Students’ best interests trump all

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

School Board meetings aren’t always the place for deep emotion or reflection, but St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members deserve credit for taking time to consistently recognize the people behind the work, whether that be students or staff members.

June 16’s meeting was the perfect example.

School Board Member Patrick Sanders used his closing comments to tell the story of 10th grader Alexus Stewart, who died five days earlier.

Sanders said one of Alexus’ greatest hopes was to graduate with her class in 2018.

“I thought it would be appropriate if this Board would adopt a resolution honoring her,” he said to unanimous approval. “Also, we’re going to present her family with a cap and a tassel in honor of her, as well.”

It was a gesture Alexus’ mother and grandmother later told L’OBSERVATEUR was poignant and appreciated.

Following Sanders’ remarks about Alexus, School Board President Keith Jones recognized St. John Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Ealy, who serves as a resource officer at St. John Alternative School.

This newspaper and the St. John Business Association had recently recognized Ealy for contributions in working with at-risk youth, including his effort with a student who was near his breaking point.

“We started off giving this kid tough love, telling him about the penal system and what he would have to endure if he went there,” Ealy said at the School Board meeting. “I saw this dead stare on his face, as if he was about to give up on life. The kid just broke down in front of me, cried and said he couldn’t take it; he’s going to give up and he doesn’t want to live.

“At that point, the spirit of God just spoke to me. I embraced this kid, just hugged this kid and prayed with him. I cried as he cried. I didn’t know if it was his tears or my tears that were rolling down his face. Before I knew it, everyone in the room was crying.”

Ealy stands 6’8” and weighs 300 pounds. His presence commands attention but his message came from the heart, touching all who heard him.

“All of our kids’ lives matter,” he said. “Sometimes they are sent to the redirect center and others say these are bad seeds, they should be thrown out in the woods somewhere. The way I look at it is all of us at some point in time were that bad seed. If somebody threw us away, we wouldn’t be here now.”

June 16’s School Board meeting also included budget and tax information, but we applaud those who brought focus back to the students.

It remains the most important part.