St. James schools expands technical track

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 22, 2014

By David Vitrano

LUTCHER – The St. James Parish public school system has for several years now made an effort to ensure a wide variety of offerings for its students. Already boasting its own virtual academy, magnet programs and an extensive dual enrollment program, the district is now ready to take the next step in preparing its students for life beyond high school.

Although the district currently offers dual enrollment programs in which students can gain college credit while still in high school, the planned expansion will target those students interested in careers in industry and give them a chance to earn a two-year technical degree by the time they earn their high school diploma.

According to Administrative Director of Teaching and Learning Anne Detillier said the program blends high school and college into “a rigorous yet supportive program.”

“We are looking at identifying 20 to 25 that are interested in committing,” she said, adding, “It’s going to be very important for these children to stay on track.”

Still, those wishing to enter the program do not need to have their entire future mapped out yet. The first two years of the program provide the foundation, and it is only in the third year that courseloads truly begin to reflect the student’s particular area of interest.

This expansion, while obviously delighting Superintendent Alonzo Luce and the members of the St. James Parish School Board present for Detillier’s report, has also drawn the interest and support of the parish’s industries, which in recent years have often had to look beyond the local area to fill technical positions.

John Crane of St. James Stevedoring and Steve Nosacka addressed the School Board to give industry’s perspective on the expansion.

According to Crane, all the major industries in St. James Parish have formed a non-profit group called “Next 25,” which focuses on the future of the parish.

“It’s a shame we’ve gotten to a point where we aren’t preparing people,” said Crane.

In response to this situation, Next 25 formed the Explorers Club, which gives students a glimpse into careers in industry.

“One of those areas may touch a nerve,” said Nosacka.

“It appears what we want to accomplish is very much in line with what you want to do,” he continued. “We think you guys are on to something.”

The support was much appreciated by Detillier, who noted, “You can’t do this without business and industry.”

In other School Board news, James Mitchell was hired to fill the newly created position of operations and maintenance foreman.

Also, the board granted the members of the Sixth Ward Beta Club $1,000 to aid in their upcoming trip to Disney World.