LIVINGSTON PARISH TEACHER-LIBRARIAN NAMED 2021 NATIONAL SCHOOL LIBRARIAN OF THE YEAR
Amanda Jones, a teacher-librarian at Live Oak Middle School, has been named one of the 2021 School Librarians of the Year by School Library Journal, the premier publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens, and Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education, and media company.
The award recognizes K–12 library professionals for outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of technology and services to engage children and teens toward fostering multiple literacies. The recognition proved especially important over the past year as librarians nationwide stepped up to support students, families, and educators who have had to manage distance learning during the COVID pandemic.
Jones is featured in the April issue of the School Library Journal. The article highlighting Jones’ accomplishments is titled “Journeying with Jones.” It tells how Jones created the “Journey with Jones” program in March 2020 to connect with her students who had stopped coming to school in-person because of the COVID pandemic. Other special literacy initiatives Jones has created for her students include a Battle of the Books competition that has grown to 10 schools district-wide; the 40 Book Challenge; and the MESH Society (media literacy, ethics, sociology, and history), in which students read titles across these categories.
As a 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award winner, Jones will receive a suite of awards from Scholastic, including a $2,500 cash award and $2,500 in-kind digital and/or print products for her library, in addition to a visit from John Schumacher, the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, who will gift one book to every student at Live Oak Middle School, and a Scholastic Book Fairs “Mr. Schu’s Picks” collection of books for the school library.
ALBANY MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL NAMED SEMI-FINALIST FOR STATE PRINCIPAL OF THE YEAR
Albany Middle School Principal John Hill, who was named Livingston Parish’s Middle School Principal of the Year, has advanced to be a state semi-finalist for Louisiana’s Principal of the Year.
The winners of the state’s 2022 Teacher and Principal of the Year Award Programs will be announced live at the 2021 Teacher Leader Summit on May 25 in New Orleans. All the semi-finalists will be honored at the Annual Excellent Educators Awards Gala, sponsored by Dream Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Principals, and the Louisiana Department of Education, on July 16.
“Congratulations to Mr. Hill for being rightly recognized for his outstanding performance as an educator,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said. “He is an exceptional principal who exemplifies the best of our education profession.”
VOTERS ASKED TO APPROVE $13 MILLION INVESTMENT IN DSHS ATHLETIC FACILITIES ON APRIL 24 BALLOT
The Livingston Parish School Board is asking voters to extend an existing 8.64 mills dedicated to capital improvements in the Denham Springs School District to fund much-needed athletic facility improvements at the high school with no increase in taxes paid each year.
The bond election proposition will appear on the April 24 ballot for voters in the Denham Springs School Taxing District. School Board Member Cecil Harris said the district’s strong AA bond rating and current record-low interest rates make this the best time for school leaders to obtain additional funds, since that can be done with no increased annual cost to taxpayers.
School leaders propose investing $13 million in new facilities, upgrades, and expansions. Those proposed improvements include: the realignment of DSHS Yellow Jacket Stadium, creating better security designs for parking and entry; a new turf surface for soccer and football competition; a new track in the stadium and a dedicated field events area; a new field house with accommodations for male and female student-athletes; expanded weight rooms for all sports; the addition of a baseball field facility and softball field facility on the campus; and a new dedicated practice area for the marching band.
The proposed improvements will be the first major improvements to Denham Springs High School’s overall athletic program and facilities in more than 65 years.
DISTRICT CELEBRATES READING WITH DR. SEUSS
DISTRICT DELIVERS VACCINATIONS TO EMPLOYEES
Livingston Parish Public Schools is one of the first school systems in the state to offer COVID-19 vaccinations in-house.
Neary 700 active employees received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccination on March 10 during a special district event at the Suma Professional Development Center. The event was managed by the district’s team of 27 professional school nurses. The medical team streamlined the 15-minute process, administering the Prizer/BioNTech vaccine and scheduling follow-up appointments to get the second dose on March 31 or April 1.
Employees who did not sign up for the district’s vaccination event are encouraged to receive inoculations through their private health care provider or local pharmacy.
STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT VISITS LIVINGSTON PARISH
State Superintendent Cade Brumley and members of the State Department of Education’s administrative team visited the Denham Springs High School STEM & Robotics Center and the Walker High School campus in March to learn about the district’s efforts to better connect students with career opportunities. The tour was organized by State Rep. Buddy Mincey, Jr.
