St. John administrator, former superintendent are first two of four finalists

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 25, 2008

Courtney Millet is only parish applicant still in the running


Staff Reporter

RESERVE- “Right now, the reality is we are at the bottom of the state,” Courtney Millet, 41, director of Curriculum and Instruction for St. John Schools, said to the St. John School Board Thursday night.

Millet, the longtime principal of LaPlace Elementary, was the second candidate to interview for the post as superintendent of St. John Schools.

She said the difference between her and the other candidates is that she would not need time to learn the system and would be ready to institute changes on her first day.

“I think we are at a critical point, “ said Millet. “Our dropout rate is 7.9 percent, double the surrounding parishes…we don’t have time to waste.”

Millet stressed the need for work with the ninth and 12th grades, the grades where most students think about dropping out.

Millet said her first action as superintendent would be to enact a five-point plan.

Millet’s plan would demand principals and

teachers set high expectations, set clear and ambitious goals, focus on professional development, align curriculum content and context and streamline the central office.

Millet said her plan focuses on teacher and administrator accountability.

“If I’m the principal and I don’t hold you accountable I’m not doing my job,” Millet said.

The alignment of curriculum and context would standardize teaching plans for the school system, meaning all students would be taught in the same way despite which school they attend.

When it came to streamlining the central office Millet said her administration would ask the question “Where is there waste?”

She said right now the number of teachers in the system is over 500 and the number of central office employees is 56, which she thinks is excessive.

She also stressed a return to a more traditional hands-on teaching plan as opposed to program learning that takes place largely on computers.

In her overall plan she would model St. John after 90-90-90 schools, schools where 90 percent of the student body is minority, 90 percent of students are living in poverty and the schools score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests.

When asked by Board Member Patrick Sanders what she would do about the large “white flight” of white students leaving public schools Millet said, “ Quality teaching has to happen in every classroom.”

Millet has two sons aged 10 and 13 who attend parochial schools. She said they are in the parochial schools rather than public school because they are Catholic and have been in them since they were three years old.

Millet is a 20-year veteran of the St. John school system. She started off as a teacher in 1987 immediately after she graduated from LSU with a bachelor’s degree in education. Later she received her master’s degree and doctorate in education from the University of New Orleans.

Millet showed just how familiar she is with the system by answering a question the board hesitated on.

“How long has it been since we built a new school here?” Board Member Keith Jones asked the other board members who murmured in response.

“12 years,” Millet answered after a pause.

Millet’s first post in Administration came in 1996 as assistant principal of Glade Elementary.

In 1998 she began her eight-year tenure as principal at LaPlace Elementary. During her term the school had two years where it experienced a decline in School Performance Scores.

LaPlace Elementary has been consistently ranked a two star school and the second best school in the district after John L. Ory Communications Magnet Elementary. Following the 2003-2004 school year LaPlace Elementary was ranked as a three star school along with John L. Ory.

School Board Member Lowell Bacas headed LaPlace Elementary when Millet was a teacher, long before she took the post from him.

Bacas said he was not asked for a recommendation when he stepped down from his post, but did not object when he found out Millet would be stepping into his shoes. Millet taught under Bacas for almost 10 years.

Bacas said Millet is very qualified for the position, but he would wait until all interviews were complete to make up his mind.

Board Member Russ Wise responded to rumors that Millet already has the job despite the fact two more candidates will be interviewed next week.

“While everyone here is very familiar with Dr. Millet, she is one of four,” said Wise. “I insisted we get a professional search company and go through them and bring them the best of the best. The reason is that for a number of years sometimes the selection of the school system has been who do you know rather than are you the best one for the job.”

The next interviews for candidates will take place in open hearings with the school board at Leon Godcheaux Junior High Jan. 29 and 31, 2008 at 7:30 p.m.