January 2019


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.

The newly elected Livingston Parish School Board includes, from left to right, Devin Gregoire of Albany, David “Bo” Graham of Walker, Kellee Hennessy-Dickerson of Watson, Frank Parrino of Springfield, Jeff Cox of Walker, Buddy Mincey, Jr., of Denham Springs, Jan Benton of Denham Springs, Bradley Harris of Denham Springs, and Brad Sharp of Livingston.



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.

An equipment operator uses a Bobcat skid-steer loader to pick up debris from the demolition of Denham Springs Elementary.



Juban Parc Elementary Student Carson Tullier expresses his excitement as he is greeted by Adapted Physical Education Instructor Lisa Dugas during the surprise announcement celebration that Tullier was named a winner of the Louisiana Council for Exceptional Children’s “Yes I Can” Award in the category of self-advocacy.

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.



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.

Albany Middle School teachers Missy Dickerson, Donna Badon and Angela Baronet, learn how to operate virtual reality glasses that are available on the STEAM Express during a workshop at the central office.



December 2018


Eastside Elementary Title 1 Tutor Wendy Gibson works with students on a word exercise. Pictured with Gibson, from left to right, are Eli Territo, Grace Underwood and Rosa Cruz.

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 from Maurepas High School who participated in the Livingston Parish Chamber’s Third Annual Student Business Conference included, from left to right: Hailey Harden, Madison Tullier, Brittany Barrientes, Nevaeh Stewart, Logan Scuderi, Dakota Fabre, Elijah Blount, Trent Robillard and Bryce Felphs. Also pictured, standing in the back, is Livingston Parish Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education Coordinator Staci Polozola.

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 students and their teachers march throughout the campus waving pompoms and carrying a blue banner that proclaims their school’s designation as a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School.

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.



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.

Students and parents at Doyle Elementary recently turned out for an evening event at to participate in the STEAM Express learning activities.




November 2018


Thirty one of Livingston Parish’s 42 schools that received performance grades in the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2018 report showed academic improvement as compared to last year.

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.



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.



Livingston Parish Councilman Jeff Ard recently recognized Layni LeBlanc for being named a national Future Farmers of America officer during a Livingston Parish School Board meeting. Photo courtesy of The Advocate.

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 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.



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.



October 2018


Instructional Technology Facilitator Lynn Kennedy shows Freshwater Elementary Principal Julie Dugas how to operate a technology game that teaches computer coding to students.  The instructional game is one of several that will be made available to students on the 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 Principal Lynette Wheat congratulated her students, staff and teachers for their hard work to earn a National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education. The announcement was made on Oct. 1.

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.



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.

Click here to see the wording of the Law Enforcement District Proposition.



Springfield High School Senior Andrew Larpenter.

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.



(Picture left) Former Southside Elementary Principal Janelle Carrier signs her name on the cinderblock wall of the school as a “farewell sign off” to the school.  (Picture right) State Rep. J. Rogers Pope speaks during the farewell ceremony for Southside Junior High.  Pope formerly served as principal of the school.

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.

September 2018


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.



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 School teacher and volunteer firefighter Matt Stumpf works with Fire District 4 volunteer firefighter Dreagon Bethel (pictured left) to extinguish flames that consumed the 18-wheeler truck that recently struck a Livingston Parish school bus.  (Pictured right) Stumpf removes his mask and fire-retardant jacket after stabilizing the situation.

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.



AP Students at French Settlement High School celebrate a $200,000 grant that was awarded to their school to expand and strengthen its 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.



