FRENCH SETTLEMENT SCHOOLS CELEBRATE SUCCESS OF AMERICAN IDOL LAINE HARDY
Newly crowned American Idol Laine Hardy, a 2018 graduate of French Settlement High School, recently made a return visit to Livingston Parish as part of the show’s finale that featured hometown visits for the top three contestants. Hardy enjoyed a pep rally at the French Settlement High School gym that was attended by students and faculty from the local elementary and high schools, parents, community leaders and adoring fans. From there, he participated in a parade and rally at the Livingston Parish Fair Grounds before visiting with Gov. John Bel Edwards and legislators at the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge. Hardy was a top vote-getter week-to-week and consistently garnered praise from “Idol” judges Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry. Hardy was named the new “American Idol” on the show’s May 19 finale.
LIVINGSTON PARISH’S 2019 STUDENT OF THE YEAR WINNERS RECOGNIZED
Livingston Parish Public Schools recognized the district’s top Student of the Year winners in grades 5, 8 and 12, as well as those students from each of the parish’s schools, at a special awards ceremony on May 7.
“This is one of my favorite events, because we get to recognize some of the best and brightest that Livingston Parish Schools has to offer,” Superintendent Rick Wentzel said.
WALKER STUDENT RECEIVES SUPERINTENDENTS’ SCHOLARSHIP
JOE MURPHY SELECTED TO BE NEW SUPERINTENDENT
The Livingston Parish School Board voted at its April 18 meeting to have current Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy take over as the district’s next superintendent.
Murphy has worked in the Livingston Parish Public School System since 1992, serving as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal and supervisor.
He has worked in his current post for the past four years and is credited with managing much of the district’s recovery from the August 2016 flood. Murphy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from Louisiana State University and a Master’s Degree of Educational Administration and Supervision from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Current Superintendent Rick Wentzel announced in February that he would retire on June 15, 2019, forfeiting the last year on his four-year contract agreement.
Although Wentzel has nearly two months remaining of his term, he said he will step aside to allow his successor to begin serving in the district’s top position immediately.
Murphy bested a field of four other candidates who were vying the position, including two current Livingston Parish Public School administrators: Supervisor of Personnel Bruce Chaffin and Supervisor of High School Instruction Jody Purvis. Others candidates were C. Michael Robinson, Jr., of Thibodaux, La., and Elizabeth Duran Swinford of New York.
SCHOOL EMPLOYEES TO RECEIVE 13TH CHECK
The Livingston Parish School Board voted on April 4 to give an additional $750 paycheck to each full-time school system employee. Part-time employees will get a percentage of the full amount based on the hours they work. The checks are expected to be distributed in May.
Superintendent Rick Wentzel said the “13th check” is one of his final major initiatives before retiring in June. The one-time payment to the district’s 3,475 employees will cost the school system $3.2 million, which will be primarily funded through surplus funds gained in 2018 from the parish’s one-cent sales tax that is dedicated to salaries and employee benefits.
“Our parish saw a large increase in sales taxes after the flood because of the increase in expenditures related to the recovery. We would like to give more to our people, but we know these monies are ‘one-time’ dollars, and so we’re allocating them through this ‘one-time’ process,” Wentzel said, noting that the checks will be distributed next month.
Wentzel noted that the school system had a tradition of giving employees a “13th check” each year from 1997 through 2008, but when the state stopped funding the 2.75 percent cost-of-inflation increase, the district did not have the funds to give employees the extra check.
SCHOOL OFFICIALS SHARE PRIORITIES WITH LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION
Livingston Parish School officials met with those state legislators who represent Livingston Parish at the new Walk On’s Conference Center on the campus of Walker High School to share with them priorities and funding needs for the school district.
Superintendent Rick Wentzel noted that district leadership is supporting the governor’s proposal for a pay raise for teachers and school staff, and he said an increase in funding for the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) is long overdue and much needed. The MFP is the formula used by the state to determine funding for local school districts.
