LIVE OAK JUNIOR HIGH GYM DESTROYED BY FIRE
A fire erupted in the Live Oak Junior High School gymnasium on June 22, destroying the building.
Nine local and nearby fire districts responded to the call, stabilizing the blaze by lunchtime, and successfully protecting surrounding classroom buildings from damage. The gym’s interior was destroyed by fire, smoke and water damage, as well as the fire caused the roof to become insecure, causing firefighters to abandon their work on the inside of the building at one point and only fight the blaze from the exterior.
“This is a tragic loss for the Watson community, as this building certainly holds many memories for so many. We are grateful that no one was injured, and we want to thank the 70-plus men and women who quickly responded to quench the fire and save the other buildings on our campus from being damaged,” Livingston Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy said.
Murphy said school officials will continue to work with the fire district investigators and the State Fire Marshall’s Office to get a full report on the blaze, and then determine the appropriate action for clean-up and rebuilding efforts.
DISTRICT TO PROVIDE EMPLOYEES WITH COMPREHENSIVE MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Employees of the Livingston Parish School System are now eligible to receive comprehensive mental health care for them and their dependents, thanks to the district’s investment in a new benefits package.
Superintendent Joe Murphy said the district has investment in services provided by TotalCare EAP, offering employees, their spouses and dependents, access to counseling services designed to address significant life problems. The benefits include counseling and guidance on issues such as career and education, parenting, cyber safety, human resources and supervisor management, challenges of military deployment or simply coping with “tough times.” Those “tough times” may include relationship issues, depression, grief, eating disorders, financial or legal struggles, retirement planning or quality of life issues.
“It’s important that we give our employees all the tools they need to effectively do their job, and sometimes that includes assistance with coping with difficult challenges,” Murphy said.
“We all know that issues we deal with in the home can impact our performance on the job, just as difficult days at work can negatively impact our home life. The two lives are not inseparable, so we want to give our people the resources they need to manage issues on the campus and in their homes in a healthy, productive way.”
Many of the services provided by TotalCare EAP can be accessed online, through tele-med or tele-health appointments, or by having access to a wealth of collected wellness information, videos and blogs. The service also provides employees with a list of local physicians or certified counselors who could assist with their health care needs.
PICOU SERVES AS DISTRICT 8 ACTING BOARD MEMBER
The Livingston Parish School Board recently appointed long-time educator, basketball coach and school administrator Norman Picou to serve as the acting board member for District 8, following the early departure of board member Frank Parrino.
Parrino resigned his seat due to health complications. His term was scheduled to run through the end of the calendar year. Elections for all parish school board seats will be held this fall with elected candidates taking office in January 2023. The primary election for the school board seats will be held Nov. 8, and the run-off election, if necessary, will be held Dec. 10.
“I retired from the system with nearly 35 years of experience in education, including 23 in Livingston Parish. I felt that serving in this temporary capacity would be a way of giving back to the system and helping out District 8 until the voters could choose a new representative,” said Picou. He did not qualify to run for the open seat.
WALKER HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL WINS NATIONAL AWARD
Jason St. Pierre, principal of Walker High School, has been named the 2022 Varsity Brands School Spirit Principal of the Year, a prestigious national award that recognizes those school principals who elevate student experiences at their campuses.
Varsity Brands announced the national winners during a ceremony webcast on June 15. As the winner in the principal category, St. Pierre will receive a $3,000 scholarship for his school. Visit Walker High School’s Facebook page to see a recording of the live award presentation.
“This principal understands the essential link between school spirit and student achievement and supports academics and athletics alike. This principal is personable, active in school activities, encouraging to students and faculty, and innovative in his approach to education and engagement,” Varsity Brands wrote on its website.
HORNET ACADEMY OFFERING OPPORTUNITY FOR STUDENTS TO CATCH UP OR GET AHEAD
Educators and school administrators in the Albany School District will host the Hornet Academy, July 11-22, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. each weekday, offering academic remediation programs in a “camp-like” atmosphere.
Hornet Academy is open to all students in the Albany area who will be entering grades 1 through 12 in the upcoming school year. (They recently completed Kindergarten through Grade 11).
Programs for grades 1-6 will be held at Albany Upper Elementary, while grades 7-12 will be held at Albany High School.
“The Hornet Academy is a community-wide summer remediation program, serving all students in Albany through a fun two-week format. The academy will be run much like a summer camp,” School Board Member Devin Gregoire said.