Livingston Parish Public Schools was recently recognized as Louisiana’s most progressive district for providing course offerings on the state’s list of high-wage, high-demand occupations. The district has earned more than $1.3 million in funding to develop stronger career course offerings in fields that are currently underserved. School officials noted that students across the parish will earn 11,500 credit hours of career and technical education this school year, helping them better connect to post-graduation job opportunities.
LEGISLATIVE BREAKFAST INFORMS ATTENDEES OF IMPORTANT ISSUES
Local elected leaders and school officials gathered for a recent breakfast meeting at the Denham Springs High School STEM & Robotics Center to hear information on legislative issues that may impact local school and government funding that are being proposed for the 2021 Louisiana Legislative Session.
State Sen. J. Rogers Pope told those in attendance that the governor is proposing a modest pay increase for school employees in the budget. He said he believes there is much support for the increase among state legislators, but said he wished the governor would have proposed a more substantial increase. He also said he is very concerned about current discussions among state leaders to eliminate the state’s inventory tax as a cost-savings measure. He said elimination of the inventory tax could reduce public school funding.
Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor warned that elimination of the local inventory tax could cause property millages to increase for some districts, and Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said his office could see a reduction in funding if the inventory tax funds were eliminated.
State Rep. Buddy Mincey told attendees he had formed a committee to review the state’s shortage for certified teachers. Livingston Schools Human Resources Director Bruce Chaffin, who sits on that state committee, noted that the district has seen a tremendous downturn in the number of available certified teachers that are coming out of local colleges.
Mincey, who is in his first term as the representative for District 71, was recently named the Louisiana School Board Association’s 2020 Legislator of the Year.
THE YEAR’S TOP PRINCIPALS AND TEACHERS HONORED
Livingston Parish Public Schools recently announced the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year winners for the current school year.
The district’s top principals are: Elementary Principal of the Year Amy Savage from South Live Oak Elementary; Middle School Principal of the Year John Hill from Albany Middle School; and High School Principal of Year Beth Jones from Live Oak High School.
The top winning teachers include: Elementary Teacher of the Year Dana Baier from Eastside Elementary School; Middle School Teacher of the Year Lauren Gourney from Denham Springs Junior High; and High School Teacher of the Year Louis Sansovich from Albany High School.
The top three teachers were selected from nominees from schools across the parish. Those teachers earning the Teacher of the Year honors at their respective schools include:
High Schools – Louis Sansovich, Albany High; Courtney Richoux, Denham Springs High; Devin Dubois, Doyle High; Michele Yawn, Live Oak High; Shaunte’ Kraft, Maurepas; and Ellen Fort, Walker High.
Middle Schools – Josh Burton, Albany Middle; Lauren Gourney, Denham Springs Junior High; Erik Willie, French Settlement Junior High; Alice Taylor, Frost; Suzette Rabalais, Juban Parc Junior High; Christy Matthews, Live Oak Junior High; Misty Reynerson, Live Oak Middle; Jennifer Stewart, North Corbin Junior High; Shelli DuRousseau, Southside Junior High; and Nicole Savage, Springfield Middle.
Elementary Schools – Rebecca Scivique, Albany Lower Elementary; Kelli Satterfield, Albany Upper Elementary; Stephanie Fernon, Denham Springs Elementary; Amanda Robinson, Doyle Elementary; Dana Baier, Eastside Elementary; Amanda Thomas, French Settlement Elementary; Bette Jo Sibley, Freshwater Elementary; Helena Olson, Gray’s Creek Elementary; Brittany Rigsby, Holden; Kelly Price, Juban Parc Elementary; Crystal Gaubert, Levi Milton Elementary; Brandy Tullos, Lewis Vincent Elementary; Aimee Martin, Live Oak Elementary; Dana Perere, North Corbin Elementary; Amanda Gann, North Live Oak Elementary; Haley McDermitt, Northside Elementary; Sherry Wentzel, Seventh Ward Elementary; Eileen Jarman, South Fork Elementary; Kara Patterson, South Walker Elementary; Joni Lexia, Springfield Elementary; Leah Davis, Southside Elementary; and Carolyn Will, Walker Elementary.
