Board approves stricter dropout rules

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 18, 2011

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – The Student Code of Conduct and Attendance Handbook for St. John the Baptist Parish will contain modified regulations regarding dropouts as well as penalties for the unauthorized use of cellphones.

In previous years, students between the ages of 17 and 18 could exit the school system provided they had written consent from their parent or guardian and submitted to an exit interview. The new regulations stipulate students must remain in school until their 18th birthday; however, those older than 16 may withdraw if they enter an adult education or vocational education program.

In the past three years, St. John Parish’s high schools have seen a dramatic reduction in the dropout rate. East St. John High School’s dropout rate has gone from 10 percent for the 2007-08 school year to 2.4 percent for the 2009-10 school year, while at West St. John High School, the dropout rate has gone from 6.5 percent for the 2007-08 school year to 0 percent for the 2009-10 school year. Figures for the school year that just ended are not yet available.

Said Superintendent Courtney Millet, “We cannot just continue to be reactive. We have to be proactive.”

Students who choose to enter an adult education program have a defined period of time to complete their GED before they are added to the rolls of dropouts.

“The clock starts ticking when you leave the high school,” said Millet.

Regarding the use of cellphones, last year’s handbook included taking away a phone, even after the first offense. Next year, instead of losing their phone, students will face in-school suspension for the first three infractions. After the fourth infraction, students will lose their phone privileges.

The newest version of the student handbook also allows parents a little more leeway when purchasing uniforms. Logos on the shirts are now optional, and the footwear section has added the word “preferably” to the sentences describing the color of shoes and socks that must be worn at school.

The handbook has also added a policy regarding cyber-bullying in accordance with new state legislation.

The board passed the handbook changes by a vote of 10 yeas and one absent.

The board also approved the amended budget for the 2010-11 school year at Thursday’s special meeting.

There was a public hearing on the budget Wednesday, but Executive Director of Business and Finance Felix Boughton admitted it did not produce much feedback.

“Most people are more curious about next year’s budget than this year’s,” he said.

Revenue for the 2010-11 fiscal year came in higher than expected, so the district ended the year with a nearly $1.4 million surplus.

Boughton said the month of July will be dedicated to hammering out a financial plan for the upcoming fiscal year.