School Board opts out of career diploma this year
CROWLEY – Some members of the Acadia Parish School Board were miffed with Superintendent John E. Bourque’s decision to request a waiver for the career diploma passed by state legislators during the recent completed regular session.
The members were upset
that Bourque did not consult them or other board members before seeking the waiver with the State Department of Education.
President Lynn Shamsie remarked he read about the district’s intention in a newspaper article instead of learning of it from the superintendent.
“Who opted us out? I found out (the district) was opted out in the newspaper. That’s board decision,” said Shamsie. He told Bourque he could have called a special meeting, adding the board has met over lesser concerns.
Bourque admitted it was a mistake not to notify board members or call a special meeting regarding the career diploma waiver. He explained he received a letter from the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education (BESE) on July 13, asking for the district’s decision.
Bourque remarked he testified in favor of the career diploma option before a legislative committee, but had a lot of questions,
The superintendent cited several factors, including the lack of time for the district to notify parents and students and the fact that the career diploma is intended for at-risk students, but also demands pupils not miss more than five days.
The legislation also denies suspension or expulsion and requires principals to confirm a career diploma is in the student’s best interest without an interview or observation of the pupil.
The board unanimously voted to adopt the waiver for the 2009-2010.
In other action, Supervisor of Special Education Carol Tall informed the board of new state immunization requirements.
Tall told the board that new requirements had been put into place by the state regarding immunizations. Most noticeably, students eleven years of age entering the sixth grade must be vaccinated for meningitis.
To concerns expressed by board members about the short period of time before school starts and a shortage of the vaccine by health units, Tall stated that the children would be allowed in school if proof of a scheduled doctor’s appointment could be shown; or if, when at a doctor’s appointment, the vaccine was unavailable, a follow-up appointment was scheduled and proof could be shown of that.
Tall also stated that students entering the sixth grade who had not yet turned eleven would be allowed into school. To receive the Meningitis vaccine, children must be eleven years of age.
New immunizations also required are, for students entering kindergarten, pre-k, daycare or Head Start who are four years of age or older, the Varicella vaccine (two doses) and the Diphtheria Tetanus Acellular Pertusis vaccine (three doses).
Parents who do not wish to have their children immunized, according to Tall, can refuse because of a medical condition, in which case they have to provide a doctor’s excuse; or if they have either philosophical or religious reasons in opposition, in which case they must provide written dissent to the school.
In the case of an outbreak, Tall said, these children who are not immunized will be sent home from school and will not be allowed back until the outbreak has concluded.
Also, the board voted to opt out of the Career Diploma program for this coming school year.
“I don’t think we could implement this program at this time with any kind of success,” stated Acadia Parish School Superintendent John Bourque.
Several members of the board, while supporting the program, had concerns with some of the requirements of the program that they felt were unreasonable.