Those state legislators in attendance included Senators Dale Erdey, Eddie Lambert and Mack “Bodi” White, and Representatives Valerie Hodges, Sherman Mack, Rogers Pope, and Clay Shexnayder. This year’s Fiscal Legislative Session runs from April 8-June 6.
Wentzel also told legislators that the state currently allocates no funding for facilities; yet in parishes with growing populations – like Livingston Parish – that creates a tremendous financial burden.
ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNS OF NEW DENHAM SPRINGS ELEMENTARY & SOUTHSIDE CAMPUS UNVEILED
Livingston Parish Public School leaders unveiled the architectural renderings of the new Denham Springs Elementary and new K-8 Southside Campus, replacing those campuses destroyed by the August 2016 flood.
The new 80,000-square-foot DSE campus will be the parish’s first two-story elementary school, and it will honor the city’s history with an exterior design that is similar to the original Denham Springs High School that was once located on the same site. That original structure was destroyed by a fire in 1949 and rebuilt two blocks north, at its current location.
The new K-8 Southside Campus will house Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High. The two schools will be combined into one two-story complex, but each with separate entrances and learning spaces. They will share a large courtyard that can be viewed by the glassed library area. The elementary school will accommodate 700 students, while the junior high can hold 1,00 students.
FRENCH SETTLEMENT’S LAINE HARDY RETURNS TO AMERICAN IDOL
American Idol hopeful Laine Hardy, a recent graduate of French Settlement High School, is hoping his second chance at the big stage is the charm. He has advanced to be among the popular talent show’s Top 10 contestants. His renditions of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” and the Beatles’ classic “Come Together” have impressed the judges.
Hardy was a part of the last season of American Idol and hadn’t intended to audition this season — he attended a friend’s audition as support, to play guitar, but couldn’t say no when judges thrusted a Hollywood golden ticket at him after an impromptu performance.
SUPERINTENDENT RICK WENTZEL ANNOUNCES PLANS TO RETIRE
Superintendent Rick Wentzel told Livingston Parish School Board members at the Feb. 21 meeting that he will retire June 15, 2019.
“I have been honored to serve as superintendent of this great district, and to work with some of the state’s very best teachers and school administrators. I couldn’t ask for a better job than the one you’ve allowed me to have over the past three years,” Wentzel said. “But after much prayer and discussion with my family, I believe now is the right time for me to make this transition so I can spend more time with my family.”
School Board President Buddy Mincey, Jr., said the board will perform an extensive search for the best possible candidates to replace Wentzel. The board expects to announce its selection before May 2019.
WALKER HIGH SCHOOL CUTS RIBBONS ON FOUR ON-CAMPUS BUSINESSES
Walker High School administrators, teachers, students and local business leaders participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 7 to celebrate four businesses opening locations on the new, expanded campus.
The four businesses include Papa John’s, Neighbors Federal Credit Union, Nike’ Apparel and Walk-On’s Conference Center. All four businesses are jointly operated and managed by students and professional business professionals, and all four businesses are open to on-campus and off-campus customers.
“These partnerships offer our students real-life learning opportunities and valuable experience they can parlay into an immediate career or use to further their knowledge and skill-level for additional training in one of these career pathways,” Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre said.
LIVINGSTON PARISH LIBRARY TO PROVIDE FREE ACCESS TO STUDENTS
The Livingston Parish Library recently announced it is partnering with Livingston Parish Public Schools to provide all students immediate access to the library’s digital resources and services through a new eCard program. The program automatically enrolls more than 26,000 LPPS students into the library system.
The new LPL eCard grants students access to all electronic resources provided by the library, ranging from scholastic databases that offer assistance, to homework, to resources offering downloadable eBooks, audiobooks and magazines. In addition, the LPL eCard will allow students to visit their local library branch to check out physical items such as books, DVDs, video games and more.
ALBANY HIGH WINS GOVERNOR’S SECOND ANNUAL BREAKFAST CHALLENGE
Albany High School won first place in the second year of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “No Kid Hungry: School Breakfast Challenge,” a contest aimed at increasing statewide breakfast participation.
