St. James keeping reading program

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2011

By David Vitrano


LUTCHER – Despite the state cutting all funding for the Reading First Program, the St. James Parish school district plans to retain 11 of its 14 Response to Intervention teachers.

Although budgeting is expected to be a difficult process again this year, the board voted to keep the program, even though it is likely to be largely paid for through the general fund now.

“We have seen major growth in reading,” said Superintendent Alonzo Luce.

School Board member Patricia Schexnayder had some concern about where the three RtI teachers will be pulled from. Although each school will retain at least one RtI teacher, Fifth Ward and Romeville will each have one fewer than last year. The third cut will be at Vacherie Elementary, which is merging with Vacherie Primary next year.

“Why is it always the small schools that lose something?” asked Schexnayder. “My concern is to make sure all of these students at these small schools will continue to be served.”

Schexnayder also offered an amendment to the original motion stating the board would review the salaries of these positions at their summer retreat.

“We’re cutting everything else, so we need to look at these salaries,” she said.

Although it is not legally possible to cut the salary of an established position, because the funding from the state is being cut, the board has the option to hire the RtI teachers back as paraprofessionals and pay them a salary commensurate with that position.

The board also approved a resolution giving preliminary approval to the issuance of $6.5 million in interest-free QSCB bonds.

“This resolution offers the next step to be taken with regard to securing the QSCB bonds,” said bond attorney Hugh Martin.

He said the next step is to sell the bonds, and he has had an item placed on the agenda in Baton Rouge Thursday to accommodate this.

Lastly, the Board recognized two athletes from Paulina Elementary School who placed at the state physical fitness meet held recently in Baton Rouge.

Ivan Clark placed second in the sit-and-reach event, while Brenn Ursin placed fourth in three separate events, the long jump, the 50-yard dash and the shuttle run.