Since she went into administration 10 years ago, Megan Watts has dreamed of being a principal. Now she has reached that goal — becoming campus chief of Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School.
She replaces Jessica Redman, who is now executive director of school leadership at Midland ISD.
Watts has served in Ector County ISD for about 12 years, including two years at Bonham Middle School, eight years at Permian High School and a year in human resources.
“Wilson & Young is a campus that has shown tremendous student growth. It’s just exciting to be part of that, and continuing to expand on the strong things that the previous principals had implemented, that have led to the academic success that we’re having,” Watts said.
A senior in high school when her family moved to Odessa, Watts went to Odessa High School from October until May of her senior year. She is the daughter of David and Denise Watts.
Now retired, David Watts is the former president of University of Texas Permian Basin and Denise Watts was in institutional research.
“I have three siblings and I’m the only one that’s gone into education. But it was always all that I knew. It was always the conversation in the car and over dinner. It never occurred to me that I would move into administration. I … (loved) teaching and I thought I would teach forever,” Watts said.
Moving up became a natural progression.
“Education definitely runs in my blood,” Watts said.
Wilson & Young has nearly 1,300 students, which is in line with last year.
“Our sixth-grade class is the largest class. We have over 400 sixth-graders,” she added. “Then eighth grade and then our seventh-grade class.”
Watts attended the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Ala., earning a bachelor of science degree majoring in history and political science, and a master’s degree in education. Then she moved back to Odessa and pursued some post graduate work, ESL certification, administrative certifications and superintendent certification through UTPB.
Being an assistant principal for 10 years gave her a chance to train to become a principal.
“I had the opportunity to learn many different facets of a campus and what it entails to run a campus, so that was really strong preparation for this. But there’s nothing quite like being a principal, even with 10 years to learn. This still is a different job,” Watts said.
She’s still learning about students, teachers and the faculty.
“It has a growth curve with it,” Watts said.
The district provides support through avenues such as principal mentors and a new principal academy.
Her first goal as Wilson & Young principal is to make sure they are staffed with the best teaching staff possible. The campus is supposed to have 72 teachers.
“We had a large number of vacancies … so that became the focus when I came on July 17. We have reduced the number of vacancies by 11 … so we made huge strides,” Watts said.
“Then we focused on our policies, our procedures, … our classroom expectations. We wanted to make sure that we had strong expectations of not only our students, (but) of our teachers and our leaders, so that we can all hold each other accountable. We really focused the first two weeks of school on pushing those expectations and those student behaviors and now we’re moving more into what we want to see academically,” she added.
Wilson & Young made some great strides on the STAAR student growth the previous year and Watts wants to continue that.
“But we also want to remediate some of the areas that weren’t as strong. We’re doing that through our multi-classroom leaders, administrators being present in PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and offering that support for the teachers and for students,” Watts said.
Part of Opportunity Culture, the Multi-Classroom Leader, or MCL, heads a team of teachers, advanced paraprofessionals, and teacher residents. MCLs provide intensive, day-to-day support, collaboration, and professional development to all members of the team – which helps with recruiting and retaining staff, the district website details.
“We’ve also implemented a built-in remediation and enrichment time for our eighth graders to focus on ELAR (English, Language Arts and Reading), math, science and social studies; having an embedded time for them to have individualized learning through the resources we have available. We anticipate that will also lead to student growth,” she added.
Watts said Wilson & Young is a big school, so they want to keep the student-to-teacher ratio as low as possible because it leads to more student success.
The current focus is math, science and social studies.
Watts has three assistant principals and a dean position.
She began her administration career at Bonham Middle School.
“At that time, we were seventh through ninth grade so I was the seventh grade AP (assistant principal) and the eighth grade AP during my time at Bonham before I moved to Permian, so I had some middle school experience at the administrative level, but I did not teach middle school. All of my teaching was at the high school level,” Watts said.
Having been at Permian, she’s not shocked by the number of students at Wilson & Young.
“That’s one of the things that is also attractive about this campus is we’re having a huge impact on large amounts of students every single day,” Watts said.
Working in human resources, she said, has helped her become more well rounded and complements her other experience in education.
“This is a great campus. It really is. There’s a lot of really strong teachers here. There’s a strong corps that are really focused on student growth and student learning. It’s evident through our MCL teams that we have present in both ELAR and math every grade level has an MCL coach with intentional PLC planning time. I think that’s contributing greatly to their student success. It’s a great school. It really is. We’re building on what’s working and offering support to our students and our teachers,” Watts said.
Executive Director of Leadership Cynthia Retana said Watts knows what middle school students need to be successful at the high school level.
“She is well respected in the community and has detail to systems and processes on campus to ensure student safety and effective instructional planning,” Retana said in an email.