Albany High saw the highest increase of any school in the state, bumping up its breakfast participation by 65 percent. Approximately 83 percent of Albany’s students eat a school-provided breakfast, through traditional breakfast services and the “Second Chance Breakfast” program, according to Child Nutrition Special Programs Administrator Sommer Purvis.
Purvis noted that all Livingston Parish students are eligible to receive a free breakfast. She said the parish has seen an increase in breakfast participation over the last couple of years. Last year, French Settlement High and North Corbin Junior High were recognized for recording the highest increases of breakfast participation in the state.
STEAM EXPRESS REACHES OUT TO LOCAL COMMUNITY
The Livingston Parish STEAM Express recently headlined a community outreach event in the South Denham Springs residential area of Eastover Estates. Educators were joined by volunteers from various parish organizations to provide a variety of learning activities, games and food for local families. More than 350 people attended the event.
“Taking learning into our communities is at the very heart of what we envision with our STEAM Express mobile classroom,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said. “This event was a powerful opportunity for our teachers and school leaders to interact with our students and their parents in their home environment. We want these families to know that we care about their wellbeing and the education of their children.”
SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES PLAN TO BUILD STEM & ROBOTICS CENTER
The new center will offer classes in partnership with LSU designed to enrich student learning in science, technology, engineering and math. The center will be run by the administration at Denham Springs High School. Some of the courses planned for the center include Computational Thinking, Digital Storytelling, Intro to Engineering, as well as a suite of courses focusing on digital media and engineering.
Under an approved recovery plan by FEMA, the district will demolish all but two buildings on the Southside Elementary campus. Those two buildings, which are valued at $2.1 million, will be restored to house the STEM & Robotics Center. The demolition of most of the campus and refurbishment of the two buildings are expected to complete before the start of the school in August 2019.
DISTRICT RECOGNIZES LOCAL SCHOOLS OF EXCELLENCE
Livingston Parish Schools recently recognized 24 schools that were named 2018 Schools of Excellence by the Louisiana Department of Education for their academic progress. The state’s Schools of Excellence include those schools that earn Top Gains status, which is a designation for academic progress at an “A” level; and Equity Honorees, which recognizes schools in the top 10 percent in Louisiana among targeted subgroups, including special needs students, English learners and economically disadvantaged students.
Nine schools earned Top Gains and Equity Honoree recognition: Denham Springs Elementary; Denham Springs Freshman High; Eastside Elementary; Holden School; Juban Parc Elementary; Live Oak High School; North Live Oak Elementary; South Live Oak Elementary; and Springfield High School.
Three schools earned Equity Honoree recognition: Albany High School; Denham Springs High School; and French Settlement High School.
Twelve schools earned Top Gains recognition: Albany Lower Elementary; Albany Middle School; Albany Upper Elementary; Denham Springs Junior High; Doyle Elementary; French Settlement Elementary; Freshwater Elementary; Levi Milton Elementary; Lewis Vincent Elementary; Live Oak Elementary; Maurepas School; and Springfield Middle School.
COMMUNITY STEM CAFÉ OFFERS FUN OUTING FOR LOCAL FAMILIES
More than 200 students and their parents gathered at the Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center on January 26 to engage in learning activities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math through a variety of hands-on games, exercises and demonstrations – many of which were made available by the Livingston Parish STEAM Express.
The Community STEM Café was presented by a variety of educational and professional groups from Southeastern Louisiana University, the Northshore Technical & Community College, the State of Louisiana, Livingston Parish Public Schools and independent STEM educational groups.
Livingston Parish Schools Instructional Technology Facilitator Nikki Lavergne said the local turnout for the event, which was the first to be held in Livingston Parish, exceeded expectations, including the popularity and demand for access to the STEAM Express, which is a mobile learning laboratory that is equipped with learning activities for students and parents. The mobile classroom can be customized to focus on any field of learning and adapted for any age group.
“It’s just so exciting to see our students engage in learning activities, to have their parents engage in the activities with them, and for students and parents to leave with plans to seek out more educational materials on their favorite subjects,” Lavergne said.
