State of Education highlights work of Bossier principals

District asks community to continue to partner with them

BOSSIER CITY — The annual State of Education address, hosted by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with Bossier Parish Schools, highlighted the strong work of the district’s principals as well as the strength of the school district as a whole.

Principals David Thrash, of Bossier High School, and Lisa Burns, of W.T. Lewis Elementary School, took the stage to talk about the unique makeups of their different campuses as well as the successes and challenges they face each day.

Thrash said Bossier High School, a Title I school, has the largest population of students who walk to school in the district. As a Title I school, the school receives federal funds that assist schools with high concentrations of students in poverty.

Bossier High is certainly diverse, with a population consisting of almost 59 percent African-American, 22 percent Hispanic and 15 percent white, with Asian, American Indian and students of two or more races represented as well.

“We embrace every culture at our school and it’s one big family,” Thrash said. “We know them by name; we know them by need.”

W.T. Lewis Principal and 2020 Louisiana State Elementary Principal of the Year Lisa Burns has a school across town that is diverse in different ways. More than 20 percent of W.T. Lewis includes military-connected students as well as 34 percent of students of lower socio-economic backgrounds and 36 percent minorities.

Burns has created a culture of positivity and encouragement in her school, complete with numerous affirmations as well as some healthy competition.

“Our school is where opportunity and success becomes a reality for all students,” Burns said.

Burns added the importance of the whole family in the school environment. “We like to think of ourselves as the heartbeat of our community,” she added.

Superintendent Mitch Downey, a 35-year veteran of the Bossier Parish School system, continued to talk about the diversity of the district. Bossier Parish Schools have 15 Title I schools, which is 43 percent, and there are anywhere from 19 to 23 languages spoken in Bossier Schools (that number fluctuates based on student population).

But much of Downey’s speech to the crowd of business leaders was about partnerships.

“How do we win the day at Bossier Schools? We develop strong partnerships in the community,” Downey said.

Downey spoke about the adjustments the district is making to attendance zones so that students can stay with their same classmates from elementary school through high school, a change they worked with the Department of Justice to remedy.

The growth for the district continues to be to the east in Haughton and to the north and the district is meeting those challenges head-on, including a new wing that is coming for Haughton High School and expansions for Benton Middle and Parkway High schools.

Downey did challenge the business leaders as well to “partner with us to reward our teachers,” as the district looks for monies to increase teacher pay. In that vein, the district will begin hosting town halls to connect the community with the School District even more. The first town hall will be Nov. 14 at the Bossier Instructional Center.