FRANKFORT – The 2016 F.L. Dupree Superintendent of the Year’s mantra is “Whatever it takes,” a motto that can find him devising ways to help struggling students, looking for fiscal efficiencies and even cleaning up flooded school buildings.
That mantra took the Floyd County school district from 86th place in the state accountability system when Dr. Henry Webb became superintendent in 2007 to 12th place in 2015. That was also the second year the system celebrated being a District of Distinction under Webb.
“As a strong student advocate, Dr. Webb’s ongoing commitment to improving the lives of students in eastern Kentucky serves as an example and an inspiration to many,” Dr. David Barnett, dean of the College of Education at University of Pikeville, wrote in endorsing Webb’s nomination for the award, which is sponsored by the family of the late F.L. Dupree Sr., administered by the Kentucky School Boards Association and judged by previous recipients.
The award was presented Feb. 27 during KSBA’s annual conference in Louisville.
Webb has spent his entire career thus far in Floyd County Schools, starting in 1995 as a coordinator for visually impaired students, then teaching for two years before quickly advancing to principal. He moved to the central office in 2004 as director of instruction before taking the helm of the system three years later.
The district, which was state-managed a decade ago, has attracted the attention of philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, whose visit last year to tour one of its high schools drew their praise and generated headlines.
Besides “Whatever it takes,” Webb also is known for another phrase that has pervaded the Floyd County district, as noted by school board Chairman Jeff Stumbo in his letter of nomination.
Stumbo pointed to Webb’s fiscal philosophy, which is “How does the use of the resource impact student achievement in a measurable way over time?” But, he added, during lean times, efficiencies aren’t always enough and noted that Webb has secured the district “record amounts” of grant funding.
Those grants include a Toyota bornlearning Academy grant, a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant and the largest grant ever given in Kentucky by the AT&T Aspire program.
In one of his signature achievements, Webb has overseen the creation of multiple ways for students to receive college credits before they leave high school, including dual-credit courses and the creation of the Floyd County Early College Academy, which allows participants to graduate high school with an associate degree.
Jordan Pack, a senior at Allen Central, noted, “The academy not only saves these students upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, but it also gives eastern Kentucky’s future doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators and businesspeople a two-year head start into their postsecondary education ventures.”
Webb holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Morehead State University. Barnett recalls Webb’s “ability to apply cutting-edge research into real world settings” when Webb was his student in graduate school at MSU.
“Indeed, on a number of occasions,” Barnett wrote, “Dr. Webb’s work preceded and predicted many best practices that are being implemented today by some of our nation’s best superintendents.”
This school year is the second year of the Floyd County district’s digital conversion, which, by fall 2017, will see all students in grades 5–12 with a device they can use at school and outside the classroom to enhance their learning. Webb also developed a district Digital Leadership Network so all school administrators can learn and support students and staff with blended learning.
The network exemplifies Webb’s outlook on growing leaders within the district. He formed an administrative team that includes both building and district administrators, and a Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Team. Through a university link and certification opportunities, many members of that latter team have moved into administrative roles. Webb also advocates for teachers and administrators to be involved in state and national opportunities, according to his nomination, and led the school board to adopt a financial assistance program that almost doubled the district’s number of National Board Certified teachers.
At the building level, Webb has promoted anti-bullying and advisor-advisee programs and attends numerous school events. Pack, the high school student, said Webb’s face is the most recognizable in the district, and “everyone knows Dr. Webb by name.”
“… Dr. Webb treks to each of our sixteen schools and Early College Academy seemingly nonstop,” Pack wrote in a letter supporting the nomination and praising him as a superintendent, as well as “a friend, mentor and education activist.”
Webb’s presence in schools also was noteworthy in 2011, when two schools were flooded shortly before state assessments were to begin and the superintendent arrived at 4 a.m. to help with clean-up.