SPRINGFIELD HIGH SENIOR ADVANCES TO NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLAR FINALIST
Springfield High School Senior Andrew Larpenter has advanced to become a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, making him eligible for one of 7,500 National Merit Scholarships to be awarded this spring.
“We were excited to hear the news for Andrew,” Springfield High School Principal Spencer Harris said. “He has all the ability and drive to be one of the most successful people to come through our school. We congratulate him on this national honor and wish him the very best for a bright future.”
To enter the National Merit competition, Larpenter had to take the PSAT test during his junior year of high school. From the 1.6 million students who met entry requirements for the 2018 competition, approximately 16,000 were selected as semifinalists. From that list, 7,500 finalists were chosen.
STEAM EXPRESS COMMUNITY OUTREACH PLANNED FOR MARCH 11
The Livingston Parish STEAM Express will headline a community outreach event in the South Denham Springs residential area of Eastover Estates on Monday, March 11 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. near the Light of the Word Church at the corner of Aztec Drive and Chickasaw Avenue.
Educators with STEAM Express will be joined by volunteers from the Livingston Parish Library, Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, Might Moms, Assess the Need, Stewart Medical Center, Jackets Against Destruction Decisions and teachers from Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High School to offer a variety of learning activities, games and food for local families.
“Taking learning into our communities is at the very heart of what we envision with our STEAM Express mobile classroom,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said. “This will be our first true community outreach effort, and we are excited about partnering with others in our parish to engage our students and parents where they live.”
NEW SCHOOL BOARD TAKES OATH, MINCEY ELECTED PRESIDENT
Denham Springs School Board Member Buddy Mincey, Jr., was elected president of the Livingston Parish School Board on Thursday (Jan. 10) by his fellow board members. David “Bo” Graham of Walker was elected board vice president.
The vote was the first official act of business taken by the newly sworn-in board, which includes four new members: Brad Sharp of Livingston, District 1; Bradley Harris of Denham Springs, District 4; Frank Parrino of Springfield, District 8, and Devin Gregoire of Albany, District 9. Those returning members include Kellee Hennessy-Dickerson of Watson, District 2; Jan Benton of Denham Springs, District 3; Buddy Mincey, Jr., of Denham Springs, District 5; Jeff Cox of Walker, District 6; and David “Bo” Graham of Walker, District 7; all of whom received no opposition for re-election to their seats.
DEMOLITION UNDERWAY AT FLOOD-DAMAGED SCHOOLS
Demolition crews have received clearance to begin tearing down the old Denham Springs Elementary, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High Schools that were severely damaged by the 2016 flood.
Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said the demolition of Denham Springs Elementary and Southside Junior High is being managed by Gremillion Industrial Services, while Insulation Technologies, Inc., received the contract to tear down Southside Elementary. As part of these companies’ low bids, they have the option to salvage some of the schools’ buildings materials – including two-by-fours, screws, nails and metal – and resale these items.
Murphy said the cost for demolishing the three campuses is more than $650,000. FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are paying 90 percent of the demolition costs, with the school system paying the remaining 10 percent, he said.
Demolition of all three campuses is expected to be completed by the end of February.
FOUR LIVINGSTON PARISH STUDENTS AMONG TOP “YES I CAN” WINNERS
Four Livingston Parish students have been awarded this year’s “Yes I Can” Awards by Louisiana’s Council for Exceptional Children, making each of them eligible for the organization’s national awards program. The “Yes I Can” Awards recognize children and youth with exceptionalities who have demonstrated their determination and achievement in multiple ways. The “Yes I Can” Awards review committee selects one winner each year in each of the following categories: academics, arts, school and community activities, self-advocacy, technology and transition.
The parish’s four winners include Alisha Davis, a 5th grader at South Fork Elementary, who won in the art category; Timothy Bell, a 4th grader at Freshwater Elementary, who won in the academic category; Heaven Barker, a 3rd grader at Freshwater Elementary, who won in the technology category; and Carson Tullier, a 3rd grader at Juban Parc Elementary, who won in the self-advocacy category.
