Many schools recognized at board meeting
If it’s the season to be jolly, the Acadia Parish School Board has a lot to be jolly about.
Several schools were recognized Monday night at the board’s monthly meeting for increasing a letter grade in the 2013 School Performance Scores and South Rayne was recognized as the grand prize winner in the 2013 NFL Play 60 Super School Contest.
“Acadia Parish was very fortunate to receive an early Christmas present,” said Dianna Guidry, supervisor of testing and evaluation.
Ten schools were honored by the board for their letter grade increases. They are Branch Elementary (from a C to a B), Central Rayne Kindergarten (D to C), Church Point Elementary (D to C), Crowley Kindergarten (D to C), Crowley Middle (F to D), Estherwood Elementary (C to B), Mire Elementary (C to B), North Crowley Elementary (D to C), South Rayne Elementary (C to B) and South Crowley Elementary (F to C).
“It was nice to acknowledge the schools that moved up,” said Superintendent John Bourque, “and it’s nice to see South Rayne be recognized.”
For South Rayne Elementary, it was a different means of recognition. The school was chosen as a grand prize winner nationally in the contest. The contest features two kinds of divisions – one for schools within a 30-mile radius of an NFL team, and the rest are looped into a second much larger division. It was in that second division that South Rayne Elementary was named a grand prize winner.
The school has received playground and physical education equipment, Under Armour shirts and $10,000 to purchase more equipment to promote fitness and healthiness.
South Rayne was one of only two “at-large” schools chosen, the other, Westview Middle School in Austin, Texas. South Rayne Elementary will host either an NFL player or cheerleader in the spring following football season for activities. Unsurprisingly, the school is hopeful the celebration will host a Saints player. The school also hopes that one of the photos submitted as part of the contest, which included two 200-word essays, featured one of the teacher’s doors that has a life-size cutout of Drew Brees with the words “Math is a Brees” on it, will sway a visit from a New Orleans Saints player in their favor.
Also at the meeting, the board received its audit report for the fiscal year which ended June 30. The report provided board members the chance to have their questions answered.
The board meeting provided members of the board the chance to hear a report on board member continuing education and receive information on the Awareness of Homelessness student/school activity.
All board members met or exceeded the required hours of continuing education, according to Ellan Kay Baggett, executive director of personnel/operations.
Crowley High and Rayne High schools have students that plan to take on quite the project. Students at both schools will be bringing awareness to homelessness with a sleep in a box project Thursday, Dec. 19. The event will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday with a 6 a.m. wake up call to get the students to school. The project will raise funds for those who are homeless while giving the students a first hand feel at what it is like to be homeless and still continue to go through everyday life by going to work or school the next day.
Decision made on facility naming
After several months of debate and opinions voiced, the Acadia Parish School Board has finally settled on a decision in regard to naming facilities.
The new policy, which was accepted and approved by the board during Monday’s meeting, will give the Superintendent the power to set up the procedures that must be followed in order to name an athletic facility or highway maintained by the school board after a living person. The school board will still have the final say.
The new policy reads as follows:
“The Acadia Parish School Board believes naming a school is a matter for great importance, one that deserves the most thoughtful attention. The Board shall not be influenced in its decision by personal prejudice or favoritism, political pressure, or temporary in choosing a name. No school, school building, or other public building shall be named after any living person. However, a street that is maintained by the School Board and that is not a state or federal highway, or any existing athletic facility at a school within the Board’s jurisdiction may be named in honor of a living person.
“When a request is submitted, the Superintendent shall be responsible for procedures to follow in naming school properties. These procedures shall include a timetable for the naming process. The recommendation shall be submitted to the board for approval.
“The person recommended should have had some significant connection with the school, either as a student, an alumnus, a retired faculty member, a retired administrator, a donor, or a supporter; or, have made significant contributions to the development of the school system or the State of Louisiana in education, the arts, public life, or some other appropriate field of endeavor.”
The new policy will go in affect on Jan. 14, following the approval of the December meeting minutes at the board’s January meeting.
Also at the meeting, the board approved 13 policy changes as a result of legislation. Policies changed include:
• School board member continuing education: Policy was updated to include the mandatory one hour of ethics training for board members as part of the required six hours.
• Tax and bond elections: Effective, Aug. 1, there is a new notification procedure for calling an election for the levy, increase, renewal or continuation of a tax. The new statute provides for public notice of the date, time and place of the meeting at which such a tax will be considered. The board must publish a notice of the meeting in its official journal no more than 60 nor less than 30 days prior to the meeting.
Emergency/crisis management: Components required for inclusion in the plan have been expanded, including each principal shall prepare the plan jointly with local law enforcement, fire, public safety and emergency preparedness officials and review it annually with such officials. Schools will hold annual training for all teachers and school employees and a safety drill will be required. Another new component is that classroom doors with locks shall remain locked during instructional time but not obstruct egress.
• Buildings and grounds security: Off-duty law enforcement officers are now added to the list of exempted officials from firearm-free zones around schools.
• Child nutrition program management: The required annual submission of documentation has been removed and is now simply required upon the request of state officials.
• Miscellaneous conditions of employment: Changes support a mother who wishes to express breast milk during the work day for a year following the birth of her child. School boards must now allow a reasonable amount of break time, as well as an appropriate private room, other than a restroom, for a breast-feeding employee’s use for expressing milk. School boards are not required to pay for new construction or expend any additional cost for the purposes of this change. Any additional break time shall be considered unpaid leave time.
• Dismissal of employees: Changes enacted additional statutory provisions for the dismissal of bus operators. Being found guilty of violating a parish or municipal ordinance or certain state statues relative to or prohibiting the operation of a vehicle while intoxicated, regardless of whether the bus operator was performing his/her duties as a school as a school bus operator at the time of the offense, is now grounds for removal.
• Education of students with exceptionalities: Changes clarify a 2012 law change that while gifted and talented students are classified as students with exceptionalities, the 2012 provision regarding seclusion and restraint were not meant for those students.
• Co-curricular activities and extracurricular activities interscholastic athletics: School boards shall not adopt a policy, rule, or regulation which limits the number of extracurricular activities in which a student may participate, if the student is otherwise eligible for participation in those activities. Interscholastic athletics is also now listed as among those extracurricular activities.
• Prayer in schools: Although current statutes and federal law already ensure the right of students to initiate prayer in certain circumstances, the new change further addresses the rights of students to gather for student-initiated prayer in classrooms, auditoriums, or other space not in use, at any time before the school day begins when the school is open and students are allowed on campus or at any time after the school day ends, provided that at least one student club or organization is meeting at that time, or any non-instructional time during the school day.
• Bullying and hazing: Revisions include mandatory employee training, new school employees who have contact with students, including bus driving must complete a minimum of four hours of training and two hours of training each subsequent year of employment.
• Student health services: The requirement that a written report of hearing and vision screenings submitted to the State Superintendent of Education has been removed.