Registration is open now until June 28. Parents wishing to sign up their student(s) can register online.
NEW STUDENT REGISTRATION
New students can be registered with the district through an online portal. Required information includes a birth certificate, immunization record, three proofs of residency, custody documents (if applicable), social security card, last report card (if available), and the withdrawal form from the student’s previous school (if applicable).
A proof of residency document must have the name of the parent or guardian and the physical address. A post office box address is NOT acceptable. Acceptable documents include a utility bill, water bill, cable or phone bill, property taxes, voter registration, SNAP benefits, a bank statement, current lease agreement or home purchase documents. At least one of the submitted documents MUST be the utility bill, water bill, cable or phone bill, or home purchase documents.
Registration applications are available in English and Spanish, and available for the Literacy and Technology Center Automotive Learning Center, the LPLTC Elementary Virtual Program and the Livingston Virtual Program for Grades 6-12.
EMAIL NOTIFICATION TO REQUEST UPDATED STUDENT INFORMATION
Parents of students returning to Livingston Parish Public Schools will be emailed a link on Monday, July 11, to allow them to update their student(s) information. This update process CANNOT be done through the PowerSchool Parent App.
Any parent who does not receive an email by the end of the day on Monday, July 11, should check their clutter, spam, or junk mail folders. If the email is not there, call the student’s school on July 12 to provide correct email and contact information.
LEGISLATIVE AUDIT REPORT POINTS OUT NEED FOR INCREASED SALARIES
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor recently detailed the impacts of the state’s struggle to recruit and retain high-performing teachers, noting that teacher pay and qualifications affect student outcomes across all levels. According to the audit, higher pay would make teachers more likely to stay in the state, which would help the state develop and retain experienced teachers.
The report stated that during the 2019-2020 academic year, Louisiana teachers had an average salary of around $51,566, which ranked 12th of the 16 Southern Regional Education Board states. The average of the SREB states was $55,205, about 6.6% higher than Louisiana’s average pay during that year. The national average is around $64,100.
That same report showed that the average teacher pay in Livingston Parish Public Schools during that same time was $50,243 – more than $1,300 below the state average and nearly $5,000 below the average of the SREB states. Click here to see an article on teacher pay and the averages for all school districts in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Legislature did approve a pay increase for teachers and school staff workers in the 2022-2023 budget. The approved budget includes a $1,500 pay raise for K-12 teachers and a $750 raise for support workers. Those increases will go into effect after July 1. This latest increase is the fifth that K-12 teachers have received over the last several years.
DISTRICT SEEKING APPLICANTS FOR JOB POSITIONS
Livingston Parish Schools recently hosted a district-wide Career Fair at Denham Springs Junior High.
The district interview more than 250 applicants for job positions in all classifications across the district, including teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, food service technicians, maintenance workers, technology specialists and various special education professionals, according to Human Resources Supervisor Steve Vampran.
Interested persons also can sign up online through the district’s application portal.
“This was the first district-wide employee recruiting event Livingston Schools has hosted since 2008. We want to extend invitations to anyone interested in working for Livingston Parish Public Schools to explore the opportunities we offer,” Vampran said.
ALBANY VOTERS SUPPORT FUNDING FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENTS
Voters in the Albany School District agreed to make a significant investment in their local schools by passing a half-cent sales tax in the April 30 election. The funding proposition for the local school district passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
The half-cent sales tax is expected to raise between $200,000 and $300,000 annually for the Albany School Tax District, according to School Board Member Dr. Devin Gregoire, who represents the Albany schools.
Gregoire has said that funds from the tax will be used to build a new elementary cafeteria, a new middle school gym, and a track-and-field facility for all grade levels.
ASST. SUPT. STEPHEN PARRILL RETIRES, BRUCE CHAFFIN PROMOTED
Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill has retired after more than 30 years working as an educator and school administrator.
Human Resources Supervisor Bruce Chaffin has been appointed to replace Parrill’s vacated position.
Parrill has served as a teacher, coach, school administrator and district administrator. He began his career in 1991 at Hammond Junior High, where he taught Louisiana history, reading, and speech while also serving as a coach for football and track.
He moved to the Livingston Parish school system in 1995 and began teaching at Springfield Middle, where he remained for 12 years. Parrill taught world history and speech, served as a special education teacher, and coached the football and basketball teams. He was promoted to assistant principal of the school in 1999 and then principal in 2001. He was promoted to the district’s central office in 2007.