TEACHERS LEARN HOW TO TEACH WITH STEAM EXPRESS
More than 20 teachers from 12 schools across the parish recently gathered at the Livingston Parish Public Schools’ Central Office for more than two hours on a January afternoon to learn how to customize for their students the many learning activities and games that are available on the STEAM Express.
“This workshop is in high demand. It’s the fifth one we’ve scheduled since rolling out our STEAM Express,” Instructional Technology Facilitator Nikki Lavergne said. “And we’ve already scheduled another one at the end of the month. Teachers are excited about the potential the STEAM Express brings with making learning more exciting and engaging, and more hands-on for our students and parents.”
The STEAM Express is a school bus that has been converted into a mobile classroom that is equipped with Wi-Fi, touch-screen monitors and laptops, and hands-on, interactive modules that are designed to help students creatively learn concepts in a variety of subject areas. The flexible design allows educators to easily transition the bus set up from elementary-level activities to high school-level projects.
Lavergne said at least one person from each school must be fully trained in how to set up the equipment, how to program it and use it, and how to manage the learning time among the various activities, before that school can schedule the STEAM Express for a visit.
EASTSIDE ELEMENTARY NAMED NATIONAL ESEA DISTINGUISHED SCHOOL
Eastside Elementary School in Denham Springs has been named a National ESEA Distinguished School in recognition of the success of its education programs and academic progress by its students over the past year.
The Louisiana Department of Education submitted Eastside Elementary as its single statewide selection for the honor in the elementary category. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides additional resources for at-risk students and federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of public elementary and secondary education.
“We are excited that our efforts, and the tremendous progress of our students, have gained the attention of state education leaders and now, the national administrators who oversee many of the federally funded programs in our schools,” Eastside Elementary Principal Kelly LaBauve said.
The National ESEA Distinguished School award was given to less than 100 schools across the country that gained recognition for exceptional student achievement in 2018. These honored schools demonstrate a wide array of strengths, including team approaches to teaching and learning, focused professional development opportunities for staff, individualized programs for student success and strong partnerships between the school, parents, and the community.
STUDENTS LEARN CAREER SKILLS FROM CHAMBER BUSINESS LEADERS
Juniors from Doyle, Holden and Maurepas high schools took home lessons from some of the parish’s leading business professionals who helped to host the Third Annual Student Business Conference, which is hosted by the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce.
Students divided into three groups and rotated among the professionals who provided lessons on preparing for job interviews, managing ethical issues and working in a team setting to accomplish goals. The half-day conference was held at Carter Plantation in Springfield.
LEWIS VINCENT ELEMENTARY CELEBRATES NATIONAL BLUE RIBBON DESIGNATION WITH SCHOOL PARADE
Students, educators and parents marched through the Lewis Vincent Elementary campus to celebrate their school being named a National Blue Ribbon School. Lewis Vincent is one of only six schools in Louisiana to get the award this year, and only the second school ever in Livingston Parish to receive the award. The marchers wore blue and grey t-shirts emblazoned with the National Blue Ribbon logo.
STEAM EXPRESS TAKING LEARNING TO COMMUNITIES
The Livingston Parish STEAM Express is on the road – and in communities – sharing learning activities with children and their parents. The activities introduce fun learning concepts on important subjects in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Already, the STEAM Express has scheduled stops at nearly every campus in the parish, visited the parish’s libraries and participated in the Livingston Parish Fair and local parades.
“The idea is to take learning to students and their parents to introduce them to new and exciting concepts,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said.
STATE REPORT SHOWS PERFORMANCE IMPROVED AT MOST LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOLS
Although the state department used a new formula this year in calculating school scores and assigning letter grades, a comparison of school performance scores under the old formula – for an “apples to apples” comparison – shows significant gains across the parish.
“Despite the confusion of the new scoring system that has changed letter grades for our schools and district, the outcomes on our assessments and growth indicators continue to show we’re raising the bar in Livingston Parish,” Supervisor of Instruction Tracy McRae said.
