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Report: Many seniors failing

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / February 9, 1998

RESERVE – Forty percent of the high school seniors who attend publicschools in St. John the Baptist Parish are failing one or more subject,according to a report presented Thursday night to the St. John ParishSchool Board.

Chris Donaldson, associate superintendent, presented the report at schoolboard member Aleitha Bardell’s request.The report revealed that out of East St. John High’s 277 seniors, 31 arefailing one course, 17 have F’s in two classes and 12 are failing threeclasses.

At West St. John High, 10 out of 54 seniors had F’s, with eight of thoseseniors having an F in only one subject and two having an F in twosubjects.

Although West St. John has a much lower number of students failing one ormore classes than East St. John, the percentages are almost the samebecause East St. John has 223 more seniors than West St. John.

“The percentages are very close,” Donaldson said.Twenty-one percent have at least one F at East St. John, while 19 percenthave at least one F at West St. John.Debbie Schum, East St. John principal, was at the meeting and Bardellasked, “What are you doing so the total number will not be failing at theend of school?”

Schum said the schools aren’t treating the problem lightly. She said shewould like to see “all of the students walk across the stage.”

They are many steps they have taken to ensure that the number of failingstudents will decrease by the time May rolls around.East St. John held a group counseling session for the failing seniors,where senior counselor Carol Mills encouraged them positively, handed outacademic survey sheets for the students to fill out and explained to thestudents the steps they can take to improve their failing grades.

“We are encouraging students to get what they need,” Schum said. “Andthe teachers at East St. John are doing what they need to do to help thestudents.”

Schum said one of the biggest factors is a lack of parental involvement.

School board members agreed.

“Education is a partnership,” Russ Wise said. “There is not a singlestudent in the schools who is the sole responsibility of the teacher.Parental responsibility should not stop when a kid is old enough to drive.”

East St. John and West St. John are doing what they can to get parentsinvolved. Mills made phone calls beginning at 6:30 a.m. to the failingseniors’ parents between Jan. 26-30. Twenty-one calls were made and 14conferences were set up because of the calls. The calls will continue nextweek.

Failing seniors are also getting tutored after school by teachers or peers,Schum said. But that’s difficult if a student doesn’t go to class. Schumsaid another big problem with failing students is attendance.

“The students that have three or more F’s are the ones that are going tohave a hard time passing,” Schum said. “They are the ones that usuallyhave attendance problems.”

Schum said some seniors who are failing use the rationale that they cancoast through second semester with just one quality point if they make aB for the first semester.

“Sometimes we are a victim of our own grading scale,” Schum said.

Even with the news that 40 percent of the parish’s seniors are failing oneor more subjects, board members are still being optimistic and hoping forimprovements.

“It is important that we know these things,” board member ClarenceTriche said. “And things are improving. When we first asked for thesenumbers there were 104 seniors failing.”

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