School District coverage is key in 2022

Published 1:33 am Saturday, January 22, 2022

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A strong school system is key to attracting families and building our community. As hectic as the past two years have been for all of us, our local school system has endured even more of a wild ride.

Since 2020, St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools have:

  • Bounced between in-person and virtual learning with 1:1 technology as demanded by the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures for natural disasters and other weather events.
  • Hired a new superintendent, Dr. Lynett Hookfin, in the midst of the pandemic.
  • Had to make budget cuts to resolve a financial crisis, while still striving to offer teacher salaries competitive with neighboring districts.
  • Deal with the sudden collapse and eventual demolition of the long-vacant Godchaux Grammar School.
  • Repair several school sites damaged by 130+ mile per hour winds during Hurricane Ida, one of the worst storms to ever strike St. John Parish.
  • Come up with strategies to account for loss of learning that has lowered simulated school and district performance scores.

Of course, there are still great accomplishments happening at all school sites, and L’OBSERVATEUR will strive to tell more inspiring stories of hardworking students and teachers in 2022. As for the challenges the School District faces, my goal has never been to point fingers or cast blame. Much of what has happened over the past two years was unforeseen and outside of anyone’s control. I hope that by examining these hardships, we can inform our residents of the steps being taken to strengthen our schools and community.

The School Board is meeting for a Board Retreat Monday, January 24 and Tuesday, January 25 at Embassy Suites Hotel, located at 4914 Constitution Avenue in Baton Rouge. The session will begin at 9 a.m. each day.

I will be in close communication with Superintendent Hookfin to follow up with coverage on the following topics:

  • School Board financial update, including financing of upcoming capital projects, employee salary schedule, and best practices for attracting and maintaining qualified teachers;
  • Plans to address learning losses with a breakdown of deficiencies at various school sites;
  • An update on Hurricane Ida repairs at school sites including East St. John and Emily C. Watkins, with plans to address East St. John students returning to full-time learning.

I am looking for parents, teachers and students to speak candidly about their experiences during these unusual and challenging times so we can all gain a better understanding of what kind of support is needed at the district level.


Brooke R. Cantrelle is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR newspaper. She can be reached at