By Trishna Buch
Julie Southworth is a friendly and personable woman, which makes her the perfect candidate to fill the role of Director of Secondary Education for the Texas Independent School District. Southworth’s new position will require her to collaborate with the teachers and administration at secondary campuses for a plethora of needs; most particularly curriculum and instructional needs. “Susan Myers as Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction and Anne Anderson as Director of Instructional Programs did a phenomenal job leading the district academically last year during the first year of annexation,” said Southworth. In order to continue to meet the needs of all students, an additional director was added to the curriculum and instruction team. Duties from the director of instructional programming plus duties from the testing/textbook coordinator will now be divided between Southworth and Anderson as the directors of secondary and elementary education. “At one point the district had both elementary and secondary education directors,” said Southworth. “With the transition our district has gone through, the decision was made to return to the structure of having both directors.”
Southworth wanted to take the time to commend the school district administrators and teachers, particularly Myers and Anderson, on their success in completing the first year of annexation. “The existing administration has put in tireless work and made huge strides in the process,” she told me. “We had to start-up very quickly and now that we are moving into year two—the second year of administrators on those campuses—that now that we have systems and procedures in place we are able to see what is going well, what we need to improve and encompass both of those to help our students be more successful.”
Southworth earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Texas A&M -Commerce. Following this, she earned her Principal and Superintendent Certification in 2012.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1989, Southworth embarked on her educational career. She worked for 12 and a half years as a teacher. “I taught middle school, high school and—believe it or not—kindergarten.” In her last year of teaching at Paris High School, she worked part-time as a teacher and part-time as an administrator. “I primarily worked with attendance and freshman initiatives.” Southworth reiterated my own belief that a successful freshman year is the foundation for a successful high-school journey.
Southworth worked at Dickinson High School for three years. She spent one year as an Assistant Principal and two years as an Associate Principal. “These positions really allowed me to expand my knowledge in high-school administration.” Following three years at DHS, she began working at Blocker Middle School as its Principal; a position she held for seven years before taking onher newest position.
When I asked Southworth about her biggest accomplishment in her seven years at Blocker, she told me that it was the school’s academic improvement, particularly in 8th Grade Math. “In the last two years all of our students have been outperforming the state.” “That is one of our district goals—to meet or exceed state level. We are seeing an increase in the number of students that not only approach and meets grade level, but also masters it.”
Southworth also told me about the district’s new graduation plan, which was brought about by House Bill 5. I was able to do a quick Internet search and learned that this bill was a piece of legislature that was passed in 2013, allowing schools to move away from the 4X4 graduation plan and into a program that allowed high-school students to—according to the Texas Association Of School Administrators—“earn endorsements in specific areas of study by completing four additional credits.”
“The upcoming seniors will be the first to graduate under the new plan,” she told me. “This helps students become more career and/or college ready. In the past, the four by four was primarily preparing all students for college. But since not everyone goes to college and needs extra training, this helps prepare students for future careers as well as college.” The tracks in this plan include business and industry, public service, arts and humanities and STEM. “The district and our community invested in the new ITC center so we can offer as many opportunities for our students as possible.” If you would like to learn more about House Bill 5, please visit tasanet.org/domain/175.
Southworth told me that a major influence in her joining the educational world was her family. She told me that her grandparents and her mother all worked in schools. “It was something that was highly valued in our family and something that is important to me. Anything we do we ask, is this something we would want for our own child?”
Southworth, who is married, has three children and four grandchildren. Her oldest daughter is a teacher while her two sons are part of the Air Force. When Southworth isn’t working to reach her goal of contributing in whatever way she can to TCISD, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, working out and working outdoors—particularly mowing the lawn. “I get a little annoyed when my husband mows without me,” she said.
Southworth told me that her short term goal for the district is to see all campuses moving forward. “One of our focuses will be on attendance, because this will increase the opportunity for our students’ academic success and provides the necessary funding for our campuses.” On a long-term basis she hopes to keep learning and growing in her career. “We have a really strong team that I am working with and I have a lot to learn from them.” “We want to have a safe and orderly environment for our students to have the best opportunity for learning.”
And, along with Myers and Anderson—who were both powerhouses in helping the first year of annexation go off without a hitch—Southworth also wanted to commend Sherri Simmons, secondary curriculum coordinator, and Jennifer Folse, elementary curriculum coordinator, for working closely with the instructional specialists on the campus level to ensure that the district is providing a TEKS based and accessible curriculum for all students.
The Post wishes Southworth and the entire TCISD administration the best of luck as they embark on the second year of this continuing journey!