St. John names students of the year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 23, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board put a spotlight on the community during its meeting Thursday evening.
The agenda included an award ceremony for the students of the year and a special acknowledgement of the legacy of elementary school namesake Emily C. Watkins, an outstanding educator and principal. The meeting also spent some time addressing financial issues and the disaster recovery contract collaboration between CSRS and HGI Environmental Services.
Each school in the district chose a student as a representative based on the state of Louisiana’s Student of the Year criteria. The criteria varied based on grade level, but included a portfolio of activities, community service and recognitions, a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher, an impromptu writing sample and an interview. The school winners then competed at a parish level using the same criteria.
The winners of the grade school-level Student of the Year awards received a backpack inscribed with their name and a plaque. The winners of the district-level Student of the Year awards also received a Kindle Fire HD in recognition of their hard work. The awards were sponsored by RTC.
The winners of the fifth grade Student of the Year awards were: Kendreon Lewis of East St. John Elementary, Elsy Pena-Jiminian of Emily C. Watkins, Kyra Thomas of Fifth Ward Elementary, Angelica Carter Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School, Jenna Beber of John L. Ory Magnet School, Kaitlyn Williams of Lake Pontchartrain Elementary and Ravyn Bazile of LaPlace Elementary.
The winners of the eighth grade Student of the Year awards were: Kirsten Cases of East St. John Elementary, Paige Edler of Emily C. Watkins, James Perrilloux of John L. Ory Magnet School, Kiara Camacho of Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, Chelsea Eugene of LaPlace Elementary and Kira Armant of West St. John High School.
The winners of the 12th grade Student of the Year awards were: Darren Davis of East St. John High and Asasha Terry of West St. John High.
The district-level Student of the Year Award winners were Jenna Beber, James Perilloux and Darren Davis.
After the award ceremony, the family of the late Emily C. Watkins completed a presentation for the unveiling of her portrait, which will hang inside her namesake school. Family and former co-workers came to the podium to speak to her memory, which were mostly humorous recollections.
On the business end of the meeting, Felix Boughton, executive director of business and finance, addressed the quarterly budget report and said that the district should have a small surplus by the end of the year. The district is currently up by $200 million overall due to flood insurance premiums received from Hurricane Isaac but is also high in expenses because of the hurricane.
Bond attorney Hugh Martin came to the podium to present a resolution for a special election to be held for a bond issue. Martin said that the district is able to hold the bond issue, which totals more than $10 million, for two reasons. The first factor is that the assessed value of the parish is growing because of new industries moving into the parish. The second factor is that the parish paid off a substantial amount of debt. The election will be held May 4. If the election is successful, the district will be able to sell $5 million worth of bonds this December.
The board moved on to cover the topic of proposals. Previously, the board authorized administration to solicit proposals for property insurance and wide area connectivity services. As of Thursday night’s meeting, 11 proposal packages had been released for a one-year term of insurance services — only one was submitted in return. For a five-year term, wide-area connectivity service, 13 proposals were viewed online but only two were submitted. One submission, by AT&T, was late and therefore rejected. The only other submission was one from a local company, Reserve Telephone Co.
Regarding the lack of participation, board member Russ Wise said: “I would appreciate it if the next time we send things like this out, we put a document in that says if you decide not to participate we’d like to know why. It seems that we’d best stick our finger up in the wind here and see what we’re doing wrong or what they’re doing wrong because we cannot have competitive bids unless people bid.”
The last item on the agenda for the evening was an update on the CSRS collaboration. Board member Rodney B. Nicholas requested an update on the status of the joint contract between HGI Environmental Services and CSRS from Felix Boughton, executive director of business and finance.
Boughton said that before they start the transition, he was waiting on a contract from HGI so the district’s attorneys can review it and see that it spells out exactly what their responsibilities are. Boughton said he was expecting contact from the company within the next couple of days. Boughton also said he and the companies would have to meet with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at some point.
Nicholas added that he thought the entire school board should attend the meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying that information about the schools and FEMA belongs to the district.
“I can only tell them what you’re wishing. It’ll be their choice not ours. They’re the ones with the money and they control. You can ask but if they say ‘no’ I can’t make them meet with you. This is a federal agency, and they pretty much write the rules,” Boughton replied.
Clarence Triche, school board president, said the St. John Parish School Board would hold a special meeting Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. to discuss hiring firms to aid in the search for a new superintendent in time for the new school year. Three hiring firms are expected to be present at this meeting.