Parrill was recognized multiple times during his time at Springfield Middle. He was the school’s teacher of the year in 1998-99 and was later named the parish’s principal of the year in 2006-07. He has also served as a principal mentor for the Louisiana Department of Education since 2002. He worked as supervisor of middle school instruction before being promoted to assistant superintendent in 2016.
One of Parrill’s most-beloved services was he role as “Captain Patch,” a loveable, larger-than-life, swashbuckling pirate who would tour the elementary schools each year.
The district held a retirement celebration for Parrill at the LPPS Suma Development Center on May 25.
LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS CONTINUE FREE FOOD SERVICE THROUGH JUNE 30
Livingston Parish Schools will continue its partnership with Focus Foods to provide free meal service to school children during the month of June.
Food Services Director Sommer Purvis said Focus Foods will continue to deliver five-day packages of shelf stable food items each week through June 30 to families who have signed up for the service. Food packages can also be picked up at 19097 Florida Boulevard in Albany (next to Anytime Fitness) from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays-Fridays.
“Families who signed up for the food deliveries during the school year will continue to receive the food packages through June 30. Families who are not signed up, but they would like to receive the food items, can sign up for home delivery or for scheduled pick-ups in Albany,” Purvis said.
ALBANY VOTERS ASKED TO MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
The Livingston Parish School Board is asking voters to vote on a proposition to add a half-cent sales tax to purchases made in the Albany School District to pay for local school construction projects. A half-cent sales tax levied in the Albany School Tax District is projected to raise approximately $300,000 annually.
The school construction projects currently proposed include a new middle school gymnasium, a new track and field facility for all grade-level athletes, and a new elementary cafeteria. The proposed facilities will be constructed at the current site of the Albany School complex.
Election Day is April 30, and early voting is April 16-23
LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS RECOGNIZES EXCELLENCE AT ALL LEVELS
Livingston Parish’s outstanding educators, administrators, school support workers and students recently gathered in the Walker High School gymnasium for an evening of recognition and celebration.
Those recognized by the district administration included the top students from each school, and the district’s top winners in the categories of principal, teacher, administrative support worker, classified employee, child nutrition employee, and custodian. The district also recognized those schools that received academic recognition from the Louisiana Department of Education. All winners were announced by their school, and a complete list is on the district website.
LEARNING MADE FUN AT STEAM EXPO
More than 1,000 children, parents and community members gathered at the Denham Springs High School STEM & Robotics Center on Saturday, March 12, to experience learning in the festive environment of the district’s STEAM Expo.
They visited demonstration booths, special presentations and hands-on games and activities both inside the building and out on the crowded parking lot.
STEM & Robotics Center Director Michael Simmons noted that the STEAM Expo focused on learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
“The Expo had robotics demonstrations, hands-on activities, 3-D Virtual Reality building design by Domain Architecture, K-9 demonstrations from the Livingston Parish Sherriff’s Office, Fire in the Wire from DEMCO, and many more amazing displays and interactive activities from community participants,” Simmons said.
WATCH THIS VIDEO ON “OUR WHY” IN LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOLS
Livingston Parish Public Schools serves more than 26,000 students across the district and is the parish’s largest employer with more than 3,000 employees. Each day, our people strive to make a positive difference and create a climate that enhances learning. Take a moment to learn more about the district and the surrounding parish, by watching this short video.
THANK YOU VOTERS!
Livingston Parish voters on March 26 renewed a 5-mill property tax that funds parish-wide construction projects, renovations, and improvements to all school facilities and property. The 5.0 mills generate approximately $3.1 million each year, and are the only funds dedicated to construction projects throughout the parish. The successful renewal will allow the funding to remain intact through 2033.
SCHOOL BOARD AWARDS SUPERINTENDENT NEW CONTRACT
The Livingston Parish Public School Board voted unanimously to approve a new two-year contract for Superintendent Joe Murphy at the Feb. 17 meeting, extending his tenure at the district’s helm through June 30, 2024.
The board approved Murphy’s new contract at an annual salary of $137,374.
Louisiana’s law limits the term of a school district superintendent’s contract to not more than two years into a new board term. However, Murphy would have the right to ask for an extension of the new contract anytime during the new contractual period. The new board term begins January 1, 2023, as elections for the four-year seats will be held this fall.
