place. Sports will always sell themselves. We want to win in everything we do, but we’re going to identify gaps and we’re going to win in the classroom, win in the community.
“The Lord has really blessed us at Calvary over the past years, bringing us phenomenal teachers, phenomenal students and phenomenal families.”
And a phenomenal superintendent who has seen attendance grow from just over 600 students to almost 1,000 in the past four years.
“I tell people that are on tours and they’ve seen it come to fruition,” he says, “that they’re going to get – not an average education – but a first-class education.”
Note to anyone considering taking a tour of Calvary Baptist Academy: be sure you’re set on becoming a Cavalier because, chances are, once you walk around campus with the superintendent, you’re going to be sold.
As McDowell says, you’ll want to “Get You Some.”
“Growing up, my dad always said, ‘You want you a little bit of this? Get you some!’,” he says in explaining his catchphrase. “Don’t back down from anybody. No matter what’s ahead, you’re up for the challenge.”
That’s what Chad McDowell has brought to Calvary – a winning attitude that manifests itself in more places than just the football field.
“It’s not just about W’s and L’s,” he says. It’s about winning in every aspect of life.”
Contact Harriet at firstname.lastname@example.org