U.S. Congressman Garret Graves recently recognized Livingston Parish Public Schools on being named a Forbes Magazine Best Employer in the State of Louisiana.
“Having worked with LPPS, and (Superintendent Joe Murphy) specifically, over the years to rebuild after the 2016 Flood and to adapt during a global pandemic, I know that the Forbes recognition is a tribute to the nurturing, collegial, dynamic and transparent environment that has been carefully cultivated at Livingston Parish Public Schools,” Graves wrote in his Feb. 9 letter to the superintendent. Graves represents Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Though the education excellence of LPPS is widely known, it is worth noting that Forbes recognizes LPPS as the top school system and the top public service entity in Louisiana to achieve this recognition,” Graves added. “Please extend our congratulations to the women and men who comprise this best employer in the State of Louisiana.”
LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS NOW SCHEDULING COVID VACCINATION APPOINTMENTS FOR MARCH 10
Superintendent Joe Murphy announced that Livingston Parish Public Schools will make available COVID vaccinations on March 10 for those active employees who register online for the service.
Murphy said the district anticipates being able to accommodate 720 qualified registrants for that day with vaccinations administered by the school system’s nurse professionals from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Suma Professional Development Center in Satsuma. He noted that March 10 is currently scheduled to be a professional development day, so no classes are scheduled to be held that day.
“We want to encourage all our employees to take advantage of this opportunity, or to continue working with their private health officials or pharmacies to receive the vaccination,” Murphy said. “The vaccination can help our employees protect themselves, their students, their coworkers, their families and our entire community.”
Murphy said if the number of registrations exceed the 720 count, the district will place those names on a waiting list to be contacted in the event there are cancellations, or the district will follow up with them to set appointments at a later date.
Murphy said an on-line registration link was made available at 5 p.m. Feb. 23, for employees to sign up for an appointment. He noted that active Livingston Parish Public School employees include all those who received a check from the district in December 2020 or January 2021.
School district employees across Louisiana became eligible to receive the COVID vaccination following a proclamation from the governor. Since that time, the district has been working with state health officials to share pertinent information with employees and to help facilitate a vaccination station with on-staff nurse professionals.
SCHOOL BOARD ASKING VOTERS TO FUND ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENT AT DSHS
The Livingston Parish School Board is asking voters to extend an existing 8.64 mills dedicated to capital improvements in the Denham Springs School District to fund much-needed athletic facility improvements at the high school with NO increases in taxes paid each year.
The proposal includes improvements to DSHS Jacket Stadium, including a realignment of the field and better security designs for parking and field entry, a new track and field events facility, a new soccer and football turf field, a new field house and expanded weight rooms for both male and female student-athletes, and the addition of fully designed baseball and softball fields on site. The complex improvements will also include a new band practice area.
This $13 million investment will mark the first major improvement to the high school’s overall athletic program in more than 65 years!
School leaders propose taking advantage of record-low interest rates with a 20-year refinancing plan that will save $2 million overall and create an additional $13 million to invest in capital improvements. The funding plan will NOT increase what taxpayers currently pay each year.
Voters in the Denham Springs School Taxing District will vote on the proposal on the April 24 ballot. Early voting for the election will be held April 10-17.
LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS ANNOUNCE STUDENTS OF THE YEAR
Livingston Parish Public Schools has announced its Student of the Year winners for the 2020-2021 school year. The top winners in the district are Emma Miranda, a senior at Albany High School; Sophia Chavers, an 8th grader at Albany Middle School; and Khloe’ Golden, a 5th grader at Juban Parc Elementary School.
All three winners were selected from the individual school winners and they will advance to compete in the state’s regional competition. Winners at the regional level will qualify for the state’s finals, which are held in May.
Those Livingston Parish students named 2020-2021 Student of the Year winners at their respective schools include:
12th Grade – Emma Miranda, Albany High; Hailey Enamorado, Denham Springs High; Jessica Jemison, Doyle High; Blain Seale, French Settlement High; Olivia Barnes, Holden High; Ethan Cooper, Live Oak High; Maci Scivicque, Maurepas; Kaitlyn Norman, Springfield High; and Madeline Watson, Walker High.