Pictured from left: Randy Pourciau, Blount General Contractors project manager, LLC, Rusty Warren, Blount General Contractors, LLC, Dale Sizemore, Live Oak baseball assistant coach, Deric Murphy, president of Quality Engineering & Surveying, LLC, Chris Bankston, Gasaway Gasaway Bankston Architects vice president, Monica Perez, Gasaway Gasaway Bankston Architects project director, John Blount, president of Blount General Contractors, LLC, Rick Wentzel, Livingston Parish Public Schools superintendent, Jesse Cassard, Live Oak head baseball coach, Kellee Hennessey-Dickerson, Livingston Parish Public Schools Board Member, Beth Jones, Live Oak principal, Michelle Morris, Live Oak head softball coach, Johnny Morgan, pastor of Live Oak Baptist Church, Brett Beard, Live Oak athletic director, Tyler McGrew, Live Oak baseball assistant coach, Natalie Cobb, Live Oak assistant softball coach, Lane Hutchinson, Live Oak senior baseball player, Brett Leiva, Live Oak senior softball player, and Craig Castello, Live Oak baseball assistant coach.

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



A host of education, state and Livingston Parish officials participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Walker campus of the Northshore Technical Community College.  The $58 million facility will be located on property behind the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center that was donated by the Livingston Parish Public School System.  The entrance to the new campus will be on Burgess Avenue.  State Rep. J. Rogers Pope told the audience that efforts to bring a college campus to the parish began more than 20 years ago.


August 2018


Every public school campus in Livingston Parish that was damaged by the flood — except for the three substantially-damaged campuses that have been under the purview of FEMA – has been restored to pre-flood status, and in most cases, improved from its pre-existing condition.

This milestone is no small accomplishment.  Contractors and maintenance supervisors estimate that the work completed over this nearly two-year span is equivalent to building at least six new schools, while maintaining reoccurring maintenance jobs and repairs throughout the district.

Of those 16 impacted sites, five received three feet of water, and four received four to six feet of water, with three schools – Denham Springs Elementary, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High – receiving catastrophic damage.

“A significant factor in this recovery timeline has been our ability to cause minimal disruption to classroom learning,” Murphy said, noting that much of the work has been done over the past two summers and during holiday breaks, when the students and teachers were not on the campuses.



After nearly two years of uncertainty over the future of three “substantially damaged” schools in the Denham Springs area, Livingston Parish School officials have received the go-ahead from FEMA to begin the process of demolishing and rebuilding two of the three campus sites.

Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said the district has received permission to replace all but the multi-purpose room at Denham Springs Elementary School, and all but the band room at Southside Junior High School. The band room and multi-purpose building were newer and had less damage from the 2016 flood.

He said the district is still negotiating with FEMA on the rebuilding cost and plans for Southside Elementary.

Murphy said designs are not yet set, but he anticipates elevating all of the structures on fill and using cinder block instead of sheet rock, so the structures will be more resilient in case of another disaster.  He said the process to rebuild the schools will take from
2 ½ to 3 years.  Students assigned to those schools will remain at the temporary campus sites until the home campuses are fully rebuilt.

Superintendent Rick Wentzel and honored dignitaries signal the start of demolition work at Denham Springs Elementary by raising their hard hats and placing them on their heads at a special ceremony on Aug. 14. “This signals the final phase on our flood recovery effort,” Wentzel said. Pictured behind Wentzel, from left to right, are School Board Members Buddy Mincey and Karen Wax-Schmitt, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, Governor John Bel Edwards, State Rep. Rogers Pope, and Father Frank Uter of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.



Livingston Parish School Superintendent Rick Wentzel, top left, recently met with principals in School Board District 8 at the French Settlement High School broadcast classroom to discuss the use of distance learning on their campuses to enhance curriculum opportunities for students.  Pictured top center and clockwise to the right are Springfield High School Principal Spencer Harris, Springfield Middle School Principal Dwayne Dykes, Maurepas School Principal Kenny Kraft, Springfield Elementary Principal Catherine Martin, French Settlement Elementary Principal Lindy Gill, and Frost School Principal Stacy Wise.

Schools in the southern-most part of Livingston Parish will be better able to connect to each other and the world, overcoming challenges of their rural settings, thanks to the district’s participation in a USDA grant program to incorporate distance learning curriculum opportunities at those campuses.

