Tax money help St. James schools stay afloat

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2012

By David Vitrano


LUTCHER – According to the latest audit report, tax revenue bolstered the fiscal fortunes of the St. James Parish School System at a time when many districts are struggling to keep their heads above water.

“Most school boards we’re dealing with right now have deficits,” said auditor Mike Schexnayder. “You’re in really good financial shape.”

A $6 million surplus from the collection of taxes helped the system stay in the black and not have to resort to cutting programs or employees over the last year.

“I think we need to count our blessings for the local sales tax,” said Superintendent Alonzo Luce.

“The economic growth on the river is fantastic.” Luce said the tax money is especially useful in light of expected cuts to state funding for public education. He said the district may be losing about $700,000 in state funding in the next year.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the school board also granted permission — and $1,000 to both Lutcher and St. James high schools — for students studying Spanish to travel for eight days during the summer of 2013 through France and Spain.

“It’s another opportunity for students to implement what they learned in Spanish class,” said Administrative Director of Curriculum and Instruction Carol Webre.

Lutcher teacher Meionkca Brown, who led a trip to Costa Rica in the past, said she asked for permission so far in advance so she could work on having students sign up and get their financial backing in order. She said this trip will be open to parents and students at St. James High School as well.

Also Tuesday, the school board approved the promotion of Kimberly Duhe to lead teacher of the Magnet Program at Gramercy Elementary School, which will begin in the next school year. Regarding the Magnet program, which was suggested to stem Gramercy Elementary’s slide toward becoming a one-race school, the board also received a packet containing revisions to the program’s plan in accordance with comments from the Justice Department. The bulk of the revisions deal with the specifics of the applicant pool, including the elimination of first priority being given to those students who reside within the Gramercy Elementary attendance zone.

Lastly, the board offered congratulatory resolutions to the boys and girls soccer teams at Lutcher High School. Both teams, in their second year of existence, advanced to the playoffs.

“I appreciate you all taking the time out to recognize these kids,” said Lutcher High Athletic Director Tim Detillier. “I’m sincerely grateful that you provide the resources to allow us to be successful.”