St. James Schools awards its first virtual diploma

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 16, 2013

By David Vitrano

LUTCHER – The St. James Parish School System awarded the first diploma from its Virtual Academy at a meeting of the School Board Tuesday.
Kadrius Jones completed his coursework and was awarded the diploma early because he will be joining the military next month.
“He was one of the first students to enroll in the virtual program,” said Virtual Principal Becky Louque.
School board member George Nassar congratulated the new graduate.
“Entering the Marine Corps and serving your country, you truly are a leader,” he said.
The district saw another first Tuesday as Simone Labat and Angie Poche were named associate principals for St. James High and Lutcher High, respectively.
The position was newly created and will oversee the lower grades at the two high schools so that portion of the schools can operate more like a true junior high.
The School Board also approved funding for the Computer Refresh program, which will build on and expand the district’s already extensive technology initiative.
Several employees of the school district spoke on behalf of the program.
Interim Principal Cynthia Joseph said, “Having computers in all the classrooms has been a wonderful asset to the schools.”
Gramercy Element-ary Principal Kay Dornier added, “The computers are a tool the teachers use to keep students intellectually engaged.”
According to Rickie Boudwin of the district’s Technology Department, the program will make St. James the first district in the state with a 1-to-1 computer program that extends all the way down to third grade.  In grades three through six, however, the students will not be allowed to take the devices home.
Boudwin also said the department chose to use Apple devices because the company’s computers keep their value much longer and the company has a buy-back program.
“This will ensure our equipment stays current,” he said.
Apple has said it will replace computers between the second and third years of the four-year program.
More than 4,000 computers are included in the program, and there will even be devices for students younger than third grade to use in the classroom. Eventually, the district hopes to replace textbooks with the devices, not only for ease of transport but also because virtual textbooks can be updated and interactive.
The project has a four-year budget of $4 million.
“I’ve watched the laptop program grow,” said Superintendent Alonzo Luce. “This will be spectacular. We are taking a stance that we are going to prepare our students for the future.”
The board also gave its Ok to the superintendent to obtain 21st Century Community Learning Grant funds. That money is used for after-school tutoring and summer enrichment programs.
Lastly, the School Board offered resolutions of congratulations to the boys and girls soccer teams and the Periquettes dance team at Lutcher High School and the boys basketball team at St. James High School.