“The program electronically links teachers in one area to students in another,” said Distance Learning Program Director Janet Blakenship, adding that distance learning can be as effective as classroom learning in terms of student performance. It offers opportunities for enhanced curriculum and advanced classes, such as physics, anatomy, chemistry, music theory, or calculus.

The technology also allows teachers to include curriculum-based virtual field trips in their instruction, including visits to museums, planetariums, zoos, and even space.  Classes can use the technology to collaborate with other schools and businesses, including team teaching with different schools.

Those schools participating in the distance learning program are Springfield High, Springfield Middle, Springfield Elementary, French Settlement High, French Settlement Elementary, Maurepas and Frost.



Students in Livingston Parish Public Schools continue to exceed their state peers on accountability tests, with nearly half of all students at all grade levels achieving Mastery and Advanced ratings on the latest state assessments, according to the Louisiana Department of Education’s report released this week.

The results of the Spring 2018 Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) exams for grades 3-8 and high school End of Course assessments show 45 percent of all students scored Mastery or above on the combined sections.

“Our students continue to perform at high levels across every grade,” said Superintendent Rick Wentzel. “We are especially proud of the progress we’re making in literacy.  In this category, every grade level but one had well over half of all students score in the top categories; and that one grade level was near the halfway score with 48 percent!”

He noted the following district-wide results were reported for Livingston Parish students who tested in English/Language Arts:

The latest state report also showed Livingston Parish Schools to have strong scores in math.  The most outstanding results came among 8th graders who took the Algebra 1 exam – 95 percent scored Mastery or Advanced. At the same time, 51 percent – more than half – of the district’s eight graders and those high schoolers taking Algebra 1 scored at the Mastery and Advanced levels.  The next highest percentage of top performers came from grades 4 and 5, with 44 percent and 43 percent, respectively, achieving Mastery and Advanced in math.



Pictured left to right, are (front row) Denham Springs Marshall Joe Shumate, Denham Springs City Court Judge Jerry Denton, USMC Lt. Col. Ronald Bias, School Board Member Karen Wax-Schmitt, DSHS ROTC Cadet Commander Logan Wolkart, School Board Member Jan Benton, School Board Member Buddy Mincey Jr., U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, DSHS Principal Kelly Jones, State Rep. Rogers Pope, Superintendent Rick Wenzel, (back row) Denham Springs Police Chief Shannon Womack, Denham Springs Fire Chief Melvin Wheat, School Board Member Bo Graham, Hebron Baptist Church Pastor Charley Westbrook, USMC CWO3 Shawn Shortridge, DSHS Asst. Principal Wes Howard, DSFH Principal Ken Magee, DSHS Asst. Principal John Easterly, DSHS Asst. Principal Shana White and DSHS Asst. Principal Staci Clement

School officials and U.S. Congressman Garret Graves recently celebrated the opening of a U.S. Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Denham Springs High School.  The new program will be housed in a newly renovated and expanded facility on the campus.

It will be managed by Senior Instructor Lt. Col. Ronald Bias, who said he has begun meeting with students already, and anticipates as least 170 students to enroll in the program this school year.

July 2018


The Livingston Parish School System is expanding its ESL (English as a Secondary Language) program for the coming school year to help manage the district’s increased demand.  The number of students going through the program has doubled since 2016, according to Supervisor of Instruction Steve Vampran.

The district is opening a new registration center at the Pathways Campus and Adult Education Center, located at 13330 Burgess Road, across from Walker Freshman High School, to handle incoming students and to take the pressure off local campuses.  A new parish-wide coordinator and office secretary are being hired this summer to manage the new center.

Vampran said the district currently employs five certified ESL teachers and 13 paraprofessionals who work with ESL students.  He anticipates the district having six certified ESL teachers and 14 paraprofessionals onboard for the new school year.

