Workshop provides forum for issues

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 17, 2003


LULING – The two new members of the St. Charles Parish School Board waded hip-deep into issues and challenges facing them during a workshop Monday at the central office with their fellow members.

Cindy Brasher and Jay Robichaux joined Mary Bergeron, John L. Smith, Alfred Green, Clarence “Sonny” Savoie, Wayne Roussel and Stephen Crovetto, along with some administrators, including Superintendent Dr. Rodney Lafon.

The session opened with newly elected board president Smith reviewing challenges faced by the new year, including pressure to improve LEAP test scores and the need to sustain and expand funding sources.

“What is our vision?” Smith asked. “What do we see our mission to be?”

The panel discussed with Felecia Gomez the system’s accomplishments, evidence that the district is keeping its direction and avenues for improvement. Gomez is the assistant superintendent for elementary schools and curriculum, instruction and assessment. Such directions for improvement included improved test scores, cutting into dropout rates, addressing teacher burnout, improving funding and expanding educational opportunities.

That was followed by a review of “burning issues” in teaching, learning and assessment with Rachel Allemand, the executive director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. During this, Smith pointed out the need to target ineffective teachers, while Crovetto noted new teachers often do well during their first five or six years, “then they hit the wall.”

Robichaux urged an expansion of the satellite high school’s mission to provide course work for both college-bound and non-college-bound students, to remove any possible social stigma attached to attending the school. Finance director Jim Melohn reviewed financial management with the board, with issues including skyrocketing insurance costs, facility upkeep, funding cuts from state and federal sources, increasing the fund balance and the need for a grants officer.

Special Education Director Yvonne Adler reviewed schools/community relations and support services, including child nutrition, child welfare, transportation, community education, adult education and health and social services. Brasher urged a greater emphasis on improving communication across the system, especially between parents and the district.

Larry Sesser, the executive director of physical plant services, reviewed problems with facilities, including the need for a maintenance plan, increasing staff and improving security, while keeping schools accessible to the community.

Sandra Royal, executive director of human resources, discussed recruitment, selection and induction of teachers, with the board members offering ideas on expanding career advancement opportunities and an increased attention to retention of quality teachers. Other ideas offered by Bergeron and Crovetto included drawing qualified teachers from the community, such as retirees who would want to teach in a field related to their career.

However, those teachers would have to be “not just certified, but highly qualified,” according to Gomez.

Finally, the district’s executive director of administration/quality manager John “Rusty” Walker briefly reviewed challenges and goals in technology, including having at least six computers per classroom and an eventual goal of every student having a laptop computer issued to them.

At the conclusion, board members “voted” on top issues confronting them and requiring the highest level of attention.

These included “No Child Left Behind” programs, a return to basic “Three R’s” instruction, facility upkeep, revisiting the role of school counselors and the need for an alternative school.