8th Grade – Sophia Chavers, Albany Middle; Peyton Baker, Denham Springs Junior High; Alex Aucoin, Doyle Junior High; Phoenix Bhramayana, French Settlement High; Reagan Turner, Frost; Sawyer Herring, Holden Junior High; Kellie LaPorte, Juban Parc Junior High; Jace Griffin, Live Oak Junior High; Mackenzie Hutson, Maurepas; Sadie Gallman, North Corbin Junior High; Sadie Nickens, Southside Junior High; Sydney Kinchen, Springfield Middle; Julianna Easley, Walker Junior High; and Sasha Caruso, Westside Junior High.
5th Grade – Dillon Sutton, Albany Middle; Gabriela Gann, Denham Springs Elementary; Oaklee Bigner, Doyle Elementary; Gage Wynne, Eastside Elementary; Bentley Allement, French Settlement Elementary; Lillian Murphy, Freshwater Elementary; Peyton Ogle, Frost; Khloe Gotreaux, Gray’s Creek Elementary; Bailey Kemp, Holden; Khloe’ Golden, Juban Parc Elementary; Claire Puig, Levi Milton Elementary; Collin Hamilton, Lewis Vincent Elementary; Jaxson Lefebvre, Live Oak Middle; Michael Miller, Maurepas; Karigan Bourgeois, North Corbin Elementary; Sarah Jacobsen, Northside Elementary; Katelyn Devall, Seventh Ward Elementary; Isabella Blanchard, South Fork Elementary; Rylee McKenzie, South Walker Elementary; Ceionna Brock, Southside Elementary; and Jackson Aucoin, Springfield Elementary.
SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES 13TH CHECK FOR EMPLOYEES
The Livingston Parish School Board approved at its Jan. 21 meeting a proposal submitted by Superintendent Joe Murphy to pay a stipend to all full-time district employees. The stipend will be $1,000 for all full-time employees.
Murphy said the district can make the one-time supplemental payments thanks to savings in expenditures and unexpected increases in sales tax revenue accrued over the past six months.
“Much credit goes to our administrators for being good stewards of our dollars and making sure that dedicated federal and state dollars were utilized to cover applicable expenses so as not to impact the district’s general fund,” Murphy said.
“It is certainly our desire to recognize the value of our employees and to compensate them as we are able. We are glad we can offer this stipend to them, especially in light of the challenges they have endured over this past year,” he added.
Murphy said the total cost of the one-time stipend is $4.778 million. He said employees will receive the “13th check” by Feb. 11.
DISTRICT ENACTS COVID-19 LEAVE FOR EMPLOYEES FOR 2021
Superintendent Joe Murphy said all district employees will be eligible for up to 10 calendar days of leave related to a positive case of COVID-19 and seven calendar days for close contact with a positive case, retroactive to the start of the New Year, and extending through March 31, thanks to a policy change approved Jan. 21.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 provided school system employees 10 days of leave to cover days they could not work due to being quarantined following contact tracing. However, those days expired Dec. 31 with the 2020 tax year, as it was a federal tax credit that reimbursed districts. The latest federal coronavirus relief package did not include a new credit for this year.
The addition of leave days is a local option, Murphy noted. He said the district would incorporate the local leave time into any extension that Congress may enact for this year.
“It’s important to note the COVID leave days are being granted by the local district – not by the state or federal governments at this time,” Murphy said. “We will certainly incorporate this change with any that might be issued by the state or federal government in the future. We also will review our policy again at its expiration date of March 31 to determine if additional action is needed to readdress the issue.”
The Livingston Parish School Board voted to give employees a “clean slate” of COVID sick days for the new year, regardless of whether they had used any or all their previous COVID leave. The COVID leave days are calendar days and not work/school days.
“This is the right thing to do,” Murphy said. “We have employees who had exhausted their COVID leave and many others could be faced with taking emergency sick leave to cover necessary absences in this new semester. This policy change recognizes the hardships that COVID is creating for many of our people.”
FRENCH SETTLEMENT HIGH NAMES BASEBALL FIELD FOR BELOVED COACH
French Settlement High School has honored the many achievements and contributions of one of its most beloved baseball coaches by naming the school’s baseball field the “Mark Holmes Field.”
Mark Holmes taught and coached at the school from 1990 to 2010. During his time as the school’s head baseball coach, he compiled 324 wins and won nine district championships, made four appearances to the state tournament, was Class B State Runner Up in 2002, and was named the LBCA Coach of the Year in 2001.