“We have seen our population increase from 450 students to 860 currently over a two-year span. And with this recognition, we realized something needed to be done,” Vampran said.  He predicts the district’s numbers to rise to 1,000 ESL students by next school year.

ESL programs are designed to help international students learn English or improve their English language and writing skills.  The district also offers free English literacy skills classes for parents.  Vampran said interested persons can enroll or get more information by sending an email to adult.education@lpsb.org or calling 225-664-9427.



Livingston Parish Public Schools will have 10 School Resource Officers working throughout the district’s 46 campuses during the 2018-2019 school year

Livingston Parish Public Schools will add three more law enforcement officers to its campuses in the coming academic year amid concerns about safety following a number of school shootings across the nation.

The school board approved the 2018-2019 budget to include monies to pay for another police officer in Denham Springs and two additional sheriff’s deputies throughout the parish. The additional officers bring the total number of school resource officers (SROs) working among the parish’s 46 school campuses to 10. The district will pay half the cost of the new officers as it does the current ones.  The law enforcement agencies pay the other half.  Superintendent Rick Wentzel said the school board’s new budget includes approximately $48,000 for each officer.

The additions come as Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard is proposing a half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 6, 2018 election ballot to fully fund SROs on every school campus in the parish.



Pictured left to right, clockwise, are Frost School’s 2nd Grade Math Teacher Courtney Blount, 5th Grade English Language Arts Teacher Danna McCoy, Special Education Teacher Lisa Zeringue and Curriculum Coordinator Tricia Averette. They are taking part in a training exercise while sitting in a “low-seating station” during one of the district’s Learning Spaces workshops.

The traditional classroom image of desks neatly lined in rows may soon become something of the past in Livingston Parish.

That’s because more teachers across the district are incorporating creative learning spaces with flexible seating in their classrooms to more effectively increase student focus, collaboration and learning.

“We began this initiative in earnest at some of our elementary schools, where traditional student desks were replaced with flexible seating options.  The results of the new classroom configurations have been overwhelmingly positive – students are more comfortable, more engaged and more focused on their tasks,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

Instructional Technology Facilitator Nikki Lavergne said Learning Spaces workshops offered during the 2017-2018 school year maxed out quickly, prompting the district to schedule more in the summer.  Those too, were so popular that extra sessions were added, she said.



Walker High School students Hanson Chaney, left, and Bronson Beck, right, were named the 2018 Louisiana BASS National High School Fishing Champions.  They were presented with plaques at the state championship tournament.  They are pictured with BASS Louisiana High School directors Eugene Hoover and Jim Breaux. Chaney and Beck will compete in the national tournament in Paris, Tenn., in August.

Two two-man fishing teams from Walker High School will compete in the 2018 BASS National High School Championship next month, including incoming junior Hanson Chaney and incoming senior Bronson Beck who were ranked as the No. 1 BASS High School Fishing Team in Louisiana for 2018.

Also advancing to the national tournament, which will be held in Paris, Tennessee, August 2-4, are Jason McMillan and Hunter Kogel, who recently graduated.  They had participated in the national tournament last year, prior to their senior year, becoming the school’s first-ever national fishing tournament finalists.  They finished 4th overall in the state this year to qualify for a return trip to the national tournament.

“Our team has done extremely well this year, finishing in 2nd place overall in the state, and having four teams finish in the Top 20 in Louisiana, out of a total of 247 teams statewide,” said Jeremy Ferachi, the BASS fishing team sponsor for Walker High School. He noted that Peyton Matherne and Lance LeBlanc placed 14th in the state, and Brennan Richard and Mackie Faucheaux finished the season in 16th place.  Matherne returns this year as a sophomore, which Richard and Faucheaux return as seniors.  LeBlanc graduated in May.



Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor and local volunteers are once again gearing up to collect monetary donations and supplies for the parish-wide Assess the Need Campaign that is expected to provide nearly 3,000 students with the supplies they need to be successful in the classroom during the 2018-2019 school year.

