In the fourth week of a brand new school year, all students are quietly settled into their third-period classes. Not only do the students have a new year before them, they also have fresh leadership.
Wes Watts is the newest principal of Zachary High. This is his assignment, his arena. This is his school.
Watts was the assistant principal at Zachary High for a year before his appointment as principal. When the Zachary Community School Board promoted Watts in June, there were concerns about his level of experience. Superintendent Warren Drake recommended Watts for the position after former principal Scott Devillier was made director of operations for the Zachary school district.
"Mr. Watts is a hardworking administrator who has dedicated his life to helping children succeed," Devillier said in an e-mail to the Plainsman. "He will do a fine job leading the great staff at Zachary High."
In many ways Watts has been preparing for this position his entire life. His father was an assistant principal administrator for 25 years, and as Watts points out, his profession is not one that can be left at school at the end of the day.
"I've lived the administrator's life most of my existence,” said Watts. “The best [thing] I can call it is dinner table experience. I’ve listened to stories all my life because my dad's best friends were other coaches and other administrators."
It wasn’t until after college that Watts decided to pursue a career in education. After graduating from Central High School, Watts signed a football scholarship at McNeese State University in Lake Charles. He graduated in 1991 in pre-med and was planning to attend physical therapy school. Watts changed his mind at the last minute, opting to coach and teach instead.
He started at Lee High School and then spent 16 years in various positions at Central High. He was the dean of students for eight years, athletic director for three and head basketball coach for 11.
As a principal, Watts is very hands-on and detail oriented. He believes that focusing on smaller issues can help prevent bigger problems and makes a point to visit at least one class every day.
“Sometimes I see him in the halls, and he'll talk to you and just ask you how things are going,” said sophomore Mikki Bellard. “He tries to stay involved, it seems like."
Watts is a people person. He’ll joke with students. He’ll playfully tease the teachers. He’s the kind of guy who never meets a stranger.
"When it comes down to it, everything is about people," said Watts. "It doesn't matter how much knowledge you have if you can't communicate with people [and] if people don't know that you care about them and are doing what's in their best interest."
In his free time, Watts is a typical forty-something male. He reads John Grisham novels, likes James Bond and enjoys playing golf. Watts also loves spending time with his wife and their two children. Students (and teachers) looking to bribe their way out of trouble can start with a steak, filet mignon to be specific.
Watts said he is grateful he's been given the opportunity to be the principal at the high school of the state’s number one school district.
“The people of this community, even though I'm from Central, have embraced me and supported me and have just been a big help along the way,” said Watts. “I'm just so thankful.”