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St. Charles technology, programs growing

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 14, 1998

LULING – The 1998-99 school year is about to begin in St. Charles Parishand if it is like last year, students, parents, teachers and administrators have a lot to look forward to.

School superintendent Rodney Lafon said last year’s test scores looked good. There was apprehension last year about a new test, the ITBS, butLafon said the students’ scores on that test look good. The district didextremely well on the LEAP test, scoring in the top four in the state across the board.

“We feel we ought to have a pretty good year coming up,” Lafon said.

The district will continue to grow in terms of technology, placing computers into the fifth and six grades, offering a variety of multimedia resources and access to the internet. An additional technology lab will beadded at each high school with each school receiving new computers. Theadministrative software will be changed in each school, helping improve efficiency in such tasks as scheduling, report cards and attendance.

Another new program will assist in selecting substitute teachers when a teacher is absent.

The district’s highly successful Help One Student To Succeed (HOSTS) program will continue to grow. With the program in all four middleschools in the district this past year, seventh grade math scores improved. Now the district is looking to implement the language artscomponent in all four middle schools this year as well as expanding the program to include the district’s Transitional Nine and TIME programs.

An additional counselor will be placed at each high school. Thatcounselor’s responsibility is to meet with every 10th grader and their parents during the school year, talking about what is needed to prepare for college – what scholarships are available and what test scores and grades are needed.

The job shadowing program will also expand to include 10th graders with all freshmen and sophomores now required to participate in the program.

The district is also looking to give juniors and seniors the opportunity to have internships in their final two years.

“We want to expand the program to where every student can get the connection between school and the world of work,” Lafon said. “Businessand industry and the community have been very helpful. It has been a totalcommunity effort.”The district is also implementing a Homework Helpline, an interactive program on Channel 8 that gives students an opportunity to call in or e- mail problems they may be having with their classwork.

Another successful program, the ADAPT program, whereby students who are suspended are assigned to an in-school suspension facility rather than sent home, will be continued. The program cut suspensions by 47 percentsince its implementation while reducing the number of students who have multiple suspensions. The Violence Prevention program has also beenhighly successful.

“The name of the game is to save every child,” Lafon said. “We arecreating a strong learning environment conducive to learning.”Facility wise, renovations are being made at Destrehan and Hahnville high schools with Hahnville undergoing a major overhaul. A new roof and aircondition units are being installed at the school and the renovations there could take another 12 to 14 months. The addition at the school iscompleted and will be ready when school starts. And new ROTC buildingsare being constructed at each high school this year.

Other renovations are being made at the central office, Carver Elementary, St. Rose Primary and Mimosa Park Elementary. And the district will alsobe looking to continue upgrade its fleet by purchasing 12 new buses.

Facilities will continue to need to be upgraded with the continue growth of the parish. Lafon anticipates a annual growth of 200 to 300 students,especially with the number of new subdivisions going up in the parish.

To aid in dealing with this growth, Lafon recently reorganized the central office so that district administrators will have closer contact with those at the school level. Those specialists will work with the principals andteachers at each level of instruction.

Lafon said one major change in recent years is that the state is finally starting to take accountability seriously, something St. Charles Parish hasbeen doing for years. The district has already clearly identified itscurriculum standards, benchmarks and requirements for all its schools.

“What the state requires fits very much with what we have been doing,” Lafon said. ” We understand kids are the most important resource theparish has and the state finally has too.”