• 79°

Stand alone STEM principal search underway in St. John

RESERVE — The past and future of the STEM high school program are under review as major developments are expected in the coming months.

St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools launched the ambitious effort this academic year, offering a concentration in the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Situated in Reserve on the River Road site of the old Leon Godchaux campus, the program serves eighth-through-10th grade students.

It will expand one grade level next academic year to include 11th graders and one grade level the following year to include 12th graders.

The school district’s effort was temporarily rocked in December when ballyhooed STEM program principal Terran Perry was removed from campus amid an internal investigation into complaints of negative working environments overseen by Perry at the STEM program and Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School, another campus he oversaw.

Terran Perry resigned as principal of Garyville Math & Science Magnet School.

Perry resigned last month before a final result of the School District’s investigation was made public.

School Board members discussed investigative proceedings regarding allegations of misconduct and “discussion of character and professional competence” of Perry at Thursday’s meeting. However, the tone and direction of that discussion is unknown as it took place behind closed doors in executive session because elected leaders agreed it was a personnel issue.

While the School Board grapples with Perry’s resignation fallout, Superintendent Kevin George is leading the search for two new principals, one for the STEM program and another at Garyville/Mt. Airy Math. The decision has been made to separate those duties between two people.

The distribution of responsibilities is prudent, George said, as the STEM program is expected to expand from approximately 225 students this academic year to 500 in 2019-20.

“This is a school of innovation, and we have to have an innovative thinker that can come in and take what was birthed and continue to grow it to meet the needs of our kids,” George said. “We want somebody who is outgoing, who can recruit kids, recruit industry and is always thinking about the next step. We always have to stay a few steps in front of the current tides. It’s going to take a lot because we are going to expect a lot.”

George said he hopes to name a principal for the STEM program around the end of February. That person will officially take the reins July 1.

“We definitely need that person’s input on some decisions,” George said. “It’s going to take a lot for a few months, but the right individual will not complain about that at all.”

The STEM program, which accepts students on the basis of previous academic achievement, will again operate next year at Leon Godchaux.

George said School Board members are already thinking about what happens as the student body expands, with discussions centering on turning the program into an independent high school, building a new campus or renovating the current campus.

The principal’s position at Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School will also be advertised, and the goal is to hire a permanent leader in mid-Spring.

Glenn Chenier, former assistant principal at East St. John Preparatory Academy, has been named interim principal at Garyville Magnet.

No interim principal has been named for the STEM program, though Gillian King-Hughes is continuing to oversee day-to-day operations from her assistant principal’s role.