McRae noted that under the state’s old grading formula, the district would have received a performance score of 108.2 – which would have been a 3.3 point increase from the previous year’s calculation.
LIVINGSTON PARISH SECOND-HIGHEST IN STATE FOR STRENGTH OF DIPLOMA
Significant gains were reported at the parish’s high schools, according to the state’s latest report. The most impressive measurement is that for the 2017-2018 school year, Livingston Parish ranked No. 2 in the state with 73.7 percent of all graduates earning more than a standard diploma.
The parish’s high schools recorded a record-high graduation rate of 86.6 percent, an increase of 3.4 percent, with seven of the parish’s nine high schools improving their cohort graduation rate (those students graduating in a four-year period). Springfield High led the way with a 19-point increase. French Settlement High improved 16.2 points, Albany High grew 15.2 points and Doyle went up 14.6 points.
The district has put much focus on strengthening the diplomas of parish graduates by giving them opportunities to earn basic or advanced academic and/or career and technical certifications. Those certifications are recognized by post-secondary colleges and industry trade schools.
WALKER HIGH GRAD ELECTED FIRST LOUISIANA WOMAN TO SERVE AS NATIONAL FFA OFFICER
Layni LeBlanc, a graduate of Walker High School, has become the first woman from Louisiana to serve as a national officer of the National Future Farmers of America organization. LeBlanc is currently studying animal science at LSU, and she hopes to attend veterinary school after graduation.
As an FFA officer, she will travel to 40 states and Japan to promote agriculture and the organization during a one-year leave from the school. She will serve as national secretary on a team of five other officers from different states.
LeBlanc is the first Louisianan in 31 years to serve as a national officer and fifth ever. She is the first female from Louisiana to serve at that level.
LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOL BOARD TO SEAT FOUR NEW MEMBERS IN 2019
Livingston Parish voters in school board districts 8 and 9 elected two new members to the board on Nov. 6, while districts 1 and 4 gained new members as the current seat holders announced they would not run and only person signed up for each of those two seats during the July 18-20 qualifying period.
The four new board members who will take office January 1, 2019, include Brad Sharp of Livingston, District 1; Brad Harris of Denham Springs, District 4; Frank Parrino of Springfield, District 8, and Devin Gregoire of Albany, District 9.
Returning board members are Kellee Hennessy-Dickerson of Watson, District 2; Jan Benton of Denham Springs, District 3; Buddy Mincey, Jr., of Denham Springs, District 5; Jeff Cox of Walker, District 6; and David “Bo” Graham of Walker, District 7; all of whom received no opposition for re-election to their seats.
TWO PARISH SCHOOLS HONORED FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS
Northside Elementary and Eastside Elementary have earned spots on the state’s “Honor Roll” as a result of high performance during the 2017-2018 school year in their early childhood programs, according to a report released by the Louisiana Department of Education.
Both schools were recognized in the “Excellence” category, which is the state’s highest possible rating on the school’s annual Performance Profile Report. Only 90 schools statewide earned this top rating, according to the state report.
Livingston Parish Public Schools currently offers 56 early childhood classes to Pre-K children at 24 different school sites. Supervisor of Instruction Stacey Milton said 15 parish school sites were within 0.5 points of also reaching the state’s “excellent” rating.
LIVINGSTON PARISH ROLLS OUT STEAM EXPRESS
Livingston Parish Public School officials recently rolled out their newest effort in creating greater access to learning technologies by introducing the STEAM Express – a mobile classroom designed to take learning opportunities to community neighborhoods.
The STEAM Express, which will be focused on introducing science, technology, engineering, arts and math concepts to students, is the brainchild of the district’s Instructional Technology department that was made possible by community sponsors who paid to retrofit a bus into the mobile classroom.
The STEAM Express is decorated to take the appearance of a steam locomotive, including a working steam whistle, and is equipped with Wi-Fi, touch screen monitors and laptops, and hands-on, interactive modules to help students learn a variety of subjects. The flexible design allows educators to easily transition the mobile classroom set up from elementary-level activities to high school-level projects.
