Tobacco to help St. James schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001


LUTCHER – In the continuing effort to improve St. James Parish student test scores, the school system will use a $101,923 tobacco settlement grant to hire facilitators at Lutcher Junior High and Vacherie Elementary. The grant was part of $5 million divided between all parish school systems by the state. “Currently, the grant is not a one-time payment,” said Mary Edwards, director of administration. Next year the fund will be reduced, and the following year it will again reduce to 75 percent of its original amount. After the reductions the state will begin to raise the amount given to the school system, said Edwards. If the state later decides to take the tobacco settlement in a lump sum, that all could change, she added. The grant has been earmarked for hiring facilitators after much deliberation on how best to improve student scoring. “In studies the single entity that impacts student scoring the most is the classroom teacher,” said Edwards. The facilitators are being hired then to serve as trainers for the teachers. They will interpret and analyze test scores, take that information and direct it toward improving the weaknesses they find. With their analysis done “they will take all that back into the school to train the teachers,” said Edwards. This will be a new program, starting in the fall in collaboration with Title I. Lutcher Junior High and Vacherie Elementary are the only two K-8 school not designated for Title I funding. Neither schools qualify due to low percentage of free lunch requirements. With the facilitators being hired through Title I for the rest of the K-8 schools, the tobacco grant will allow the hiring of new facilitators to extend to all the St. James Parish K-8 schools. The new facilitators hopefully will improve students scores. Last year, 53 percent of St. James Parish fourth-graders scored below the level of basic English and mathematics. Eighth-grade students scoring below the basic level in English was 63 percent and 73 percent in math.