Volunteers will be taking donations for this year’s drive from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, and Sunday, Aug. 5, at the three Super Wal-Mart stores in Livingston Parish – located in Denham Springs, Walker and Watson.  Donations can also can be given online at www.AssesstheNeed.com, or through the Assess the Need Facebook page.

This is the 18th consecutive year Taylor has sponsored Assess the Need.

June 2018


With students out of class for the summer and many campuses unoccupied, the district’s facility planning and maintenance departments are hard at work on an array of construction projects.  The following schools have projects currently underway that are being funded with existing district savings; except for the Walker High School projects, which are being funded with a dedicated millage approved by voters:

Walker High School –
• new main classroom and administrative building that will contain 28 classrooms, a library, a biology lab, a chemistry lab, a special needs room, all administrative and support personnel offices, and restrooms. The new building will also house the school’s Green & White Cooke site and Neighbors Federal Credit Union office. (complete by August 2018)
• new gymnasium (complete by December 2018)

Doyle High School –
• addition of 29 parking spaces and lighting of parking lot (complete by August 2018)
• relocation of main power fee and drainage improvement to the campus (complete by August 2018)

Springfield Elementary –
• addition of 115 parking spaces to accommodate large events at the high school gym, located at the rear of the campus; and replace windows and refurbish exterior on two classroom wings, each containing 6 classrooms (complete by August 2018)

French Settlement High School –
• expand the media room to house distance learning classes (complete by August 2018)
Pathways and Adult Education Building –
• create three classrooms, replace ceiling and floor tile, and renovate windows to create new ESL registration center (complete by August 2018)
• add carpentry area to campus to house a new Carpentry 1 class (complete by August 2018)

Denham Springs Freshman High/Juban Parc Elementary/Juban Parc Junior High–
• complete exterior painting of campus buildings (August 2018)
Pine Ridge Alternative School –
• replace roof of the main building (complete by August 2018)

Maurepas High School –
• refurbish original building, repairing all exterior stucco surfaces, replacing windows and soffits, painting exterior and upgrading the front entrance (completed by December 2018)

Holden High School –
• renovate the Career Technical Education Building (complete by August 2019)

Albany High School –
• construct two new buildings: one with three regular classrooms and a special needs room; the second with eight classrooms and a teacher work room. Restrooms to be added to both buildings. (complete by August 2019)

Albany Lower Elementary School –
• construct a classroom building with 16 classrooms, a 60-station computer lab and restrooms. (complete by August 2019)



In addition to campus expansions and regular maintenance, the district is still working hard to complete repairs and renovations as a result of damage caused by the August 2016 flood.  These projects are being funded with district reserves, with the anticipation of receiving reimbursement monies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover much of the costs. The following schools are scheduled to have recovery projects completed by August 2018:

  • Denham Springs High School – complete the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) facility
  • Denham Springs Freshman High, Denham Springs High, Denham Springs Junior High, Lewis Vincent Elementary and Seventh Ward Elementary – replace floor tiles and baseboards at all campuses

With the completion of these projects, all flood recovery efforts will be completed this year except for those involving the three closed campuses – Denham Springs Elementary, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High. Negotiations are still ongoing with FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOSHEP), and to date, no work plan has been approved for any of the campuses.  All three schools will continue to operate at their temporary locations for the 2018-2019 school year.



Congressman Garret Graves recently spoke to the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce about his efforts to bring much-need flood recovery aid to Livingston Parish. Photo courtesy of Livingston Parish News.

Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves recently announced that he and members of the Louisiana Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives added an amendment to the federal budget to provide $20 million in federal aid to Livingston Parish Public Schools.  The proposed amendment, however, still awaits approval by the U.S. Senate.

