Rising to the challenge

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 21, 2005

By Michael K. Coburn, Superintendent

St. John the Baptist Parish Schools

It’s safe to say that this has not been a normal school year.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have impacted so many families in our parish, and for some, created life-changing situations.

Our students have missed a total of nine days because of the storms. More than 1,700 displaced students have enrolled in our schools since the hurricanes, and most are still here.

Many of the student-evacuees and their families are still living with family or friends, while others continue to live in temporary arrangements, often faced with the challenge of moving from one location to another. Still, others have opted to buy new homes in the area to &#8220start over” rather than continue to fight the uncertainty.

Our teachers, administrators and counselors have worked long days to regroup themselves and revise their lesson plans to make up for the time lost and meet the needs of the extra students. They are working closely with all our students to help them cope with their fears and frustrations.

As time marches on, we all yearn for some sense of normalcy to return.

It is that need for normalcy and our steadfast belief in our students’ abilities that have lead us to maintain the standards for this year’s high-stakes tests. Fourth- and eighth-grade students must pass the LEAP-21 test in order to be eligible to advance to the next grade level. This has been the requirement for several years, and it will continue to be the requirement next year and for years to come. This year will not be an exception.

This year’s circumstances warrant extra consideration for our students, but we cannot dismiss accountability when, ultimately, our

students will be required to meet tough standards in years to come. Our students need to be academically prepared to be successful. Moreover, we must also teach our students that personal

accomplishment should not be subject to outside

circumstances, but should be maintained and achieved through personal responsibility, even in the wake of difficulty circumstances.Let me encourage our students, parents, teachers, administrators and staff to rise to the challenges that have been set before us. We cannot diminish our push for academic excellence for our students. Our students deserve nothing less. Let’s give them our best and continue to encourage their best.