St. Charles starts the school year off right

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Staff Reporter

LULING – The 2008 St. Charles Parish Public Schools Teacher Orientation served as a stage for the unveiling of the parish’s newly renovated training facility, the St. Charles Parish Public Schools Professional Learning Center.

“The amount of space is just terrific and it’s a real good location, too,” said John Rome, administrator of physical plant services for SCPPS, referring to the site in the St. Charles Plaza off Highway 90 in Luling.

The parish has more in store for the building than just orientation workshops. The SCPPS Technology Installment Center (where new computers are configured and older ones refurbished), for instance, has also found a new home in the building. Upstairs, the human resources department plans to store some of its older files and there’s a large storage facility behind the learning center to boot.

Rome said St. Charles was also considering using the training center for parents’ night and performances.

At the start of the new orientation workshop last month as teachers were still finding their seats and grabbing last-minute cups of coffee, the crowd was hushed by a rather disorienting announcement, especially for people familiar with Luling and the St. Charles Plaza.

“Good morning Kmart shoppers,” said Assistant Superintendent Felicia Gomez, drawing a few early-morning laughs. Indeed, the new learning center was once a Kmart before the school system bought the building in late 2006. Rome said the layout of the store granted officials more freedom to develop an area where many school employees could gather at once.

 “It was like a big box or a blank canvas,” Rome said. “We had the opportunity to be really creative with it.”

What ensued was a near metamorphosis of the facility in a matter of months. The construction and renovation didn’t begin until late January of this year, but the SCPPS has already put its mark on the building – literally. The school system’s credo, “You and I … We are” is painted in clear sight above a red wall in the facility’s main auditorium.

But that’s not the only place one can find the credo.

The facility was only “99.9 percent complete,” as Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Rachel Allemand put it at the workshop.

The restrooms were not yet complete in time for the workshop, as the dividing walls between the stalls had not yet been put in place. To make do, officials hung black curtains between the stalls, which were held together by little black clips bearing the credo insignia.

“We do what we have to do in St. Charles Parish,” Allemand said.