Dr. James Meza, Jr., superintendent of the Jefferson Parish Public School System (JPPSS) announced today that he will leave his position at the end of September 2014, a role he has held since 2011. Meza initially came to Jefferson Parish as a transitional leader and soon became known as the “turnaround superintendent.” He led a transformation agenda by focusing on student achievement, providing flexibility and high expectations for principals, while building a network support system for teachers and schools.
Working closely for the past three years with a strong school board, JPPSS has shown improvement in every measure when it comes to student achievement. The effort to put students first and eliminate bureaucratic waste and inefficiencies was anchored by Meza’s reorganization plan. Unanimously approved by the board, the plan eliminated a $25 million deficit, balanced the budget, reallocated increased funding to school maintenance, established a plan for safe and secure schools and enabled the first pay raise for employees in three years.
“Anyone who doubts that significant progress can take place in a traditional, locally-controlled school district needs to look no further than Jefferson Parish,” said Meza. “I am proud of the results. The work that the Jefferson Parish school community has done should be considered a model that school systems and school boards throughout our state and country can use to advance student achievement.”
During Meza’s first two years, JPPSS has improved its state performance rating from a letter grade of “D” to “B.” In that same period, the percentage of Jefferson Parish schools rated as “A” or “B” by the Louisiana Department of Education increased from 14 percent to 41 percent. Jefferson Parish is also now home to three schools that are ranked in the top six in Louisiana. Third-year testing results also project further increase in state academic ranking, as JPPSS was one of the top ten school districts to demonstrate improvement in mastering advanced levels of student performance under the new Common Core State Standards testing format.
The outgoing superintendent calls the timing right for his departure. “Based on our results, my mission has been successful and is complete,” said Meza. “The next 90 days will focus on a successful launch of the new school year and a transition phase working with the Board and staff to sustain continued academic success.”
State Education Superintendent John White has called Jefferson Parish “one of the most exciting places for public education in Louisiana.” Hailing Meza’s record of achievement, White said, “Jim Meza has given Jefferson Parish students and their families cause for renewed optimism. By every metric, the performance of students and schools has improved substantially, and there is a solid foundation upon which to continue this remarkable trajectory.”
Jefferson Parish School Board President Mike Delesdernier says that thanks to Meza’s dedication and vision, the district is in great shape for the next generation of leaders.
“Jim Meza came to JPPSS as a transitional superintendent but quickly became a transformational superintendent,” said Delesdernier. “Not only do we have a balanced budget, but we were able to give our teachers a long overdue raise after a protracted pay freeze. This is the perfect time to attract top talent to write the next chapter in the JPPSS success story.”
Updated Report Demonstrates JPPSS Progress: