St. John school plan is an amazing piece of work

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2008

Big election on Tuesday, as we elect another president for our great United States.

Speaking of elections, St. John School Superintendent Courtney Millet is probably losing a little sleep wondering how things will go for the important St. John school propositions on the ballot next Tuesday.

She is looking at an election next Tuesday as well, but she sees the future of the St. John school system riding largely on the outcome.

Not to say the system will collapse if the propositions on the ballot fail, because Courtney knows the system—like our country—will go on and manage.

But for the still new superintendent, I can tell from our conversations that she is probably not getting much sleep these days, worrying about whether voters will support the two important propositions on the ballot.

As you have probably read in several places today in our paper, there are two propositions up for vote on Tuesday, both as millage renewals for the St. John School Board. If passed, they would provide $46 million for construction needs that are far past the point of just being badly needed.

We have school properties that are 40 years old and more, many which have had only minimal repair work, or maintenance work over those many years. In a nutshell, the St. John public school system is in dire need of an upgrade.

The Tuesday vote would give Millet, the School Board, and the entire administration, the opportunity to do something really big for the students who attend these local, public schools.

And personally, I hope you will give them the chance to do it.

It’s easy for folks to look at the propositions as simply a $46 million construction package, since that seems to get a lot of the attention.

Yes, every school in St. John Parish will benefit with some kind of upgrade, and that is a good thing to see.

But I was probably one of the few people who took the time to read the entire “Educational and Facilities Plan” that Courtney Millet must have taken an incredible amount of time to draft.

You see, this proposition vote on Tuesday isn’t just about rebuilding the classrooms that the local kids are using. It is about a Master Plan put together by Millet that is so detailed, so comprehensive, and so well thought out, that I was honestly floored by what I was reading.

The vote on Tuesday will help the local schools get the much needed brick and mortar that they need. You know what I mean, we will see tracks rebuilt at East St. John and West St. John high schools, since both tracks have been condemned and the local kids are not even allowed to run a meet.

You will see every one of the 15 schools in the parish be guaranteed a very good outdoor play space.

You will see lots of covered play areas added at elementary schools, so those kids can go outside every day, rain or shine.

And by the end of the five year plan, a total of $46 million will be spent on the public schools in the parish that will greatly upgrade where the local students are learning.

But the thing that most people probably don’t know is that Millet has an extremely detailed plan put together that will address the most minute aspects in the classroom.

Honestly, I couldn’t begin to tell you all about it, since I would take a couple of pages to write it all down.

But the Educational and Facilities Master Plan put together by Millet, which I read in its entirety, gets into the heart and soul of what is going on in our classroom.

It is addressing the fact that St. John schools have a graduation rate that is only 56 percent, far below the state average.

It will address the St. John average ACT score of 18.1, far short of the state average of 20.3, or the national average of 21.1.

And equally as important, the plan will address teacher pay, hiking St. John to be in the top 10 percent of the parishes in the state, which will ensure we can attract and keep the best educators for the students here.

But again, the big plan needs your support.

This Master Plan aims at:

** Increasing computers and technology for students in lower classroom levels;

** Highly emphasizes the importance of teaching reading to students from a young age, and monitoring their achievement with at least three benchmark tests a year;

** Has a comprehensive pre-K program that has children beginning school after the age of 4, making sure children at that age have access to early education;

** Has an entire component to expand the gifted and talented programs for over-achieving older students.

I kind of hated even mentioning some of the details in the Master Plan, since I am barely skimming the edge, just trying to give you an idea about a few topics that are being addressed with a specific, well thought out plan.

These topics are just the tip of the iceberg when you get into the detail Millet has put together in this Master Plan, and it doesn’t include the new plans for the Magnet schools in our parish.

I also didn’t address what Millet has drawn up to greatly upgrade the continuing education and requirements that the St. John teachers will be expected to be a part of.

I could go on and on about this Master Plan, that truly has not gotten the attention it deserves, but suffice it to say the St. John school system probably does not realize how fortunate they are to have a superintendent like Millet, who is so dedicated to going the extra mile to reach the public school kids in our parish.

When I read this plan on Thursday, I was really floored to see what detail she had obviously researched and put in it. She made it clear for anyone who reads the entire plan that she has given a tremendous amount of time to planning for the success of the St. John students.

But that comes back to the election on Tuesday. Now it is the time for the residents of this parish to show their support.

I am urging people reading this column to make sure to get out and vote on Tuesday, and in particular, look long and hard on the lengthy ballot to find the propositions at the very end of the ballot. Vote “Yes” on both the millage renewals and give the St. John school system the backing they need.

It’s really this simple. Courtney Millet has put together an amazing plan for the students of St. John Parish. But she, and the teachers in this parish, can only do so much without the backing and support of the people in this community.

I truly get upset when I see what a large percentage of people don’t take the time to get out and vote. Fortunately, the presidential election is not usually one of those times. But please folks, whether the presidential vote is the thing to draw you or not, get out and vote on Tuesday.

And in particular, vote in favor of the school propositions, which will give us all a stake in showing the public school kids here that we are taking a stand for them, and trying to give them every opportunity to succeed.

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at