Written and shared by Dr. T. Lamar Goree, Superintendent of Caddo Parish Schools
Imagine it’s December 2013. You have the opportunity of a lifetime before you — the opportunity you’ve been preparing for as long as you can remember. And then one day it’s there. Your dreams are becoming a reality.
My name is Lamar Goree and this was my story that December as I began my first day as Superintendent of the school system that in many ways made me who I am. I was eager, optimistic, and full of energy as I entered my first superintendency.
I, in many ways, was living in a world with rose-colored glasses – a world in which the Caddo Parish School System was a premier school system, a district in which children achieved excellence, and parents and community members were intricately involved and engaged as part of a single mission of ensuring every child was able to chase their wildest dreams.
That was, after all, the district I grew up attending. From my earliest memories of Caddo, this district has always been a family affair. Both of my parents were educators in this system and they made sure we were prepared to be successful each day we entered the classroom. I attended some of the newest schools at the time when and graduated from Huntington High School having participated in not only challenging classes but extracurriculars and athletics that made me feel like I could achieve anything.
However, when I returned to Caddo Parish in 2013, I quickly discovered the school system I left was not the school system I was coming home to lead. Now don’t get me wrong, Caddo had achievements to brag about including some of the top schools in the state, but there were also communities in which we were by all accounts leaving a generation behind.
As I moved with urgency and purpose to work to address what we could call the sins of the past, we quickly realized a large number of students were being raised in homes in which mental illness was prevalent, and while we could do all we could to address things like curriculum, teacher quality, and the learning experience for our children, we couldn’t act alone in taking on the trauma and adverse childhood experiences of the children we served and the continued effects of untreated mental illness on our students. That is where our partnership Volunteers of America and Communities in Schools began.
We all came to the table with a central focus on our students. We began small with 2 schools and saw the power of the site coordinators, Volunteers of America and Communities In Schools in wrapping around our students and their families.
Because of this partnerships, lives have been forever changed, student grades have improved, discipline issues have been reduced and we have made a lasting difference.
Today, this initiative is in 11 schools with plans to grow to 15 schools in the coming years. We have been slow and steady in scaling this as we have worked within individual neighborhoods and communities to provide these resources. Fidelity to the work is of the utmost importance to all of us.
At the beginning of my comments, I asked you to imagine those feelings back in December 2013 – the hope of coming home and the overwhelming sense of urgency to help a community I love and that made me who I am. Now I ask you to imagine Caddo being the home to a unique national model of the power of what happens when a community and the schools come together with one mission – to serve and help. For the people before you today, this isn’t about seeing our names in lights or the recognition that comes along with being a national model. It’s the hope and the realization that we are changing lives in real-time. We are working hand-in-hand to save a community and to make Caddo Parish a place where every child can achieve their wildest dreams just like I did when I came home to lead the district I love.
Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of today’s program and thank you to Volunteers of America for all you have done for Caddo Schools.