“Mr. Murphy has done an excellent job for us. It has been a hard job over these past few years. It’s been tough on everyone, and especially on him, but he’s lead us through it,” Livingston Parish School Board President Cecil Harris said.
As a district administrator, Murphy led efforts to restore all the schools damaged by the August 2016 flood, including the rebuilding of three substantially damaged schools – Denham Springs Elementary, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High. His tasks have included negotiations with FEMA and government officials to determine recovery procedures that were eligible for federal funding. Under his leadership, the district garnered more than $57 million to rebuild the three destroyed schools, as well as more than $4 million more to clean and disinfect the other thirty-nine campuses, increase the district’s number of computers and laptops available to students, and enhance Internet and WiFi service throughout the district.
Murphy led the district’s effort in February 2021 to provide a $1,000 stipend to all full-time employees, and then in the fall of 2021 provided a $1,000 annual increase to all certified personnel and a $500 annual increase to all classified employees, along with a $750 stipend to all employees.
ELECTION MARCH 26: “TIME TO RENEW” 70-YEAR DEDICATED MILLAGE
The Livingston Parish School Board is asking voters to renew a 5-mill ad valorem tax this month that is dedicated to funding parish-wide construction projects, renovations and improvements to all school facilities and property in the parish.
The funding renewal request is not a new tax, and a vote for the proposition will not increase the millage rate paid each year by taxpayers.
“This is an essential school funding source that has enabled the district to maintain its many facilities over the years. Hundreds of projects, large and small, are managed with these funds,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.
The proposition will be on the March 26 ballot, with early voting available March 12-19.
Parish voters created the dedicated funding source in 1952 – 70 years ago – and have continually renewed it every 10 years since. The current proposition is also a 10-year renewal, which will allow the funding to remain in place through 2032.
Murphy noted that the dedicated 5 mills generate approximately $3.1 million each year for the district to invest in school facility projects in every community.
KINDERGARTEN REGISTRATION OPENS THIS MONTH
A child must turn 5 years old on or before Sept. 30, 2022, to be eligible to register for kindergarten. Parents are required to register their child through the district’s PowerSchool registration portal, which can be accessed through links on the district’s homepage at www.lpsb.org or by visiting the district’s New Student Registration page.
A full schedule for Kindergarten Registration Assistance Days is also available online.
Only those children who are not currently enrolled in the district should register or seek assistance with kindergarten registration.
LOCAL EDUCATORS NAMED HUNGER HEROES
“No Kid Hungry Louisiana” has named Seventh Ward Elementary’s duo Leigh Potts and Sherry Wentzel as one of eight Hunger Heroes from across the state who are being honored for their steadfast commitment to ensuring kids have healthy meals available to them.
Wentzel is a special education teacher and Potts is a guidance counselor at Seventh Ward Elementary. The two-person team was nominated by the staff at their school for the “No Kid Hungry Louisiana” 2022 Hunger Heroes award.
“Both ladies work endlessly to ensure that no kids in their school or community go hungry,” said Seventh Ward Elementary Principal Laura Dunlap.
(insert photo – cutline: Pictured left to right, Seventh Ward Elementary’s Leigh Potts and Sherry Wentzel package food items to provide to students at their school who need assistance with having access to nutritious food. Potts and Wentzel were named one of the state’s 2022 Hunger Heroes.)
LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOL BOARD ELECTS LEADERSHIP
The Livingston Parish School Board recently elected a new president and vice president for the 2022 calendar year. A majority of the board’s nine members selected Cecil Harris of District 5 in Denham Springs as president, and Jeff Cox of District 6 in Walker as vice president. Both were selected by a 7-0 vote.
LIVINGSTON PARISH EDUCATORS LEARN WHAT IT TAKES TO BE AMONG
THE FEW, THE PROUD
Completing a physically challenging obstacle course or accurately shooting a M16 rifle may not be required skills in their job descriptions, but five local educators were faced with those tasks earlier last month when they were selected to participate in a Marine Corps Educators Workshop.
Literacy and Technology Center Administrative Assistant Nikki Lavergne, Walker High School Teacher Jessica Wagner and coaches Rob Chapman and Doug Dotson, and Denham Springs High School Teacher Maria Ryan travelled to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in Parris Island, South Carolina, Jan. 11-14, to experience the basic training process first-hand.
The Marine Corps Recruit Training Regiment provided drill instructors to escort the workshop in the same manner as recruits in training. Drill instructors also presented the same receiving speech recruits go through when they arrive at the base. They also participated in the tour of the Crucible, which is the recruits’ capstone field training exercise where they attempt obstacles at the Leadership Reaction Course.