At the same time, Graves has proposed that FEMA waive insurance guidelines that could severely hamper the school district’s recovery efforts. Currently, FEMA requires a $500,000 deductible per building be paid as a penalty for the school district not having flood insurance.  Graves is proposing the penalty be reduced to $500,000 per campus – not per building – to save the district millions of dollars. Graves said a similar waiver was granted to schools in the New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina.



Jacob Wilkinson, a senior at Walker High School, helps to instruct Evan Blazier from Denham Springs Junior High on how to assemble a drone, while a group a middle school girls work in the background. The students attended the beginner’s drone summer camp at Walker High School.

Students in Livingston Parish recently took part in summer camps at Walker High School to learn how to navigate the skies with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, as well as learn the basic safety guidelines and applications of the new technology.

Instructor Steve Johnson offered two three-day sessions: a beginner’s camp for students in grades 4-8, and an advanced camp for older students.

“This class introduced our students to the many facets of drones, robotics and the future of the drone industry,” Johnson said.

He said students learned how to operate drones safely and ethically by gaining an understanding of the technology itself, as well as some of the laws and regulations surrounding drones.  They also learned about business and commercial applications of the technology.



Westside Junior High School Assistant Principal Brian Gunter hands a pre-packaged breakfast to South Walker Elementary student Bailee Chiro before the start of summer classes at his campus.

Livingston Parish Public Schools anticipates serving nearly 15,000 free meals this summer to students enrolled in academic programs across the parish.

Assistant Supervisor of Child Nutrition Programs Sommer Purvis said the district is providing pre-packaged breakfast and lunch meals to all campuses where summer courses are being taught, including Juban Parc Elementary, Northside Elementary, South Live Oak Elementary, Westside Junior High, North Corbin Junior High, Springfield Middle School, Doyle High School, Denham Springs High School and Live Oak High School.





Melinda Marks, pictured second from right, has been named the Livingston Parish School Volunteer of the Year by the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL) for her work at South Walker Elementary.  She is pictured with Mary Carlin, A+PEL officer; Jennifer Wiley, Livingston Parish Early Childhood Special Education itinerant teacher who nominated Marks for the award; and Julie Norris, president of the Livingston Parish A+PEL Chapter


May 2018


Livingston Parish Public Schools ranks No. 2 in Louisiana for the number of high school graduates who earned a diploma with added credentials, according to the Louisiana Department of Education’s recent report on graduation rates. 

Nearly 74 percent of all high school graduates in Livingston Parish earned an Advanced or Basic credentialed diploma, according to the report.  The most recent data for the 2016-2017 school year shows that Livingston Parish students have steadily increased the strength of diplomas earned over time.  According to the latest report, 21.4 percent earned diplomas with Advanced credentials and 52.3 percent earned diplomas with Basic credentials.  Those with Advanced credentials are up considerably from the 1.7 percent who earned them in 2012-2013.

Livingston Parish also ranked No. 2 for the fewest number of graduates earning a standard diploma.  Only 12.8 percent earned a standard diploma with no additional credentials in 2016-2017.

“Our district is making steady progress in improving the level of rigor and level of achievement earned by our students,” Livingston Parish Public Schools’ Supervisor of Instruction Tracy McRae said.  “More and more of our students are finishing our system with highly regarded diplomas, earning them greater access to post-secondary career and education opportunities.”

McRae noted that Livingston Parish also recorded its highest graduation rate to date in 2016-2017.   The report showed 86.6 percent of Livingston Parish’s high school students graduated in the allotted four-year time – that’s up 3.4 percent from the previous year, which saw 83.2 percent graduate on time; and up 7 percent from the 2013-2014 school year, when 79.6 percent graduated on time.



Livingston Parish Public Schools recently recognized the district’s top Students of the Year winners in grades 5, 8 and 12, as well as those students from each of the parish’s schools. The parish’s 2018 Student of the Year winners are Emily Maranto, a senior at Live Oak High School; Carson Jones, an 8th grader at Live Oak Junior High; and Jace Griffin, a 5th grader at Live Oak Middle School.  All three winners competed in the state’s regional competition.

