Board touts schools’ successes
The Acadia Parish School Board had a lot to smile about Monday night at their June meeting.
For starters, the school board recognized Martin Petitjean Elementary School, the state’s first, and one of only 50 in the world Leader in Me Lighthouse Schools.
But, proof that the program is working and doing wonders at the Rayne elementary school was on display at the meeting as it was really the students presenting the school’s program to the board and to those in attendance.
After Principal Kim Cummins introduced and thanked the board for its support from the beginning of the Leader in Me program four years ago at the school, she called on the Synery Supervisor at the school, student Jonte Anders to talk about the program to the board.
Fellow schoolmates, Blaise Bergeron, Tyler Roberts, Pilar Morris and John David Dupont, joined Anders in front to serve as student panelist. The students were no strangers to answering questions in front of a crowd, as Martin Petitjean had student-panelists at the recent Leader in Me symposium in Lafayette, complete with 200 teachers as well as representatives from United Way.
The students first went over the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” for the board—Habit 1: Be Proactive; Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind; Habit 3: Put First Things First; Habit 4: Think Win-Win; Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood; Habit 6: Synergize; and Habit 7 Sharpen the Saw.”
The habits, along with Leadership notebooks, done by every student at the school, students performing leadership tasks throughout the year and weekly synergy meetings with the students, have helped the school see improvements in every sector.
More good news awaited the board with their report on students’ test scores for the year.
The parish saw improvement in premiere areas such as the comparison of average percent of students at basic and above. Acadia Parish saw a 2 percent gain this year. In the area, the only school district with higher gains was Evangeline Parish with 3 percent. The rest of the area, as well as the state average saw either similar or lower gains. Some, such as Lafayette or St. Landry parishes saw no gain and Jeff Davis saw a 1 percent drop in the category.
As the parish continues to try and strive to not just place first in categories, but “to build a whole student.” To that degree, the parish’s graduation rate continues to see improvement, even bridging the gap with higher overall performing school districts.
And the feats the parish has pulled off this year is even more impressive as the transitions and changes have occurred in the state with education.
In the period of transition from Comprehensive Curriculum to Common Core for instruction, the rigor has increased on tests and still the parish has shown strides, important strides.
“This is all proof that our people work hard in the teaching and improvement of our kids,” said Superintendent John Bourque.
“It’s hard to measure change when the measure changes, but our teachers keep answering the call.”
The board’s next meeting will be held July 1.
School board approves 2013-14 calendar for 12-month employees
After several months, the Acadia Parish School Board approved a revised calendar for 12-month employees, but not without a close roll call vote and discussion.
The new calendar was approved in a 4-2 vote with Board President Douglas LaCombe and Vice President James Higginbotham abstaining their votes. Board members Israel Syria, Lynn Shamsie, John Suire and Milton Simar voted for and David Lalande and Gene Daigle voted against.
The Personnel, Insurance & Curriculum Committee recommended the revised calendar for 2013-14, which will give 12-month employees the same calendar as other employees in regards to Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras holidays.
The first voice of disapproval of the calendar came from Daigle, who expressed that he didn’t feel that it was fair that these holidays would be granted to 12-month employees while teachers, who had been through the ringer during the year, were not being afforded the same luxury.
“It behooves me, and I like that word, why all of a sudden that we are going to change the calendar and give four days off, paid, to 162 employees, paid, in my three terms here this is the first time this board is not being fair to everybody,” he said.
“This, the most stressful year that teachers have ever had, and this is my 46th, because of the governor, the state superintendent, the BESE board, the state department, the evaluation, these 162 people, do not perform what the teachers do.
“Why don’t we just give these 12-month employees off without pay? Would you consider that?”
Suire, looking to clarify things, questioned whether the time off would be concurrent with teachers working and whether it would affect student instruction at all. Both answers were no.
Shamsie, meanwhile, waited his turn to speak, and quickly rebutted Daigle’s claims that 12-month employees are not evaluated.
“Mr. Daigle, every janitor, every employee in this parish, gets evaluated,” he said.
“Janitors, and other employees that don’t teach, like support people, they work hard, too, and what you were just saying there was almost an insult to every one of them.”
“I did not insult anyone, sir,” said Daigle. “I think you’re insulting the teachers not giving them off.”
Shamsie then made a motion of question, limiting discussion. The motion failed in a roll call vote, however, 3-4 with Higginbotham abstaining. For a question motion to pass, it needs a two-thirds vote.
With discussion continuing, other board members voiced their questions and comments.
Lalande questioned whether there is a difference between salary employees and wage-per-hour, but Ellan Baggett, executive director of personnel/operations, explained that a revised Louisiana statute shows no distinction between the two as it relates to school systems. She further explained that banked time is used in overtime situations.
“Very good, that removes my concern,” said Lalande.
Simar had his own comments to add, pointing to the often overlooked work of employees such as janitors and principals, especially as it relates to evening activities at the school.
“The custodians do so much extra time during the year, after ball games and tournaments and functions at night at the schools,” he said. “They are always willing to stay late and stuff, because of this, a lot of them get those days off anyway.
“Your principals stay for ball games and any kind of activity that occurs at night. This more than compensates for the four days.
“Central office people, I know there are some, Mr. Bourque included, that when we have an ice storm or snow or hurricane or tornado, the countless hours they spend with weather service or emergency aid or whatever, all those things more than compensate for those four days we want to take out.”
Simar explained his stance simply, that all employees are essential.
“I don’t care what his DOT is, whether he’s a building engineer or deacon, if he wasn’t important, we wouldn’t have him,” he said. “Therefore, I have to be for this.”
In other action, the board learned of four recent administrative changes the superintendent has made in the parish. First, to fill the principal vacancy at Iota High, Assistant Principal Cynthia Abshire has been promoted to principal and Coby Wallace was named as assistant principal at the school.
The board also gave the superintendent the authority to advertise for a principal at Church Point Middle and an assistant principal at Crowley High after the principal at Church Point Middle requested to be reassigned to the office of assistant principal at the school and Crowley High’s assistant principal was reassigned to Crowley Middle.
The board also agreed to come to an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Crowley to continue receiving emergency medical response at Crowley High. The city and police jury have already come to an agreement concerning fire protection for the newly created Fire District 11.