“The idea behind this mobile classroom project is to bring STEAM-based education to the schools and into our neighborhoods to help students and to give them an experience with STEAM education that they might not otherwise have an opportunity to be exposed to,” Superintendent Rick Wentzel said. “The mobile classroom is adaptable to a variety of projects and all age groups.”
LEWIS VINCENT ELEMENTARY NAMED NATIONAL BLUE RIBBON SCHOOL
Lewis Vincent Elementary has been named a National Blue Ribbon School based on the school’s overall academic performance and progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
The school’s performance score has improved 13.1 points since the 2014-2015 school year, and is in the top 15 percent statewide for closing the gap between the academic performance of the general student population and economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
“What’s really so amazing about this award is that it recognizes our accomplishments during the time of our recovery from the flood. The challenges we faced in the flood recovery are not factors for this award. Our school achieved success at this highest level of recognition in spite of the challenges set before us. I am so proud of what we’ve achieved together; we truly are stronger than ever,” Lewis Vincent Elementary Principal Lynette Wheat said.
The National Blue Ribbon award has been presented by the U.S. Department of Education since 1982. Lewis Vincent Elementary is only the second school in Livingston Parish to ever receive the coveted National Blue Ribbon designation. French Settlement Elementary earned the designation in 2009.
HALF-CENT SALES TAX TO FUND SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS ON NOV. 6 BALLOT
The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office is asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot to fund the hiring, training and staffing of uniformed School Resource Officers (SROs) at every school in the parish. SROs are sworn law enforcement officers who are specially selected and trained to promote safety within schools.
The school district currently employs 10 SROs across the district and pays half their cost through cooperative endeavor agreements with the sheriff’s office, City of Denham Springs and Town of Walker.
SPRINGFIELD HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR NAMED NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP SEMIFINALIST
Springfield High School Senior Andrew Larpenter has been named a 2018 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist.
Larpenter is the son of Rodney and Kelly Larpenter of Killian, Louisiana. He is president of his senior class and a member of the school’s golf team and Beta Club. He participates in local community service projects and is currently overseeing the school’s public service announcement competition to promote positive behavior.
Merit Scholar semifinalists are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies. From the 1.6 million students who met entry requirements, approximately 16,000 were selected as semifinalists. Larpenter is currently vying for one of 7,500 National Merit Scholarships that will be offered next spring.
COMMUNITY SAYS FAREWELL TO SOUTHSIDE ELEMENTARY AND SOUTHSIDE JUNIOR HIGH CAMPUSES
Past and present educators, students and community leaders gathered on the campuses of Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High on September 26 to say farewell to the beloved campuses that have had such a lasting impact on their lives and the lives of thousands of students in the Denham Springs community.
Both schools will soon be demolished because of substantial damage caused by the August 2016 flood. The schools have remained shuddered since the flood, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently approved a funding plan for the district to rebuild both schools.
“We are excited about the future for these schools, and the impact they will continue to have on the children of Livingston Parish,” Superintendent Rick Wentzel said. “With that said, we know that this is a bittersweet time for so many, and we wanted to give our people who are so passionately connected to these two schools an opportunity to say farewell and to be a part of this new chapter.”
Both the new Southside Junior High and Southside Elementary will be rebuilt on the current 27-acre site of Southside Junior High on Highway 16 in Denham Springs. The combined campus design will house two distinct schools – Southside Elementary for K-5 students and Southside Junior High for 6-8 students – but they will share some facilities and recreational space to reduce duplication where possible and maximize cost savings.
DISTRICT TO REBUILD SOUTHSIDE JUNIOR HIGH AND SOUTHSIDE ELEMENTARY AT SAME LOCATION
As part of the district’s flood rebuilding effort, it will rebuild Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High on the same 27-acre location at 26535 Highway 16 in Denham Springs where the current Southside Junior High now stands.
Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said the combined campus will house two distinct schools – Southside Elementary for K-5 students and Southside Junior High for 6-8 students – but they will share some facilities and recreational space to reduce duplication where possible and maximize cost savings.
