LIVINGSTON – Livingston Parish’s past six superintendents each served as an assistant superintendent first. Five of those also worked as human resources supervisor.
Jody Purvis did not hold those two jobs before he applied for superintendent, but his résumé and interview impressed four board members enough to vote for him on April 18.
That 4-4-1 vote forced a second round of voting, which gave the job to Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy, 5-4.
“My wife and I are both (school system) employees; our friends are employees. We vacation with employees,” Purvis told the board during his interview.
“Education is a part of my daily life.”
It took Purvis only 14 years to reach the Central Office as supervisor of high school instruction, which he addressed during his interview before the board on April 15.
“I’ve heard I’m too young,” Purvis said, recounting he was student teaching at the age of 20, earning his B.S. in 1998 from LSU in vocational education and agricultural education.
At age 21, Purvis said he got his first job in 1998, teaching biology at Denham Springs Freshman High, then agriscience in 1999. He added a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Southern University in 2000. From 2001-04, he taught at Springfield High.
After seven years teaching, he moved into administration as assistant principal at Springfield Middle School in 2004, then the same job in 2005 at Southside Junior High.
He called 2006 “the most exciting year an educator can experience,” as he became “a father and principal in the same week. That was a change that’s for sure.”
Purvis was principal at French Settlement Elementary, then spent from 2007-12 as principal at Springfield High School. In 2012, he moved to the Central Office as supervisor of high school instruction.
The difference between leading an elementary school and high school was not lost on Purvis.
“I went from where I opened 100 ketchup packets a day from students to some may talk to you one day and some may not the next day,” he said.
On other issues Purvis discussed with the board:
• The frozen level of Minimum Foundational Program affects the school system’s budget which affects teacher salaries.
• More school resource officers are needed, and the board needs to revisit the issue.
• Discipline. “Sometimes we have to take a look at why students are sent (the office),” Purvis said. “Was the entire faculty being consistent. In self-reflection are you and the institution being fair?”
• Accountability is not just numbers. “Susie got credentials and Johnny got AP credit,” are the bottom line to parents, he said.
In 2009, 209 students took Advanced Placement tests. This year more than 2,000 will take AP exams, he said. Last year, Livingston Parish was third in the number of students who earned a 3 or better on AP exams.
“The reason: accountability. In raising our ACT scores, teaching is more rigorous, this impacts scholarships they receive,” he said.
• More hands-on career classes and the same opportunity at the junior-high level, possibly a spin-off of the Jump Start Summer program now in place, Purvis said.
As the supervisor for high school instruction, he has emphasized Career Technology Education courses, which bring in $600,000 annually in Career Development Force funding.
Livingston Parish has led the state in such funding for the past three years, he said.
“Our system is great,” Purvis told the board during his interview. “But great can be greater. We have to remember that change takes time - I have longevity on my side.
“I was born and raised in Livingston Parish and a product of the public schools. My roots are strong here,” he said.