Student achievement celebrated: St. John Public Schools battle negative sentiment

Published 12:12 am Saturday, May 14, 2016

RESERVE — Student achievement is on the rise in St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools.

Superintendent Kevin George used his opening remarks at Thursday’s School Board meeting to tout preliminary numbers recently received by administrators.

“We received a preliminary report from our ACT scores, and I’m proud to say our ACT scores are way up,” George said. “I would also like to say, as a District, our graduation rates are also up, again, in this preliminary report. And also our strength of diploma (is up), which means our kids are earning dual-enrollment courses. They’re taking advanced placement courses.”

George did not give specifics this week on what the exact numbers were or when they would be released publicly. He said the positive announcement was part of a renewed effort by School District leaders to better spread the good news happening with local students.

George was also the guest speaker at Wednesday’s St. John Parish Business Association meeting.

The School District is fighting against negative sentiment in response to the School Board’s failed attempt to pass a new quarter cent sales tax in April.

The School Board meeting that followed April 21 was antagonistic as public speakers chastised Board members for their lack of transparency and proposal to temporarily suspend construction of East St. John Elementary to review the possibility of diverting some of the funds to maintain employee levels across the School District.

School Board members eventually voted overwhelmingly April 21 to continue school construction, but administrators and School Board members said at that time the vote would mean layoffs to District personnel.

Those fears seem to have waned in the weeks since as School District employees have been told $2.6 million would be cut from the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, through the elimination of programs, contracts and allotments.

Since the School Board vote last month, employees have been told no current full time employee will be released due to budget constraints.

Following Thursday’s School Board meeting, George said a budget proposal for 2016-17 would be introduced May 26. During the meeting, he stressed the three indicators the School District received in the last week show St. John public school students are improving academically despite the challenges faced by the District.

“The people here are in our schools all the time, but tell a friend to tell a friend,” George said at Thursday’s meeting. “Go visit a school and take someone who hasn’t been there in a long time. Too often they believe things that they hear, but they need to hear it from the good people, from us, from our employees, our students.

“Go see them. Go into our schools and then you come back and form your opinion about how well or not we are doing.”