St. James board takes step against violence

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2001


LUTCHER – The St. James Parish School Board took the first step toward addressing violence among students in Lutcher and Convent at its meeting Tuesday. The board passed the first phase of a strategic planning process called the St. James Parish Peace Initiative, developed to create a more peaceful school community through the schools. “Our schools mirror our community,” said 23rd Judicial District Attorney Tony Falterman. “We definitely need in our community to analyze and to come up with a strategic plan to try to curb some of the violence that is going on in our communities and that very often comes into our schools.” The idea behind the peace initiative, according to Falterman, is for students, teachers, principals and community leaders to get together for a two-day retreat and develop a strategic plan that will be both short- and long-term. The program will be led by experts from New Orleans who have national and international experience in educational institutions and corporate and government agencies. Since Falterman took office in the district, he noted, the number of court dockets for juvenile crimes has increased. “Something is wrong when the juvenile problem is greater than the adult problem,” he said. This action comes at a time when the St. James Parish community is trying to come to grips with and heal in the wake of the recent tragedy involving a Lutcher Junior High School student who allegedly shot and killed his father and stepmother. This is not an isolated case, Falterman explained. “Every day now you hear or read about some tragedy in our high schools throughout the United States,” he said. “We have to face reality, and the only way we are going to face it is by doing something like this, getting together and talking about it, finding out what are our options and what can we do as individuals, as a group, and as a society,” said Falterman. After a moment he added: “We are losing these kids, we are losing them and I don’t care what anybody says – we are losing.” Falterman gave the board a check for $2,500 to help pay for the expenses for the two-day retreat and told the board he and his office are available to do anything needed to make this plan work. Sheriff Willy Martin of St. James Parish was with Falterman and echoed support for the peace initiative plan. “We go out there every day dealing with these kinds of cases,” he said. “We see them first hand…we try desperately to come up with good crime prevention programs. This plan gives an opportunity to work hand and hand with all segments of the community, and I support this wholeheartedly.” In other business: Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne handed out awards to students who demonstrated excellence in winning first place in the 20th annual parish spelling bee. Janie Vee Henderson, administrative director who introduced the first place parish-level winners, said the spelling bee was exceptional because “we had two second-graders who competed for first and second place, spelling a total of 120 words within 45 minutes.” Mara Evert gave a Power Point presentation titled “2000-2001 Highlights of Visual Arts Talent Program.” Evert showed the various works of art demonstrated by her visually talented art students. Some of the work activities students participated in were making jack-o-lantern light fixtures out of pumpkins, painting ornaments in the governor’s mansion and going on a black and white Photoshop field study where students went to different historic plantations, churches and cemeteries to do photography. The board passed a modification of the custody policy. This policy, introduced by Henderson, has four provisions which give the custodian all legal rights, especially in educational welfare of a child. However, custody of a child should not be approved for any longer than one year, and modifications of any provisional custody cannot be made without board approval. The board approved a measure allowing the St. James Parish President’s Office to use the following cafeterias for the duration of the Summer Food Service Program, with no fees assessed for rental or utilities: Sixth Ward Elementary, Romeville Elementary, Fifth Ward Elementary, and Lutcher Junior High School. The St. James Parish President’s Office will pay all operating costs necessary for the program.