Lake Elementary School Principal Jeremy Muse is a semifinalist for Louisiana Middle School Principal of the Year. This is the sixth time in seven years that Ascension public schools has a principal in the running for the state's top honor.
"We are very grateful that Dr. Muse has received this special recognition for his leadership and service to Lake Elementary," said Ascension Public Schools Superintendent David Alexander. "He is a great teammate and is a lead learner on his campus. His dedication to the students that attend Lake, as well as the support he gives to teachers and staff who provide quality experiences for students at every touchpoint, is greatly appreciated! We are excited for him and with him."
"This is an incredible honor, and I am humbled by it," Muse said. "It was a surprise to be selected at the district level by my fellow principals and another surprise to be selected in the state process. One of the best parts of my job is working with my colleagues. I want to represent them well."
Raised in Walker, Muse attended Northeast Louisiana University on a band scholarship. During his time at NLU, he earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in government and was actively involved in student government. He served as the Student Government Association vice president for two years and worked directly with student senators.
The most notable parts of that time were working with the school administration during the university's name change and establishing a student self-assessed technology fee that is still in use today.
After college, Muse began exploring the possibility of getting into the education field and passed the PRAXIS examination. He was working for Enterprise Rental Car in Monroe, and filled in for the Bastrop branch. That day, he went to Eastside Elementary School to pick someone up and overheard the principal talking about her need to hire a sixth-grade social studies and math teacher.
Muse saw his chance and said, "Here I am!" He was quickly hired, thus beginning his 21-year career in education.
"It was fantastic luck," Muse said. "I am grateful for the many people who came across my life at the right time."
He fell in love with teaching math during his three years at Eastside Elementary. In 2002, he moved back home to attend graduate school at LSU. While earning a master's degree in educational leadership, he served one year as a math specialist in East Baton Rouge Parish and two years at Bakerfield Elementary teaching third- and fourth grade math and social studies.
Also, during this time, he joined People to People International, a nonprofit organization founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to "enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities." Muse's worldview changed as he led groups of students on international trips.
"If you can just get government and politics out of the way and have people from different backgrounds talk to each other, you will find there is common ground and solve global issues. All around the world, people just want to make a better life for their families and for the generations that come after them," said Muse.
During one of his trips to London, Muse met fellow leader Stacie Marcotte while attending "The Woman in Black" play. Coincidentally, he recalls Marcott was wearing a black dress that night.
Not long after that trip, Marcott, a sixth grade English language arts teacher at Central Elementary in Gonzales, contacted Muse about a job opening. His response to her inquiry about the job was, "Yes, and how about going to dinner with me?"
In 2005, Muse began teaching at Central Elementary. In 2006, he and Marcotte were married.
In 2007, he completed an administrative internship program with Principal Toni Hardy at Galvez Primary and Principal Monica Hills at Lowery Middle School. In 2008, Central Elementary became Central Middle and Muse became assistant principal under Principal Lynette Lacaze. He held this position for nine years.
Spring of 2017 was a momentous time for Muse. Within the span of one week, he successfully defended his dissertation to earn a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and was hired as principal of Lake Elementary, the only K-8 school in the district.
"I believe being a K-8 school is a tremendous advantage because we get to know kids better than anyone else. They are with us from preschool all the way through eighth grade. That's 10 years for teachers to collaborate and grow student success," he said.
In the latest release of Louisiana's School Performance Scores, Lake Elementary earned an A grade, as well as Top Gains honors. That means Lake demonstrated exceptional student progress ensuring students met or exceeded their learning goals each year.
"Our biggest challenge is that we are a great school with high-achieving students. Learning how to keep growing kids academically is the challenge," said Muse. "As educators, we are taught about what to do with kids that don't get the content matter. The harder ones are the kids that do get it and need to be challenged further."
A secret to Lake's success is the concept of Professional Learning Communities as the entire building, not limited to a group of teachers. Every employee at Lake Elementary has a role in the achievement of its students. Together, they must find a good balance of using data and addressing student needs — a concept Muse calls "riding the pendulum."
One of Muse's greatest accomplishments was Lake being named a "Model School" by Solution Tree, one of only three schools in Louisiana to earn this designation. This allows for collaboration with other schools, and recently it presented how student tracking is used in decision-making at the National Illuminate Conference.
"I am proud of the collective work of our teachers, staff, and students. Being in a position to share our successes on a national stage and help other schools is a tremendous honor," he said. "At the end of the day, I just want to help people."
As a school leader, Muse feels part of his job is improving the pipeline of educators and future leaders. He created an annual preference form for teachers to share not only the areas they would like to teach but also their desires for administrative growth opportunities.
"I want to know what my teachers are passionate about and include them as much as possible. An engaged employee is a satisfied employee, and I like helping people achieve their potential," he said.
Helping the community is one of Muse's favorite activities. He enjoys being a Lake Lion and a member of the Lion's Club. Recently, he served as the Hunger Chair and coordinated a drive that benefited three local food banks.
"If everyone picks something they are passionate about and does just a little bit to help other people, it can have a tremendous impact," he said.
If Muse wins Louisiana Principal of the Year, there is a good chance he will celebrate in Disney World, a favorite place to go with his wife, Stacie, and their 12-year-old twin girls: Isabella and Madelyn.
The Louisiana Department of Education will announce teacher and principal of the year finalists in May during the Teacher Leader Summit. Visit www.louisianabelieves.com/academics/award-programs for more information about the state process.