It was the new Caddo Parish teachers on the mind of current Superintendent Dr. Gerald Dawkins, but it wasn't the only thing the outgoing superintendent talked about this morning.

"The board has made their decision on extending my contract, that's a done deal," responded Dr. Dawkins when asked by the local media about his role with the school system this upcoming school year.  "I feel extremely grateful and gratified that we were able to have the success we've had this year."

What about concerns of the system's progress?

"You can't turn it around in two years.  You can't turn it around in three years," the superintendent explained.  "If people believe in having a long term, exceptional, successful cultures instituted in schools that have failed for 10, 20 years, I think we've shown we can do it."

Dawkins, standing in front of the school system's administration, defended what he did for Caddo Parish during his run as the system's superintendent, saying the improvements are all in the numbers.

"The record shows the data, it's clear about that.  So we have some schools that we have to focus on, we're poised to do that.  I think the team is poised to do that."

Photo: Dennis Foley

The Caddo Parish School Board is still trying to work out who will take over for Dr. Dawkins, between the last two candidates, the school board's current chief of staff Mary Nash Robinson and John Dilworth.  There is also the possibility the school board may choose to restart the hiring process.

In a mild twist of irony, Dr. Gerald Dawkins took and responded to questions about his personal career and tenure as superintendent in front of his entire administration, including Robinson.

While not asked any questions, Robinson stood with her colleagues behind the current leader showing little reaction to the questions asked and to Dr. Dawkins' responses.

So, while Ms. Robinson may be waiting patiently behind Dr. Dawkins for her chance to drive the ship, what's next for the current superintendent?

"I won't say what's next for me, but I will say I've enjoyed this experience.  Certainly, there's some exciting things around the corner for me and I will let some people know at some point."

Dawkins addresses new Caddo teachers

Dr. Gerald Dawkins made his rounds around Southwood High School, where Caddo's newest teachers were getting a primer on the duties of teaching in the Caddo Parish school system.

He introduced himself as the current superintendent who is leaving the post soon, although he was incorrectly introduced as "former" Superintendent Dr. Gerald Dawkins by one educator.  He gave the teachers a pep talk, found out where they were all from, and made sure to give the new educators a piece of advice.

A story he shared with all of the teachers was about when he started teaching as a middle school teacher in an "alternative" middle school.  He had one student who made it his mission to bully Dr. Dawkins.  About 25 years later, as an assistant superintendent, he gets called down to a hostile situation.  He shows up to see it's that same student, 25 years older.

"Hey Mr. Dawkins!  My son is having some problems in school," Dr. Dawkins recited to the teachers.

His final remarks to the teachers (besides figuring out who came from the farthest location, which happened to be the Philippines) was that no matter what you teach the students, they will always remember how you treat them.

"Make sure you always treat your students with respect."