“I have a son in middle school who is expressing an interest in a military career, so I had a very personal interest in knowing more,” Lavergne said. “I will say that I am much less apprehensive, and I am impressed with the many opportunities that exist with the Marine Corps. I would certainly tell my students to not dismiss the military as an option. Do your research and find out what’s out there, because there is a lot to choose from.”
TIME FOR FACILITY FUNDING RENEWAL
Voters will go to the polls in March to vote on the renewal of a 10-year 5.0 mill property tax that has been on the rolls for 70 years. Voters first created the facility funding source in 1952 and have supported its renewal ever since.
The funding is dedicated to parish-wide construction projects, renovations, improvements and the acquisition of school buildings and property. The 5.0 mills generate more than $3.1 million for schools each year.
A vote YES for the renewal will NOT increase the amount of taxes currently paid by taxpayers. The proposition will be on the March 26 ballot. Early voting is scheduled for March 12-19, excluding Sunday, March 13.
FRENCH SETTLEMENT COMMUNITY MOURNS LOSS OF STUDENT
The French Settlement community is mourning the loss of one of its high school seniors who died following a car crash on Jan. 31.
Nineteen-year-old Emalea Sanchez was driving to school on Highway 16 when her care crashed between Mitchell Road and Shane Drive, less than a mile from the high school.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the student and to the French Settlement High School community at this time. We would ask that our greater Livingston Parish community join us in offering prayers for comfort to all who are hurting,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.
A GoFundMe page has been organized for the family to help pay funeral expenses.
COMMUNITY EVENT HELD TO COMMEMORATE OPENING OF NEW CAMPUS
School officials held a community celebration on Feb. 12 to commemorate the opening of the new Denham Springs Elementary campus. Activities included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, presentations by school and elected officials, a tour of the campus and lunch for participants.
STUDENTS AND STAFF OCCUPY NEW DENHAM SPRINGS ELEMENTARY CAMPUS
Students and staff at Denham Springs Elementary returned to school for the second semester in their newly constructed, two-story building after having to work at one of the temporary campuses that was built following the 2016 flood.
“We are excited that this day is finally becoming a reality,” Denham Springs Elementary Principal Gail DeLee said.
The new 80,000-square-foot, two-story campus was constructed at the school’s original site of 306 N. Range Avenue, near the intersection of Centerville Street in Denham Springs. The new school’s historic-looking brick façade is complemented by modern additions, such as classrooms with dry erase walls, modular seating, natural light, a large cafeteria, a dedicated pre-kindergarten area, and a dedicated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) lab.
The building also includes personal touches, such as honeycomb shaped lighting fixtures, purple and gold design throughout the building, and a large yellowjacket mascot on the wall behind the tiered area that is located near the school’s main entrance. The school’s students provided motivational words to cover walls.
“You know, you think you can get over the emotional end of this after five years, but you just don’t,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said. “I was the first one on this campus after it flooded. I saw what was here, and then I see what’s here today. I’m thankful for all those that made that work.”
“LATE ARRIVAL” PLAN TO BE INSTITUTED ON WINTER WEATHER DAYS
To avoid losing instructional days when winter weather conditions make travel unsafe early in the morning, the Livingston Parish school system will enact a “late arrival” schedule as necessary during the upcoming months.
Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill said the plan on those days may be to delay the start of school by two or three hours – meaning, if a school’s start time is regularly 7 a.m., then it would move to 9 a.m. on a two-hour delay, or to 10 a.m. on a three-hour delay. The same scenario will be used for bus pick-up times. The same scenario will be used for bus pick-up times.
Breakfast would not be served on those days, but the schedules for lunch and dismissal would remain the same.
In past years, the district has had to cancel school days due to icy weather conditions, as driving during early mornings on such days can present a safety hazard.
“It is our hope that this plan will allow our students to receive each day of learning they deserve and to do it in a way that creates the least disruption for everyone,” Parrill said.
LOCAL LEGISLATOR HOSTS TOURS OF CAREER PATHWAY PROGRAMS
State Rep. Buddy Mincey, Jr., is wanting business professionals to know more about the career pathway programs currently available to students in Livingston Parish Public Schools.
