SOE Alumni Award winner works tirelessly for equity and social justice in schools

May 4, 2014 by

Rodney Watson (Ed.S. ’00, Ph.D. ’07) was honored at a luncheon on April 24th as the UMKC School of Education’s Alumni Achievement Award winner along with fellow 2014 Alumni Award Awardees from across the university. Hailing from a long line of educators in his family, Dr. Watson says his work is “driven by an innate desire to see equity and social justice in America’s school system.”

Rodney Watson, Ph.D., flanked by SOE Dean Wanda J. Blanchett and Clinical Assistant Professor Gus Jacob, Ed.D., was honored as the School of Education’s 2014 Alumni Achievement Award winner.

While a student at UMKC, Watson gained his first experience as a school administrator in the Hickman Mills and Lee’s Summit School Districts in Missouri.  He also served as a national trainer for the Houston, Texas-based Haberman Educational Foundation, which aims to teach and implement research-based models for identifying teachers and principals, particularly educators who serve students at risk and in poverty.

After just one year of being recruited in 2010 to the position of school improvement officer for the Houston Independent School District (HISD), where he supervised 12 elementary schools, Watson was promoted to chief school officer, a job in which he supervised 53 elementary schools and five school improvement officers.  He now serves as chief of human resources for HISD, where he provides oversight of professional development, leadership development, HR business operations, compensation, talent acquisition, employee relations and human accountability. His office is responsible for an employee group of nearly 30,000 individuals in 279 schools serving more than 200,000 students.

“The most rewarding aspect of my professions is the kids,” asserts Watson.  “After all, that is why I have a job.  I love being able to be a consistent and positive role model in their lives.  I love being able to support and monitor their growth both academically and developmentally throughout the year.  I love seeing the smile on their faces after they have accomplished a benchmark or goal, and I love working with other school and district stakeholders.”

Watson’s reach extends far beyond Houston, however.  In 2013, for example, he was among several panelists selected to testify in February before the U.S. congressional Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary & Secondary Education in Washington, D.C. on the topic of school district performance measurements.  His formal statement is at the 21:00 minute mark on the C-SPAN video:  http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/311237-1.

The School of Education also recognized Watson’s award at its annual Jazz on the Lawn celebration held late afternoon on April 24th, where Watson spoke briefly to the students, alumni, faculty and staff in attendance about the need to pursue educational opportunities for all students without finding excuses.

SOE Alumni Award winner works tirelessly for equity and social justice in schools | School of Education.

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