Board in favor of program, not happy with legislation
By Shantelle Breaux
CROWLEY – The Acadia Parish School Board does not plan to implement the career diploma program during the upcoming school year, and voted to inform the state of this during Monday evening’s monthly board meeting.
Several factors influenced the decision to request a waiver for the program, including questions the parish has about program requirements and the district’s lack of time to inform parents and students about program specifics.
State lawmakers passed the program to give the opportunity to obtain a diploma that will allow them to attend a vocational school instead of a college to students. Gov. Bobby Jindal recently praised the program.
A deadline of August 20 has been set for school districts to contact the State Department of Education about whether or not they plan to implement the program.
Questions about creating a career diploma program have been raised by many superintendents, including Bourque. In addition to Acadia, as many as 33 other school districts in the state have filed waivers with the state.
Bourque stated his reasons for requesting a waiver at the meeting.
“There are three sticking points I see about (career diplomas). One is the diplomas are supposed to be for at-risk students, but in order to get the (career) diploma, the student must not miss more than five days. Anyone who has taught at-risk students knows they usually miss more than five days,” stated Bourque.
In addition to requiring students to pass an end-of-course test in Algebra I despite not having taken the subject, the legislation also prohibits suspensions or expulsions for students seeking career diplomas.
Also, without having interviewed or observed the student first, according to Bourque, a statement must be signed by the principal stating that obtaining a career diploma is in “the best interest” of the student.
Although a few board members, including board President Lynn Shamsie, were upset that they were not consulted before the request for the waiver was sent, they were unanimous in the decision that implementing the program this year was not a good idea, because of the concerns brought up by Superintendent Bourque.
Board Vice President Gene Daigle stated of the requirements in the legislation about attendance and behavior, “There are so many loopholes in here.”
Board member Roland Boudreaux also agreed, stating that a waiver was needed this year.
Bourque admitted that not notifying the board or calling a special meeting about the issue was a mistake, but said that a he received a request for a decision from the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education on July 13, not leaving him with much time to do so.
Although Bourque stated that he is in favor of the program, the way it was done troubles him.