AMI highlighted, LHSAA discussed at Acadia Parish School Board Meeting

By: Jeannine LeJeune
CROWLEY - At the final meeting before the start of the 2010-11 school year, the Acadia Parish School Board shined a spotlight on the Associated Marine Institute (AMI) program and discussed in length the newest laws enacted by the LHSAA.

Board Member James Higginbotham, who is involved in the local AMI, brought six members of the program to the meeting to share their personal stories of what led them to AMI and how they have benefitted from it.

The AMI members all pointed to shady pasts, whether it was in upbringing or getting in with the wrong crowd. Michael Thompson, who is originally from Morgan City and was raised by his grandmother, turned to crime following his father’s death last year. Since enrolling in AMI, however, he has turned himself around and wants to go to school to be a diesel mechanic.

“I want to take care of my grandmother,” said Thompson.

Other program members agreed with Thompson’s sentiments, stating how it has made them better people and given them direction in life.

Board President Lynn Shamsie congratulated all of those who spoke on a job well done both with the program and at the meeting Monday night.

“It takes courage to speak up here as you all did,” he said.

After several committee items were approved, Superintendent John E. Bourque introduced two discussion items that received a lot of buzz.

The board members, board attorney and a member of the LHSAA were on hand to discuss a new rule in the LHSAA that allows home-schooled high school students to apply to become LHSAA eligible.

In order for a student who is home-schooled to be eligible, he or she must apply within the first 11 days of a school year to the school in their attendance district, for example students in Rayne can only apply to Rayne. The principal of the high school has the right to veto the child’s request. If the request to tryout is denied, a student has no cause of action to appeal, according to the new rule. According to the LHSAA representative, out of the 277 member schools, 268 voted in a roll call against the new rule.

While some gray area remains with the rule, Bourque has suggested that the school board make a motion to strongly urge principals to vote one way or another in the parish to promote unity. However, the school board recognizes it cannot stop a principal from voting one way or another and it has no power over private high schools in the parish.

Board Attorney Gerard Caswell cautioned that a principal will need to be uniform with his or her answer each time a request is made.

“If you say ‘no’ several times and then say ‘yes’, you are opening yourself up to a lawsuit,” he said.

However, many questions still remain, and, as Board Member Milton Simar pointed out, it is likely to uneven the playing fields across the state.

“I just don’t want to put Acadia Parish at a disadvantage,” he said.

The new rule also helps keep students from dropping out of school just to be academically eligible. If a student drops out, he or she is LHSAA ineligible for the remaining portion of the current year and the following year.

Another new rule, going into effect in Spring 2011 will require students to maintain a 2.0 GPA and pass six classes instead of five.

According to a state law passed in 2009, school boards now have the option of adopting a policy that would permit information be provided to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles regarding student’s enrollment and attendance, thereby affecting a student’s driving privileges. While, Bourque says other things must be accounted for if the school board is to adopt this policy, he referred it to committee.

“I think it’s something we should look into,” he said.

During his remarks, Bourque once again thanked the boys from AMI for speaking to the school board.

He also said the parish did really well in testing this year. When looking at Algebra I and English scores, Acadia Parish did well in an eight parish area, as well as on the state level. The parish had an 89 percent pass rating, while the state average was 80.

Bourque also recognized Board Member Higginbotham for being appointed as one of three members to the Federal Relations Committee by the State School Board President. Their first meeting will be in Washington, D.C.

“While it has nothing to do with graduation rates, it does have to do with the future, which is a good sign,” said Bourque.

The 2010-11 school year’s motto, “Every Child Every Day --- Whatever It Takes,” was also on display at the meeting. The next meeting will be Sept. 13, 2010, due to the Sept. 6 Labor Day holiday.

Acadia Parish Today

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