When the school year starts, Josh Worsham will begin navigating his first principal job in a setting drastically changed by COVID-19.
Worsham is the new principal at Longview ISD's Ware East Texas Montessori Academy. Former principal Patricia Duck will return to teaching at Judson STEAM Academy, according to the district.
While he wanted to spend the summer preparing to bring innovation to campus, he has instead spent weeks planning a safe return to school.
"We’re literally doing everything for the health and safety of our students," he said. "Every aspect of the school day has been broken down to how can we do that safer and how can we do that better."
Worsham, who grew up in Longview and graduated from Pine Tree, has been part of Longview ISD for years. Most recently, he was a curriculum specialist for East Texas Advanced Academies, the nonprofit organization running six campuses as Senate Bill 1882 charter schools.
His previous position required him to spend time on the Ware campus weekly, he said, which allowed him to see the great students, staff and foundation the campus already had.
But there always is room for improvement.
"We have a lot of room to improve, just based on our accountability from the state of Texas, our report card has a lot of room for improvement," he said. "Our distinctions have a lot of room for improvement, so those are my goals. I bring a lot of technology and innovation expertise."
In the 2018-19 school year, Ware Elementary received a C rating from the state. Accountability ratings are not available for the 2019-20 school year because the COVID-19 pandemic caused cancellation of the STAAR tests.
"Right now, my goals are health and safety of students and staff, that other stuff is coming and will come soon, but we’ve got to get ready for school to start safely," Worsham said.
Worsham's wife Allison is an award-winning instructional technology specialist for the district who he works with to bring innovative technology to the classroom.
"She’s exceptional at what she does; she inspires me every day," Worsham said of his wife. "We collaborate a lot. We’re a team."
Their son attends Oak Forest Montessori Academy in town, which Worsham said helped him learn about the Montessori style of learning.
"I’ve been in his classroom and worked with the teachers. I spent some time with Dr. (Jacqueline) Burnett at East Texas Montessori Prep Academy," he said. "I’m excited to work with those teachers, there are teachers on campus that are more expert in that than I am."
Worsham wants Ware parents to know campus improvements will happen, but safety will come first.
"I was planning on telling people we’re not going to have to change a lot of stuff, but because of what is going on there’s a lot of stuff we’re going to have to change because of the health and safety of everyone," he said. "We’re doing everything we can to keep the campus as clean and sanitary as possible while still giving students an exceptional learning experience every day, whether they’re at home or on campus."