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After-school detention among changes in St. James

REBECCA BURK ELLIS / L’Observateur / August 14, 1998

LUTCHER – Walter Landry has only been the superintendent in St. JamesParish for a few months, but he already has big plans for the beginning of school for students as well as faculty and administrators.

He has a new employee handbook complete with a dress code, code of conduct and work hour requirements. He also will implement a newstudent policy manual.

Suspensions will be eliminated during the day. Instead of attending day-by-day suspensions to the Alternative Center, students will have detention after school. Eleven of the 12 public schools in the parish willhave after-school detentions one or two times a week for one-and-a-half hours. Landry said Vacherie Primary, which has students fromkindergarten to third grade, will not have after-school detention because discipline problems there are few and far between. “And if a problemarises it will be handled during the day,” he said.

The alternative schools, at Lutcher High and St. James High, will be usedfor expulsions and students will have to stay there from one to 24 months based on the severity of their problem.

Students will also have to follow a much stricter dress code with the main changes being elimination of large earrings on girls and no earrings on boys; shorts can’t be worn by seventh- through 12th-graders; no caps; no gang-related apparel; and visible body piercing will be prohibited.

Students, faculty and even board members will have ID tags they have to wear at all times on campuses. Landry said eventually the tags will beeven more helpful than for just identification purposes. “The beautifulthing about it is eventually we will turn it into a lunchroom card,” Landry said.

On another note, Landry will require central office administrators to visit the schools much more and observe. He will also have a three-dayinduction program for new teachers and a two-day staff retreat to plan the future of the school system.

At board meetings at the beginning of the school year he will require the principals and the supervisors to make reports. “I want to hear the prosand the cons,” he said.

Another change to the schools in St. James are interagency agreementswith the Sheriff’s Office, Parish President and Parish Council and the Louisiana Technical College in Thibodaux.

The agreement with the St. James Sheriff Office will allow one officer togo between the two high schools and serve as a resource officer. TheSheriff’s Office is in the process of training another officer so each high school can have one at all times, Sheriff Willy Martin said.

The agreement with the technical college will allow non college-bound students to go to the school to learn welding, carpentry and auto mechanics before they receive their diplomas. Landry said this will allowthem to get a head start on training before they graduate so a job can be found faster.

Landry said the school system will also be busy planning for block scheduling, which will be in place for the 1999-2000 school year. Facultyand administration will attend workshops and study other schools who already are following this type of schedule.

Landry said that his new public relations committee, made up of business and industry, religious leaders, attorneys, government leaders and other community members will help get the good word out about the school system. “It will also help us see what we need to improve,” he said.One thing Landry knows he will improve upon is the teaching staff in the parish. “It’s my plan to get rid of some of the teachers,” he said. “I plan toremediate first and then terminate.

“I think a lot of people will be shaking in their boots because people will be held accountable,” he added. “From the students all the way down to thesuperintendent of the school system.”Even though Landry has some tough goals to reach, he feels he along with the help of his staff will be successful. “We will accomplish all of thatbecause these things are reachable,” he said.