All those Livingston Parish students who were named 2018 Student of the Year for their respective schools include:

Pictured are the Livingston Parish 2018 High School Student of the Year winners, from left to right, (front row) Hannah Gautreau, Maurepas; Marian Luzier, Walker; Emily Maranto, Live Oak; Emily Otken, Denham Springs; Caleb Charpentier, Doyle; (back row) Haley Williams, Holden; Brennan Hagan, Albany; Alana Chandler, Springfield; and Rose Emery, French Settlement.


Pictured are the Livingston Parish 2018 Middle School Student the Year winners, from left to right, (front row) Braden McLin, Doyle; Matthew Larpenter, Springfield Middle; Lynn Cole Slaby, Denham Springs Junior High; Carson Jones, Live Oak Middle; Lauryn Shavers, Juban Parc Junior High; Brianna Daigle, Southside Junior High; Sara Waguespack, Westside Junior High; (back row) Karson Thacker, Maurepas; Madison Brignac, French Settlement; Joel Penalber, Holden; and Ilea Watson, North Corbin Junior High. Not pictured are Abrielle Ochsner, Albany Middle; and Hunter “Champ” Morales, Frost.


Pictured are the Livingston Parish 2018 Elementary Student of the Year winners, from left to right, (front row) Makayla Jarrell, Juban Parc Elementary; Zachary Jennings, Frost; Julianna Easley, South Fork Elementary; Landon Watts, Albany Middle; River Barnet, Walker Elementary; Brody Cloyd, Eastside Elementary; Adryanna Arledge, North Corbin Elementary; Jace Griffin, Live Oak Middle; Sadie Gallman, Levi Milton Elementary; Vivian Pierce, Denham Springs Elementary; Hannah Hamilton, Lewis Vincent Elementary; Sydney Kinchen, Springfield Middle; Gabrielle Harris, Southside Elementary; (back row) MacKenzie Hutson, Maurepas; Rhett Pitarro, South Walker Elementary; Sawyer Herring, Holden; Cecilia McMaster, Northside Elementary; Anna Gelpi, Freshwater Elementary; John Geiger, French Settlement Elementary; Easton Benesta, Doyle Elementary; Kellie Laporte, Gray’s Creek Elementary; Chelsea Bellony Ho A Sim, Seventh Ward Elementary; and Berenice Chavez, Eastside Elementary.



Livingston Parish Public Schools recognized the district’s top principals and teachers for the 2017-2018 school year, as well as the Teacher of the Year nominees from each school in the parish.

Pictured are the 2019 Livingston Parish Teacher of the Year winners, from left to right:  High School Teacher of the Year Jessica Bonura, Live Oak High School; Middle School Teacher of the Year Kimberly LeJeune, Live Oak Middle School; and Elementary Teacher of the Year Dane’ Long, Live Oak Elementary School. Long is also a semi-finalist for the 2019 State Teacher of the Year, which will be announced at a special ceremony in Baton Rouge on July 27.

Pictured are the 2019 Livingston Parish Principal of the Year winners, from left to right: Middle School Principal of the Year Carolyn Vosburg, North Corbin Junior High School; High School Principal of the Year Jason St. Pierre, Walker High School; and Elementary Teacher of the Year Melissa Dougherty, Gray’s Creek Elementary.


