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School Board Oks improvement plans

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 4, 1998

RESERVE – Public schools in St. John the Baptist Parish are on track forimproving achievement levels.

The St. John School Board approved school improvement plans at a specialmeeting Tuesday.

Such plans had to be approved by May 1 as required by Act 478 of the Louisiana Legislature, according to Superintendent Cleveland Farlough.

Farlough emphasized to the nine board members in attendance that approval of the plans was necessary, making the special meeting a requirement, as the next regular meeting was after the state deadline.

However, he continued, that did not mean the plans were etched in stone and they could still be reviewed and amended.

Board member Felix “Pappy” LeBoeuf, who chairs the committee to review the plans, noted the plans will be reviewed three at a time until all have been reviewed. Each of the high schools, elementary schools and juniorhigh schools submitted plans for self-improvement.

“This is not about money,” Farlough noted. “This is about trying to getschool districts serious about student achievement.”Board member Dr. Gerald Keller asked if the plans had already beenreviewed, and Farlough responded the plans were not set in cement and some modifications are anticipated.

“I can buy that; it’s lovely,” Keller responded, and the motion to approve the plans passed 9-0, with Russ Wise and Charles Watkins absent.

The school board’s own goals for the coming school year include: * To implement a comprehensive and well-coordinated instructional program which provides for challenging academic courses, vocational education and technology that will improve student achievement.

* To provide a safe, well-disciplined and drug-free environment for all students.

* To maintain and upgrade the technology program to improve instructional delivery and student achievement.

* To improve parental involvement and support for student achievement.

Schools ranked in the lower 20 percent of student achievement in St. JohnParish included Fifth Ward Elementary and West St. John High School.Fifth Ward’s plan for self-improvement noted a need for a new school disciplinarian, as its former one was lost due to a budget cut in Title I allotment.

LEAP scores at Fifth Ward, however, have been steadily, if slowly, on the rise, except for a recent drop in Fifth Grade Language Arts. Attendance isaround 95 percent, a good sign, but there are only three teacher aides for grades K-6.

The student-teacher ratio, ideally, would be 15-1. However, at Fifth Ward,the ratio stands at 23-1, according to the report.

It was noted the entire instructional program at West St. John High isbeing restructured to improve and enhance the effectiveness of the educational program.

Goals include improving standardized test scores by 2 percent by the end of the 1998-99 school term, decrease disciplinary referrals by 5 percent and generate more parental involvement by 5 percent.

Discipline problems at West St. John were founded on peer pressure,substance abuse, low self-esteem and “lack of classroom management on the part of some teachers,” the report stated.

Plans include “to establish zero tolerance level for disorderly conduct in classrooms, as well as to drugs.”Other plans at West St. John High include greater use of the library andbroadening of multi-cultural experiences.

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