Teachers ready, students set to go back to school Monday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 7, 2010

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – While students in St. John the Baptist Parish await the start on school Monday, their teachers have already been back on the job for weeks now getting everything ready for the children’s return.

Although Thursday was their official return day, most of the district’s educators have spent about two weeks in professional development workshops both districtwide and at their individual schools. An official employee breakfast welcomed everyone back Wednesday morning.

“Our Back-to-School Breakfast was very well attended,” said Superintendent Courtney Millet.

Guest speaker Stephen Peters made a return visit to the parish to address the district’s employees.

He spoke at the breakfast last year and made such an impression that he was asked to return and speak at both East St. John and West St. John high schools during the course of the school year.

He inspired last year’s proliferation of gentlemen’s and ladies’ clubs at many of the district’s elementary schools.

Thursday morning, most teachers found themselves in workshops at their respective schools.

At John L. Ory Magnet School Principal Terri Noel walked the teachers through the ins and outs of the faculty handbook.

Said Assistant Principal Christal Sylvain, “Our teachers have been here since Monday. … We’ve been preparing all summer for the new year. Everyone’s really excited.”

Fourth-grade teacher Karen Dottolo had a similar outlook.

“This is my 26th year, and it’s always a new adventure. Believe it or not, I still get butterflies,” she said.

At Emily C. Watkins Elementary School, the teachers spent the morning in a similar manner.

Small groups broke off into grade-level workshops before convening in the library for a session on school safety led by Lt. Keith Brooks of the St. John Sheriff’s Department.

Additionally, the school has a little more to deal with than most as the students return. Watkins will be expanding to encompass sixth grade as well this year as part of its four-year progression to K-8 school.

According to Principal Toni Robinet, adding sixth grade has forced the school to consolidate its classes a little more than in its inaugural year.

“We were just a little more spread out,” she said. “We’re having to rethink how we’re going to do small groups.”

One change that will be evident from the start, however, is the new uniforms the sixth-graders will wear.

Instead of the usual purple shirts that all students at the school wore last year, sixth-graders will wear green shirts.

Robinet explained, “They can continue to feel as if they are the leaders of the school. They’re getting older and hopefully wiser.”