That’s why he invited a long list of business professionals, community leaders, university and technical college officials and elected leaders this month to tour various school facilities, hear first-hand from students about their learning experiences and explore ways to grow and expand existing programs.
Mincey hosted a tour of the district’s health care industry programs on Jan. 18, and he will facilitate a second tour focused on film industry programs on Jan. 27.
“Our school system is offering our students greater opportunities and greater access to good, high-paying jobs after graduation. The more we can engage our industry stakeholders in these efforts, the stronger these programs become and the more opportunities we can offer our students to be better positioned in the workforce,” Mincey said.
SCHOOL BOARD REQUESTING RENEWAL OF ESSENTIAL FUNDING ON MARCH 26 BALLOT
The Livingston Parish School Board is asking voters to renew a 10-year 5.0 mill property tax on March 26 that is dedicated to funding parish-wide construction projects, renovations, improvements and the acquisition of school buildings and property.
The dedicated millage has been in place for 70 years. Voters first created the funding source in 1952 and have supported its renewal ever since. A vote YES for the renewal will NOT increase the amount of taxes currently paid by taxpayers.
The 5.0 mills generate more than $3.1 million for schools each year. These revenues are the ONLY parish-wide funds dedicated to construction improvements in the school system, and every school community in the parish benefits from these funds.
The renewal proposition will be on the March 26 ballot. Early voting is scheduled for March 12-19, excluding Sunday, March 13.
LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS IMPROVE OVERALL PERFORMANCE THROUGH COVID CHALLENGES
Livingston Parish Public Schools improved its overall performance score to 90.2 for 2021, an increase of 1.7 points as compared to the pre-COVID scores released in 2019, according to the Louisiana Department of Education’s accountability report released earlier this month.
Livingston Parish schools finished fifth out of 69 districts statewide and is one of only three districts in the top ten to increase the simulated district performance score from 2019. In 2019, Livingston Parish Schools finished tenth out of the state’s 69 districts.
“We know that having our students return to our campuses as quickly as they did and having our campuses offer hybrid configurations and creative alternatives that allowed our students to be in face-to-face learning environments with our teachers was the key to minimizing learning deficits created by the COVID pandemic,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said. “Often this effort put an undue burden on our teachers and curriculum leaders, but it was necessary to overcome the challenges.”
The state report showed that the district’s high schools improved their overall cohort graduation rate by 12.4 index points and their overall Strength of Diploma index score by 8.3 points. Also, the progress index for grades 3-12 increased 2 points, while the progress index for grades 3-8 increased 3.3 points.
At the same time, the report showed 32 of the district’s schools were named Top Gains Honorees, which were recognized for a student progress score of 90 or greater from one year to the next, and 12 schools were named Equity Honorees, which were recognized for excellence in educating students with disabilities, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students. Nine schools received both honors.
DISTRICT ANNOUNCES TOP PRINCIPALS AND TEACHERS OF THE YEAR
The Livingston Parish School Board on Dec. 9 recognized those teachers and principals in the parish who will advance to the state’s regional competition to be evaluated as potential finalists for this year’s state principal and teacher of the year awards.
The district’s top teachers include Elementary Teacher of the Year Dana Thames, a fifth-grade English/language arts teacher at Levi Milton Elementary; Middle School Teacher of the Year Christina Landon, an eighth-grade math teacher at Live Oak Junior High School; and High School Teacher of the Year Gary Mitchell, a history teacher at Live Oak High School.
The district’s top principals of the year include Elementary Principal of the Year Ginger Bishop, principal of Northside Elementary; Middle School Principal of the Year Carolyn Wilkinson, principal of North Corbin Junior High; and High School Principal of the Year Beth Jones, principal of Live Oak High School.
“All of these winners are outstanding individuals who make our district better every day. The work they do is integral to our school system being highly respected across the state. I want to thank them for their professionalism, for being great educators, and dedicating themselves to the children of Livingston Parish,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.
WALKER ELEMENTARY STAFF SPREADS CHRISTMAS CHEER
Staff from Walker Elementary School spent an evening spreading Christmas cheer to the students, families, and community members in their school district. They loaded up on district buses to visit several locations where they sang Christmas carols and handed out small gifts to students. One of Santa’s helpers, Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Officer Deontony Williams, also participated in the visits.
The group made stops at St. Mark’s Baptist Church on Dunn Street, Punk Smith Park on Burgess Avenue, Country Village Apartments on Burgess Avenue, and a green area along Alex Box Boulevard.
