Landry sworn in; block scheduling approved

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 13, 1998

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / July 13, 1998

LUTCHER – The St. James Parish Public School System entered a new eraThursday night with a historical school board meeting.

Interim Superintendent Walter J. Landry Sr. was sworn in by Judge JohnPeytavin of the 23rd Judicial District Court. Landry succeedsSuperintendent John Boughton, who retired this past school year. He willserve a one year term expiring June 30, 1999.

In another move that will have an impact on the future of the school system, the board unanimously approved block scheduling beginning in the 1999-2000 school year. Instead of six 60-minute classes each school day,students at Lutcher and St. James high schools will attend four 90-minuteclasses.

Administrators in the system and in the high schools have been attending seminars on block scheduling, getting feedback from other school systems across the country on their views on the plan. Lutcher principal TerryMullen said in almost all the seminars he attended, the same features and benefits of the plan came out. One of the benefits, he said, is students do abetter job preparing for their subjects under block scheduling.

“Common sense tells you that it is a lot easier preparing for four classes rather than six,” Mullen said.

The plan also allows teachers to implement a variety of teaching practices and models, including cooperative teaching. Mullen pointed outthat in 50-minute classes, by the time the teaching gets revved up it is time to stop. With 80- to 100-minute classes, students spend more timein learning activities.

Under the block scheduling plan, teachers also spend more time with the students, allowing them more time to give personal attention. It alsogives them more time to make more effective student evaluations while at the same time lowering the student-pupil ratio.

“You can do more with 90 students than you can with 180,” Mullen said.

Teachers can also combine their efforts whether in the same department or across departmental lines.

“All of the final evaluations were the same,” Mullen said of the feedback he got from the other school districts with block scheduling. “In everyschool there has been an increase in the number of students making the honor roll. There is a decrease in discipline problems and improvements inteacher and student attendance. Test scores have improved, and there wasa decrease in graduation failure rates.”Mullen also emphasized the importance in staff development in helping teachers acclimated to the new schedule.

“Every school said that staff development is the key,” Mullen said.

St. James High School principal Ridgely Mitchell said that for the majorityof the students, the lecturing concept does not work. Mitchell said theblock scheduling plan gets students and teachers more involved, forcing both to become more active.

Board member Willis Octave applauded the decision to go to the new plan.

“I applaud Superintendent Boughton for planting the seed and Superintendent Landry for continuing the concept,” Octave said. “It isplanning like that that will take St. James Parish to the next level.”Mullen was asked about the feedback he has gotten from his teachers about the plan.

“The teachers are ready to go,” Mullen said. “They want to do it this year.”In other business, the board approved Landry’s recommendations for the filling of his staff. Brenda Gaignard was approved as the supervisor ofOperations/Child Welfare and Attendance and Transportation and Mary Edwards was appointed Administrative Director of Curriculum & Instruction.

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