“The Livingston Parish School Board wishes to establish an enduring reminder and to celebrate the life and contributions of Mr. Mark Holmes to the Livingston Parish School System and French Settlement High School,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.
French Settlement High School Principal John Chewning said the Holmes’ name would be added to the field before the start of this year’s baseball season.
“Coach Holmes was my coach, I am very excited about being able to this for him and I am Honored to be a part of it. When you think about French Settlement baseball, you think of Mark Holmes,” Chewning said.
SCHOOL SYSTEM RECEIVES CLEAN AUDIT
A full audit of the Livingston Parish School System’s financial records for the 2019-2020 fiscal year shows that the school system is in compliance with all state auditing guidelines, showing no material weaknesses in its internal controls.
The audit of the system’s basic financial statements was presented to the school board by independent auditors with Hannis T. Bourgeois at the board’s Jan. 21 meeting.
“We are most pleased that our school system continues to be a good steward of the people’s monies; spending those dollars correctly – investing wisely in our facilities, in our employees and, ultimately, in our students,” said Livingston Parish School Board President David “Bo” Graham.
The financial report included a review of governmental activities, each major fund, the budgetary comparison statement of the general fund, the budgetary comparison statement of the Disaster Special Revenue Fund, the fiduciary fund statement, and the aggregate remaining fund information of the school system for the year ending June 30, 2020.
LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS NAMED A BEST EMPLOYER IN LOUISIANA BY FORBES
A Forbes-sponsored survey of employees who work for large employers ranks Livingston Parish Public Schools as the second-best organization to work for in Louisiana in 2020, according to an analysis posted on the Forbes website.
Livingston Schools, which has nearly 3,900 contract, part-time and substitute employees, ranked second on the state’s list, only behind the Lafayette-based wholesale jewelry company, Stuller, which employees 1,000 people.
“We are so very honored by this ranking, because it comes from our employees,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said. “Our mission at Livingston Parish Public Schools is to make a difference every day – not only in the lives of our students, but with our teachers, administrators, para-professionals and staff.”
The second annual Forbes list of top employers, which is based on a survey of 80,000 workers nationwide, consists of 51 separate rankings, one for each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Only employers with at least 500 workers on their payrolls were included in the survey.
The top ten best employers in Louisiana were: Stuller, Livingston Parish Public Schools, St. Tammany Parish Public Schools, Willis-Knighton Health System, Capital One, Royal Dutch Shell, Waitr Holdings, Marriott International, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, and Eldorado Resorts. Other school systems on the list included Tulane University (13), McNeese State University (17), Jefferson Parish Public School System (31), and Ouachita Parish School Board (40).
NORTHSIDE ELEMENTARY PRE-K PROGRAM AMONG STATE’S TOP PERFORMING
Northside Elementary Pre-K Program has been named a Top 10-rated early childhood education site, according to the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2019-2020 performance profile report. At the same time, five other parish early childhood education sites received the state’s top excellent rating.
The state department’s report is a rating system for all publicly funded early childhood and Pre-K providers in the state akin to annual school performance scores for those systems serving older students. The state rates providers as excellent, high proficient, proficient, approaching proficient or unsatisfactory. About 200 providers of the more than 1,500 across the state received the highest ranking of “excellent,” meaning they received an average score of a 6 or higher on a scale of 1 to 7.
Northside Elementary received an excellent rating of 6.53 – the state’s fifth-highest rating, tying for the No. 8 ranking. The school scored high in emotional support (6.85) and classroom organization support (6.83).
“We are proud of the growth we are seeing across our district in our early childhood classes,” Supervisor of Instruction Stacey Milton said. “In addition to Northside Elementary, our programs at Eastside Elementary, Freshwater Elementary and Seventh Ward Elementary all earned excellent ratings for a second year in a row. And according to the latest 2019-2020 performance profile results, Denham Springs Elementary and Lewis Vincent Elementary are now added to the list of excellent-rated site.”
Milton noted that another 18 early childhood education sites across Livingston Parish scored in the high proficiency category, nearing the highly coveted excellent rating.
STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH APPROVES NEW CORONAVIRUS RULES
The Louisiana Department of Health, aligning with new Centers for Disease Control guidelines, has revised its policy regarding quarantine times for school employees and students who are determined to be close contacts to positive COVID cases.