“This rebuilding plan offers us an opportunity to be more efficient and create a safer environment. For many years, district officials have wished to relocate Southside Elementary because of traffic and safety concerns; this combined campus design allows us to address those concerns and maximize our resources,” Murphy said.
The district recently received an approved funding plan from FEMA to rebuild all three schools that remain closed since the August 2016 flood. The third school, Denham Springs Elementary, will be rebuilt at its original location on Range Avenue near the high school.
FORMER SOUTHSIDE ELEMENTARY LOCATION TO BECOME DENHAM SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL SATELLITE CAMPUS
The former Southside Elementary campus on Range Avenue in Denham Springs will be rebuilt into a satellite campus for Denham Springs High School where digital media and emergent technology courses will be offered to students in grades 9-12.
The satellite high school campus will use digital media curriculum from the LSU STEM Pathways program. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said FEMA managers approved having the district demolish all but two buildings on the Southside Elementary campus – the multi-purpose building and cafeteria building, which includes five classrooms and a large meeting space. The district will fully restore those facilities and convert them to educational space for the high school. Those buildings are valued at $2.1 million.
Murphy said the demolition and refurbishment of the surviving structures will be completed before the start of next school year.
“Having access to these existing facilities opens up opportunities for students to earn dual college credit, additional Carnegie credits and industry credentialing,” Murphy said.
DOYLE HIGH TEACHER RESPONDS TO EMERGENCY CALL
When Doyle High School Teacher Matthew Stumpf received an emergency page from the Fire District 6 call center that a Livingston Parish school bus was involved in a fiery crash near Satsuma, he quickly called for an administrator to take over his classroom and rushed to the scene.
As a volunteer fire fighter and emergency medical response instructor, Stumpf is trained to manage such emergencies. “But when you hear that a school bus is involved, it’s scary. I knew I had to respond to do what I could for the kids,” he said.
Stumpf joined other fire fighters from Fire Districts 4, 6 and 7 at the scene to extinguish flames that had engulfed the 18-wheeler truck cab that had slammed into the back of the bus. Their quick action stopped the fire from spreading to the truck’s fuel tanks or the nearby damaged school bus.
“I certainly will take this experience back to the classroom and share it with my students,” he said. Stumpf teaches emergency medical response and sports medicine classes at Doyle High School. He is a former High School Teacher of the Year winner in Livingston Parish.
“My students will want to learn from this real-life example, and I will have the joy of sharing what I do in a meaningful way. It’s why I do what I do,” Stumpf said.
FRENCH SETTLEMENT HIGH SCHOOL RECEIVES $200,000 GRANT TO EXPAND AP PROGRAM
French Settlement High School recently received a $200,000 National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) grant from ExxonMobil, which will be utilized over a three-year period to expand the school’s Advanced Placement (AP) program. AP classes include college-level curricula as part of the course instruction. Students who earn a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP exam may be eligible for course credit at many colleges and universities.
“This grant has enabled us to expand our AP course offerings and help to equip all of our teachers with the tools they need to challenge our students to perform on a very high level,” French Settlement High School Principal Lee Hawkins said. “Our students have embraced our mission statement at FSHS, which is ‘Exceed Expectations. All Day. Every Day.’ as evidenced by the fact that nearly one-third of our student body is enrolled in at least one AP course.”
Hawkins said he plans to add an AP math course to the high school curriculum next year, and another AP computer class and AP science class the following year.
LIVE OAK HIGH SCHOOL BREAKS GROUND ON NEW BASEBALL-SOFTBALL COMPLEX
The district will soon begin construction on a new $6.8 million baseball-softball complex at Live Oak High School. The complex will include artificially-turfed fields, covered grandstands, coaches’ offices, team locker rooms, an indoor hitting facility, press boxes and lights.
School officials and community leaders recently participated in a ground breaking ceremony for the project, which is expected to be completed by next school year
NORTHSHORE TECHNICAL COMMUNITY COLLEGE BREAKS GROUND ON NEW WALKER CAMPUS