Principal Kerma Luzier said school employees visited with nearly 100 students and their families. The gifts that were distributed to the kids were purchased and donated by the school’s staff and teachers.
“It’s important that we connect with our students on and off the campus. We want them to know that we’re invested in their well-being in all that they do,” Luzier said. “We all loved this time with our families, and we want to make it a Walker Elementary tradition.”
DSHS STEM STUDENT WINS CONGRESSIONAL APP CHALLENGE
Denham Springs High School junior Kameron Arceneaux has been named the winner of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District. U.S. Congressman Garret Graves visited the STEM & Robotics Center to present him with the news.
Graves said the contest challenges students to develop an app product that can provide a needed service. Arceneaux took up the challenge earlier this year – asking his father to purchase books on how to write code and working through financial concepts for in his program with help from his mother – to develop a money management app called “InPocket.” Graves said a team of computer scientists and programmers reviewed the many entries to determine that Arceneaux’s app was the best.
Arceneaux has also taken courses at the STEM & Robotics Centers in computational thinking, cybersecurity and data manipulation and analysis.
“I wanted to develop something to help people become more financially responsible, because I know many people have problems with that,” Arceneaux said.
Graves presented Arceneaux with a framed certificate and encased American flag that had previously flown over the capitol. He said Arceneaux will receive an additional prize to be presented by the competition organizers, and he will have his work put on display in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS FOLLOWING NEW STATE PROTOCOL FOR MASK WEARING
Masks are now optional for students and employees while on Livingston Parish Public School campuses. That policy became effective Oct. 28 following the governor’s latest mandate concerning mask-wearing. To be eligible for optional mask-wearing on all campuses, the district also reinstated guidelines for determining quarantines and close contact tracing.
Superintendent Joe Murphy said the district’s current quarantine policy is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Louisiana Department of Health and is required as part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proclamation for lifting the mask mandate in public schools.
Murphy said masks will continue to be required for all school bus drivers and passengers, as that is a federal mandate.
“It is important to know that current data on positive and close contact cases in our district has diminished greatly over recent weeks, and we believe our decision is supported by that data,” Murphy said.
He said the district has greatly increased its medical staff across the parish, and all decisions related to quarantine requirements for positive and close contact cases will be based on their medical expertise.
SEVENTH WARD ELEMENTARY CELEBRATES NEW CLASSROOM BUILDING
Livingston Parish school leaders held a ceremony last month to celebrate the completion of a new $800,000 classroom addition at Seventh Ward Elementary.
The new addition, which includes four classrooms, restroom facilities and storage, was fully constructed and opened with the start of school on Aug. 11, but school officials had delayed the celebration to allow students to be in the building.
“The addition provides ample space to create a physical layout that allows for the ideal implementation of a variety of project-based learning, flexible seating and the ability to accommodate our current and future growth,” said Seventh Ward Elementary Principal Laura Dunlap, adding that the new building is equipped with modern technology and wireless capability for students to use laptops and to engage in Internet-based activities.
SUPERINTENDENT REPORTS CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS UNDERWAY
Superintendent Joe Murphy recently announced that the district is managing several construction projects to expand and improve campus facilities across the parish.
Those projects include a new band room at French Settlement High School, a new cafeteria at Springfield High, ongoing improvements in Live Oak and new campuses for Denham Springs Elementary, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High, which were destroyed by the 2016 flood. The district also dedicated a new classroom building at Seventh Ward Elementary
“We don’t look like the Livingston Parish School System of old. We’re growing, expanding, improving, and becoming better at every level, in every community,” Murphy said.
FORMER SUPERINTENDENT NAMED SLU COLLEGE OF EDUCATION’S DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS
Former Livingston Parish Public School Superintendent John Watson has been named the 2021 Distinguished Alumnus by Southeastern Louisiana University’s College of Education.
Watson, who served as superintendent of the district from 2012 to 2016, was recognized for his efforts in securing and maintaining a strong relationship between the university and the public school district. Namely, that relationship helped to strengthen teacher preparation programs that benefitted both institutions and allowed for greater cooperative programs at the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center.
Watson was also instrumental in helping Dr. William Wainwright, chancellor of the Northshore Technical Community College, secure the donation of property for the construction of the community college campus in Walker.
Watson is the second superintendent from Livingston Parish Public Schools to receive SLU’s College of Education Distinguished Alumni Award. State Sen. J. Rogers Pope, who received the award in 2016.