Under the new policy, students, teachers and staff can end their quarantines after seven days if they test negative for the coronavirus and show no symptoms, or return to campus after 10 days without a test if no symptoms surface. The previous policy had required quarantines to stay in effect for 14 days for students and employees who had come in close contact with someone testing positive, with no options of “testing out” or lessening the quarantine time regardless of having symptoms or not.
State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley had presented evidence to state legislators in November that the previous 14-day rule posed problems for schools. He noted that the proper management of the shorter quarantine periods will allow more students to safely experience valuable class time and school activities.
Visit the Louisiana Department of Health’s website for more information on COVID-19 guidelines and resources available to schools.
GIRLS WHO CODE CLUB GETS STRONG START
More than 20 girls from across Livingston Parish attended the Nov. 3 inaugural event for the Girls Who Code Club, which introduced them to educational options and high-paying career opportunities that are available to women with strong computing skills.
The Denham Springs High School STEM and Robotics Center hosted the event, which was sponsored by the local Raising Canes, Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks, with hopes of attracting female students to pursue more technology-based learning.
“The girls were informed about opportunities and introduced to other girls who share their interests and desires to pursue a career in computer technology,” said Michael Simmons, director of the STEM and Robotics Center. He said the Girls Who Code Club is a nationally recognized non-profit organization that focuses on educating, equipping and inspiring girls to actively seek out careers in technology.
Simmons said the club will meet on Monday nights at the DSHS STEM and Robotics Center from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
WALKER STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS ACADEMY
Two Walker High School students, senior Gabryel Duncan and junior Matt Rotolo, are among a select class of 18 public, private and online charter school students who are participating in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Baton Rouge.
As part of the academy, the students attend weekly classes at LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business. Each student is tasked with generating a business idea, writing a business plan, pitching that plan to a panel of investors, and then launching their own companies. At the end of the program, the students will be able to register their own LLCs with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. The student with the winning concept will advance to a national pitch competition in New York next year.
Duncan’s business idea is to expand the product market for people with disabilities, resulting in greater awareness and inclusion for the community. Rotolo’s business idea is to provide a service that helps students at Walker High School have a fully functional and working cellphone at their disposal.
COVID QUARANTINE POLICY EXPLAINED
Livingston Parish Public Schools continues to operate under Phase 3 of its Start Strong attendance plan, as determined by the governor’s declared Phase 3 recovery status for the state. At the same time, the district is subject to guidelines set by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) related to mandatory quarantines for positive cases and close contacts.
Under those guidelines, if a student or employee tests positive for the virus, there is a mandatory 10-day quarantine period. When a student or employee is determined to have been in close contact of a positive case, there is a 14-day mandatory quarantine period for that person. The BESE guidelines do not allow for close contacts to “test out” of quarantine, but rather, they must adhere to the full 14-day waiting period.
Failure by the district to adhere to BESE policies could jeopardize funding, place schools in opposition of other governmental agencies, and possibly lead to the closing of schools.
ACT SCORES FOR CLASS OF 2020 AMONG STATE’S TOP FIVE
The Livingston Parish Class of 2020 scored above the state average on the ACT, the state’s test that determines college readiness, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. The exam measures what students have learned in math, English, reading, and science and is used for college admissions and access to scholarships and financial aid, including TOPS.
Livingston Parish’s composite score was 20.0. It was one of five districts — out of a possible 70 — with an average score of at least 20. Others included Plaquemines (20.1), St. Tammany (21.1), and West Feliciana (20.0) parishes, and the Zachary Community School District (21.6).
Locally, French Settlement High and Live Oak High netted the highest composite scores, each averaging a 21.1 on the ACT. French Settlement High and Live Oak High were two of 26 schools statewide with a score of at least 21, which earns schools an “A” grade in the state’s high school rating system.
Narrowly behind those two schools was Holden High (20.9), followed by Maurepas High and Doyle High (20.4), Denham Springs High (20.2), Albany High (19.1), Springfield High (19), and Walker High (18.8).
Approximately 67 percent of last year’s seniors who took the ACT (995 out of 1,483) earned a college-going ACT of 18, compared to the state total of 52 percent. Of that total, 42 percent of Livingston Parish’s seniors scored at least a 21, higher than the statewide total of 32 percent.
