Dr. James Meza, Jr., superintendent of Jefferson Parish Public School System (JPPSS) has been named a recipient of the 56th Annual Weiss Award presented by the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice (NOCCJ). Dr. Meza is among this year’s recipients honored for exceptional civic and humanitarian contributions to the New Orleans area.
“I am deeply honored to receive the Weiss Award,” said Meza. “I have modeled my life of service after my father, a Honduran orphan who grew up in an orphanage in New Orleans. It is through his example of perseverance, a strong work ethic, and quiet dignity that I have strived to serve students and the community.”
“Since coming to our school system as superintendent, Dr. James Meza has worked tirelessly to ensure that all children receive the best education possible,” said Larry Dale, President of the Jefferson Parish School Board. “I have not met anyone who is more committed, nor more knowledgeable in reforming education to become student centered.”
“Jim is a true leader who has dedicated his life to the empowerment of children and our community through education,” said Michael Delesdernier, Vice President of the Jefferson Parish School Board. “His has unwavering commitment to advance student achievement. He is a loyal and dedicated friend to the children, their families, and all who work with him.”
Meza’s experience in education spans more than 40 years and crosses teaching and leadership positions both at the K-12 and Higher Education levels. He is currently the Superintendent of Jefferson Parish Public School System (JPPSS), Louisiana’s largest and most diverse school district serving 47,000 students. Since becoming the head of JPPSS in 2011, Meza has led a reform agenda that has transformed the school system from one in a downward spiral for achievement to one of Louisiana’s most improved school systems. In two years, JPPSS has improved its state performance rating from a letter grade “D” to “B.” In that same period, the number of “A” and “B” schools has increased dramatically, from 13 to 32. Jefferson Parish is home to four schools that are ranked in the top ten in Louisiana.
Prior to becoming superintendent of JPPSS, Dr. Meza served as professor and dean at the University of New Orleans (UNO) for more than 21 years. During his tenure at UNO, he secured more than $50 million and published more than 40 journal articles to study education reform, specifically focused on serving children of low-income families in Louisiana and nationwide.
Meza is recognized nationally for redefining the role of colleges of education and their work with low performing schools.
As dean, he launched the UNO Charter School Network of four charter schools, as well as Louisiana’s first Type 5 (turnaround) charter school. His efforts were recognized by New Orleans City Business, which presented him with the “Innovator of the Year” award. He received the honor and title of Professor and Dean Emeritus from the LSU system, recognizing his years of scholarship at UNO.
Meza has served as the Executive Director of the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Interim State Superintendent of Education for Louisiana. During this time, he was a pioneer in school accountability, launching Louisiana’s educational quality and trust fund (8G) and restructuring the Department of Education as Louisiana transformed the State Superintendent’s position from an elected position to one appointed by BESE. Dr. Meza also has served as a faculty member at Nicholls State University, principal of Cabrini High School, and teacher at E.D. White and Isidore Newman High School.
Meza currently serves on the Board of Directors of Holy Cross School and was a member of the Louisiana Serve Commission and the Southern University System Board of Supervisors. He is also a founding board member of Ben Franklin High School and Edward Hynes charter schools. Meza served 32 years in the Louisiana Army National Guard and retired at the rank of Colonel.
NOCCJ hosts the Annual Weiss Awards to recognize outstanding community leaders who exemplify humanity’s goal. This year’s event will take place on December 10, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans.