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Editorial: Pearl Watson Elementary rockets to success

Last Modified: Saturday, September 28, 2013 2:08 PM

One of the most remarkable educational success stories in not only our state, but in the nation has transpired at Pearl Watson Elementary School.

Five years ago, test scores by students on standardized tests earned the school a one-star rating the lowest handed out by the state of Louisiana. It’s score of 61.8 suggested that if the school remained on a like trajectory, it would be a prime candidate for an academically unacceptable label and to be taken from oversight by the Calcasieu Parish School Board and run by the state.

Enter Rodney Geyen as principal.

Thanks to his leadership, the Fifth Street school has earned recognition through the U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon Schools Program for its improvement.

Last year, the school registered a score of 94.7, a tremendous turnaround.

Geyen said when he took over, he found that discipline at Pearl Watson was lacking. Like many other schools in the parish, he helped create a program that rewards good behavior.

The school also stressed the fundamentals with a new program that encourages students to read and a touch-point math system which features numerals with dots to help students comprehend their value.

The rest is history, so to spark.

Geyen, who served as a junior high school coach before he became a school administrator, understands the importance of setting goals, working incrementally every day to reach those goes by stressing fundamentals and building a team to attain those goals.

Geyen has also moonlighted for years as a Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s deputy. One of the reasons he’s so passionate about education is because he has seen, first hand, the byproduct of students with a poor education system, the limitations that they have faced and, in some cases, the poor choices that they’ve made as they grown into young adults and become familiar faces in the justice system.

Geyen would be the first testify that Pearl Watson’s rise wasn’t the result of a one-man show. The school’s faculty, staff, parents and students deserve to bask in the national limelight as well.

But the over-arching lesson is the positive role that the school principal can play in changing the direction and culture at a floundering school.

The question for the Calcasieu School Board remains how to duplicate what Geyen engineered at Pearl Watson or how to clone him.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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