Livingston Parish increased its ACT scores among Students with Disabilities (15.8 in 2019 to 16.1 in 2020) and Economically Disadvantaged (18.7 in 2019 to 18.9 in 2020), while the state overall saw declines in both of those subgroups.
Overall, the state has seen a steady decrease in ACT scores since 2013 when the state granted all students free access to the test. Livingston Parish has seen a similar trend.
DISTRICT CREATES LIVINGSTON PARISH TEACHER ASSOCIATION
The Livingston Parish School Board recently voted to create the Livingston Parish Teacher Association to give all teachers a stronger voice in matters across the district. The structure of the association will allow every teacher to have a vote and provide direct input.
“It is our goal that greater and more inclusive dialogue will help make our system stronger and more united in our primary mission of providing our children with a quality education,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.
Murphy noted that the LPTA will provide input on the district’s calendar, pupil progression, curriculum adoption, textbook adoption, Strong Start plans, safety technology steering, school wellness and third-party administrators (insurance).
STUDENTS RAISE MONEY FOR SCHOOL SUPPLY NEEDS
Students at Seventh Ward Elementary School recently participated in a Free Dress Day fundraiser to raise money for Assess the Need, the Livingston Parish School Supply Program that provides supplies for needy children in every school in the parish.
The students raised more than $500 and presented Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor with the check. Taylor is the sponsor of Assess the Need, which recently held its 20th consecutive annual drive in the parish. Over the past 20 years, the program has raised nearly $1 million for school supplies in Livingston Parish.
LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS MOURN DEATH OF STUDENT-ATHLETE
Livingston Parish Public Schools received the sad news that Denham Springs High School junior Remy Hidalgo died in the early hours of Sept. 18. He was in the care of Children’s Hospital New Orleans following an incident at football practice earlier this week.
School counselors have been made available at Denham Springs High School, as well as any other school in the district, to assist students and faculty who may need help.
The collective prayers and thoughts of the district go out to family and friends, and to the community who loved this special young man.
DISTRICT MOVES TO PHASE 3 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE PLAN
Livingston Parish Public Schools transitioned all students in grades Pre-K to 12 to receive face-to-face instruction five days per week on their home campuses this month following Gov. John Bel Edwards’ announcement to move the state into Phase 3 of its reopening plan. The move was completed over a four-day phase-in period:
- Grades 6 and 9 returned full time to campus on Sept. 16
- Grades 7 and 10 returned full time to campus on Sept. 17
- Grades 8 and 11 returned full time to campus on Sept. 18
- Grade 12 returned full time to campus on Sept. 21
Students in grades Pre-K to 5 already were given the option to attend classes five days per week at their campuses under the Phase 2 Plan.
Superintendent Joe Murphy noted that many restrictions will remain in place in Phase 3. In particular, buses are operating at 75% capacity and riders are still required to sanitize their hands upon entering; students are afforded multiple opportunities to wash hands and masks are still be required for students in 3rd grade or above, as well as for employees. In addition, temperature checks are conducted every day by the end of first hour, and anyone with a temperature reading of 100.4 degrees or above is isolated for parental pick up with next step guidance provided. Students must still eat in their classrooms or designated areas, and lunches are picked up in the cafeterias in static groups.
GROUNDBREAKING HELD FOR NEW K-8 SOUTHSIDE CAMPUS
Livingston Parish Public School leaders hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking on Sept. 10 for the new $45 million, state-of-the-art K-8 Southside Campus that will be constructed in Denham Springs to replace two schools that were destroyed during the August 2016 flood.
The new two-story campus will incorporate Southside Elementary (K-5) and Southside Junior High (6-8). Most of the original campus facilities for the two schools were demolished to make way for new construction. School officials opted not to rebuild Southside Elementary at its original site on Range Avenue, but to relocate it to the site of the 27-acre Southside Junior High site on Highway 16. The property on Range Avenue is now home to the Denham Springs High School STEM and Robotics Center.
“This day marks the end of a long, arduous journey. It’s hard to imagine how much we have overcome since we were faced with only debris and destruction at this site. But more importantly, this marks the first day a new journey for this community – one of restoration and progress and brighter, better days ahead,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.
Murphy credited U.S. Congressman Garret Graves for his leadership and dedicated pursuit to secure funding for the new facility. In particular, Graves saved the district $17 million by having Congress reduce the NFIP penalty against flooded schools in the parish.
