STEM Program could relocate with Charter School agreement: St. John School Board would pay for significant upgrades to the site

Published 12:05 am Saturday, October 12, 2019

RESERVE — The St. John STEM Magnet Program may have to relocate from the Leon Godchaux campus to another site within the district, according to the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board. A final decision will be made prior to Dec. 30.

At a special meeting held Wednesday, the School Board voted to extend an offer to Louisiana Premier Charter School for the lease of the Leon Godchaux campus for the next four years.

Attorney Ty Manieri, representing the St. John School Board in negotiations with Louisiana Premier Charter, recommended the Board re-adopt the contract with the charter school with amendments to reflect the STEM site, a 2020-2021 opening and the removal of the out-of-system admission preference.

The Charter Board has until Dec. 30 to approve or reject the offer, and they must bring the decision to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, according to St. John Schools communication specialist Jennifer Boquet.

According to a letter to parents signed by Interim Superintendent Heidi Trosclair, four site possibilities were offered to Louisiana Premier.

“As part of the St. John School Board’s negotiations with Louisiana Premier Charter (LAPC), the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has strongly encouraged us to offer potential facilities to the charter school.”

The Leon Godchaux campus was the site Louisiana Premier chose to pursue.

However, the Charter Board presented a list of necessary improvements to the site. Several board members stated that it seems odd that Louisiana Premier would choose the site that needed significant upgrades, while turning down several move-in ready sites.

Regardless, it was decided the Board would offer to lease the STEM site to Louisiana Premier at no cost for the term of the charter. The School Board would be responsible for capital repairs to the site for the life of the lease and will directly complete more than $500,000 in repairs in advance of the 2020-2021 school year.

If the offer is approved, the School Board will also allocate $500,000 to Louisiana Premier for capital improvements/asset acquisition for the first three years, which entails $250,000 for year one, $150,000 for year two, and $100,000.

The Board would allow Louisiana Premier to utilize competition athletic facilities, with the charter only responsible for per use costs of facility cleanup.

The letter sent to parents states that if BESE approves Louisiana Premier for a state-authorized charter school or if the site offer is otherwise rejected, the St. John STEM Program location will not be impacted.

Louisiana Premier Charter is on BESE’s agenda next week for approval  as a Type 2 charter, according to Boquet. If approved they will be on their own.

“The School Board is currently working with them to form a Type 1 Charter School, with oversight by the School Board,” Boquet said. “If LAPC (Louisiana Premier Charter) decided to pursue a Type 2 Charter, the School Board would have no oversight or involvement.”

The BESE Board Committee Meeting will be at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. The live stream will be available at

If Louisiana Premier decides to accept the offer at the STEM School, the St. John School Board would seek feedback from parents about a new location, according to Interim Superintendent Heidi Trosclair.

If moved to another school site, the STEM program would most likely continue operating as a separate “school” with different course and uniform requirements.

As reports of the decision began to circulate social media Thursday evening, some parents expressed concerns over STEM School students being moved to East St. John’s campus, citing fears that the school is already too overcrowded.

STEM parent Amanda Hadlow was in disbelief that children who have maintained good conduct and a drive to succeed could, without notice to appeal, be displaced from their school in favor of another school’s students.

“It should be known that parents weren’t included in this decision,” Hadlow said Friday. “We were only made aware yesterday after our children were advised at school.”

She said her children have struggled to connect with teachers in East St. John’s environment, and the STEM program has been a much better fit for her daughter.

“This year at the new school, she has As and Bs and is proud of the person she’s become with the opportunity she was given,” Hadlow said. “She’s not the only one this is going to devastate. So many children and us as parents haven’t been given the opportunity to oppose it or to even have a voice in this matter.”

School Board President Patrick Sanders was not immediately available to address the concerns before press time Friday morning. Boquet emphasized that parent feedback on the STEM location will absolutely be taken into consideration if the offer is accepted.

Trosclair said the 2019-2020 year for the STEM program will not be impacted. She will hold a STEM stakeholders meeting the week of Oct. 21, and she welcomed parents to contact her at

In previous discussions, Louisiana Premier Charter representatives cited Riverside Academy as the preferred school location. Whether Riverside Academy is still an option would have to be determined by the Louisiana Premier Charter Board, according to Boquet.

In other School Board news, the timeline for selecting the next St. John Superintendent was discussed. School Board attorney Courtney Joiner stated there were 16 applications, but one was disqualified because the application was received after the deadline.

The names of the applicants are as follows: Carol T. Smith; Celeta T. Watson; Corwin K. Robinson; Curt R. Green; Dana E. Nolan; Darryl Kilbert, Sr.; C. Michael Robinson; Dinah M. Robinson; Elida V. Bera; Kelli Y. Joseph; L. Kendall Smith; Margaret S. Cage;

Patricia A. Triche; Quentina M. Timoll; and Sidney L. Brown.

Board member Charo Holden made a motion to conduct at least two rounds of interviews, one for initial candidates and a second for finalists. The motion carried with nine yeas and two absent.

Gerald Keller made a motion for each board member to select six candidates to interview in the first round by the Oct. 17 meeting, which the Board passed.

The first round of interviews was set for Nov. 5-6. The second round of interviews for finalists, if necessary, must be completed no later than Nov. 18-20.