Caddo Parish Public Schools is mourning the loss of one of its most recent leaders. Dr. Gerald Dawkins, 72, passed away on Thursday evening.
Dr. Dawkins served as superintendent of Caddo Schools from 2008 to 2013. He came to Caddo following seven years as Superintendent of Saginaw School District in Saginaw, Mich. and prior service as Chief of Staff and Deputy Superintendent in Grand Rapids Public Schools in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The proud husband to Gwen and father to daughters Kanika and Kamaria came to Caddo Parish as he stated publicly his desire to embark on a new chapter in his life. In many ways, his move to Caddo Schools was also a new chapter for the district. He entered the school system as the Louisiana Department of Education sought to takeover 10 district campuses. In the process, Dr. Dawkins developed an ambitious and intensive turnaround plan, The Caddo Plan, which called for each school to be assigned a theme. The plan also sought to recruit high-quality teachers to underperforming schools through sizable incentives.
“Dr. Dawkins was an innovative and talented superintendent who developed transformative frameworks to improve school and student performance that were ahead of their time,” said Dr. T. Lamar Goree, Superintendent of Caddo Schools. “Much of what he envisioned for Caddo Schools stood against the status quo and called for substantive changes designed with students at the center of the work. It is through the principles he set in motion that we have been able to make progress in this administration to realize improvements in student achievement. He was a mentor, a friend and someone I greatly admired.”
Dr. Dawkins was often seen as a forward-thinking superintendent. In 2010, he announced an ambitious, overarching plan targeting areas of improvement across the district. Vision 2020 was designed to address facility needs districtwide and called for school closures, consolidations and new construction based on population shifts and anticipated new development in south and Shreveport. The plan also called for the district to petition the Department of Justice to end its remaining components of the consent decree. He was the first superintendent who commissioned an extensive study of all facilities and properties owned by the Caddo Parish School Board to understand the condition of district sites. The study became the foundation for many of the district’s capital expenses for the past decade.
Following his service in Caddo, Dr. Dawkins made his home back in Grand Rapids and served as an education consultant and worked closely with superintendents across the country on community engagement and the importance of collaboration. He also became a coveted mentor to countless superintendents across the country.
Dr. Dawkins, a Marine Corps veteran, was a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina and began a career in education as a teacher and counselor in Grand Rapids Public Schools in Michigan in 1973 and later became an administrator. He later became assistant superintendent for educational services and then chief of staff before being hired as superintendent in Saginaw in July 2001.
He was a graduate of Knoxville College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in social science. He holds a Master of Arts in counseling and personnel from Western Michigan University and earned a doctorate from Wayne State University.
While he was immensely driven professionally, Dr. Dawkins was quick to say his family, which grew in recent years to include grandchildren Kadence and Karter, and his friends were among his greatest joys.
As Dr. Dawkins first superintendency was in Saginaw Mich. where James Woolfolk, former chief of operations for Caddo Schools, served as Board President.
“Dr. Dawkins would remind his staff and students ‘You’ve got to visualize the possibilities and act on them’,” Woolfolk said. “He was no nonsense and believed it was imperative to find opportunity in every situation to improve outcomes for students whether that was renovating a facility, adding new programs or working to increase certified teachers. He wasn’t one to sugarcoat what he saw as a need for kids and to work to fill that need.”