Site preparation for the two-school campus is scheduled to begin later this month, with full construction slated to be complete by the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
TESTING PROCEDURES USED TO ENSURE CLEANLINESS OF CAMPUSES
ATP meters measure relative light units that identify living organisms on inanimate surfaces. ATP, or Adenosine Tri-Phosphate, is an energy molecule that is present in all living cells. If it is alive or was once alive, it contains ATP – this is true for animal cells, plant cells and bacterial cells. A measurement of ATP can quickly correlate to a measurement of how clean a surface is – the less ATP, the less contaminants present and the cleaner the surface.
Risk Management Coordinator Wendy Gill said the ATP meter testing is done in 10 common traffic areas on every campus – the front main entry door, the waiting area in the front office, the cafeteria, the library, the school’s isolation room, and five random classrooms.
“The good news is that of the 170 tests conducted at 17 school sites tested to date, only a total of eight sites had areas on their campuses that have to be re-treated. The rest had no areas that scored below a hospital grade sanitization level,” Gill said, noting that the district is currently testing its remaining campuses.
Nearly 90% OF STUDENTS OPT FOR ON-CAMPUS INSTRUCTION
Approximately 90 percent of all students enrolled in Livingston Parish Public Schools have opted to receive instruction through one of the district’s on-campus formats, according to Superintendent Joe Murphy.
Murphy said (as of Aug. 17, 2020) the district has enrolled 26,155 students for the fall semester. Of that total number, only 2,980 students have enrolled in a virtual-only format because of COVID-19 health concerns.
Livingston Parish Schools opened on Aug. 7, according to its Phase 2 plan, with a majority of students receiving instruction through a hybrid format that includes on-campus and virtual instruction.
Currently, 7,893 students have been assigned to Group A to attend classes at their in-district schools on Mondays and Wednesdays and every other Friday, and 7,509 students will be in Group B to attend classes at their in-district schools on Tuesdays and Thursdays and every other Friday opposite Group A. The students are receiving virtual instruction on the days they are not scheduled to be on their campuses. The hybrid structure applies to those students in grades 3 to 12.
Students in grades pre-K to 2, as well as students with special needs and those subject to special circumstances, are attending classes at their in-district schools five days per week. Currently, 7,534 students are enrolled for this traditional campus learning group.
SCHOOL OFFICIALS ADDRESS INTERNET CONNECTION ISSUES
School Technology Director Carlos Williams recently presented a long list of issues and concerns that the Livingston Parish Public School System is facing with having adequate digital access to all its students across the parish.
He told state leaders that a large portion of students will be receiving virtual instruction in some way or another this semester, so parish-wide access to the internet is critical to the district’s instructional efforts. Williams made his presentation to State Senator J. Rogers Pope and State Representative Buddy Mincey, Jr., both of Denham Springs, and State Representative Daryl Deshotel of Marksville.
Williams said an estimated 2,500 to 3,500 Livingston Parish students do not have internet access at their homes. At the same time, many areas of the parish lack in the fiber build out by a service provider, while others also have poor cell coverage. Williams said state help is needed in developing a long-term plan to work with vendors to install infrastructure that can provide broadband access, to work with cell providers to provide better coverage, and to develop additional community partnerships for better access.
ASSESS THE NEED SCHOOL SUPPLY PROGRAM IN 20TH YEAR
This is the 20th year that Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor, local volunteers and area businesses have once again sponsored the Assess the Need campaign to provide school supplies for needy students. Supplies for nearly 3,000 students were distributed to schools before the first day of class despite challenges caused by the constraints and economic concerns of COVID.
“Many of our families and local businesses have been directly impacted this year by the Coronavirus, which has created an added struggle to what can already be a challenging time for parents and grandparents to finance their children’s needs to go back to school,” Taylor said.
“By helping struggling families receive the school supplies their children need, they can prioritize their limited resources on food and clothing.”
Taylor noted donors can give to the program without coming into contact with volunteers, who in past years, stood outside the parish’s large Wal-Mart Stores to collection donations. This year, donors can use the camera apps on their cell phones to connect directly to a pay portal on Venmo or PayPal to give. All donations are tax-exempt. Links to those pay portals are available at www.AssesstheNeed.com.