All teachers honored at this year’s ceremony include:

LPPS Elementary Teacher of the Year nominees: Gabby Mire, Albany Lower Elementary; Karen Faust, Albany Upper Elementary; Kris Kleinpeter, Denham Springs Elementary; Taffy Sexton, Doyle Elementary; Judy Carr, Eastside Elementary; Jessica Boudreaux, French Settlement Elementary; Jeanette Milne, Freshwater Elementary; Amanda Naquin, Frost; Dana Fontenot,  Gray’s Creek Elementary; Haley Mercante, Holden; Kelli Lowery,  Juban Parc  Elementary; Shay McDaniel, Levi Milton Elementary; Tara Schwartz, Lewis Vincent Elementary; Dane’ Long, Live Oak Elementary; Kristi Lemoine, North Corbin Elementary; Allison Richardson, North Live Oak Elementary; Kelly Chevalier, Northside Elementary; Kayla Wales, Seventh Ward Elementary; Laurie Petty, South Fork  Elementary; Meghan Flores, South Live Oak Elementary; Leah Richard, South Walker Elementary; Donna DePaula, Springfield Elementary; Tamie McCaffery, Southside Elementary; Carissa Peters, Walker  Elementary.

LPPS Middle School Teacher of the Year nominees:  Irene Farace, Albany Middle; Amanda Brian, Denham Springs Junior High; Natasha McMorris, French Settlement High School; Krystal Hughes, Holden High; Mary Loofbourrow, Juban Parc Junior High; Pamela Myers, Live Oak Junior; Kimberly LeJeune, Live Oak Middle; Barbara McCaskill, North Corbin Junior High; Lisa Deer, Southside Junior High; Kim Kinchen, Springfield Middle; Lauri Rentz, Westside Junior High.

LPPS High School Teachers of the Year nominees:  Shellie Woodward, Albany High; Sarah Halphen, Denham Springs High; Jill Johnson, Denham Springs Freshman High; Casey Moskau, Doyle High; Mindy Bailey, Holden High; Jessica Bonura, Live Oak High; Ann Mullis, Maurepas High; Aimee Freeman, Springfield High; Karen Davenport, Walker Freshman High; Brooke Rhymes, Walker High.



The Denham Springs High School Band participated in the state’s first United Sound® performance during its May 8 spring Wind Ensemble concert, featuring the musical talent of four local students with special needs.

United Sound® is a school-based instrumental music club for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their typical peers.  Band Director Andrew Hunter learned about the program in December at conference in Chicago, and returned to the campus with a passion to begin a local chapter.

“We are so proud that Denham Springs High School is the first in Louisiana to create an inclusive musical learning environment through this program,” Hunter said.

Making their debut performance with the high school band were Kassi Rice on the flute, Brandon Smith on the euphonium, Christel Dugas on the trumpet, and Alexis Archer on the marimba.  They were assisted in the performance of “Procession of Heroes” by their peer mentors.

The students began their instruction in February, meeting once a week with instructors and the peer mentors to learn how to take instruments out of their cases, make their first sounds, play notes while reading music and playing the piece they performed at the concert.

New musician Kassi Rice plays the flute with the Denham Springs High School Wind Ensemble.  She was assisted by her peer mentors Courtlyn McFearin (left), Shelby Taylor (kneeling) and Laurel Junda (right).  Also pictured far left is band member Savannah Cecchini.



April 2018


Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard recently spoke to the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce about his concerns on how to best handle school safety.

At the request of school officials, Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard says he is considering asking voters to approve a new half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot to fund the placement of school resource officers at each of the district’s 46 campuses.

The school system currently has seven resource officers who are responsible for all campuses parishwide. One officer each from the Denham Springs and Walker police departments serves the schools within city limits, while the other five are sheriff’s deputies assigned to geographic zones across the parish. The school district pays about half the cost of the officers through agreements with the law enforcement agencies.

Ard says the parish would need at least 50 SROs to meet the current demand, and he estimates the cost for each SRO to be approximately $111,000 annually, which includes wages, benefits, equipment and a mobile unit. Current sales tax estimates suggest a half-cent sales tax could raise between $8 million and $10 million.



Pictured, left to right, are 2017 National Winner Gabriel Garland, Albany Middle School; 2018 State Winner James Weedman, Albany Middle School; Teacher Christina McKay; 2018 State Winner Solomon Toney, Albany Middle School; Teacher Karen Pourciau, 2018 State Winner Colin Schultz, Live Oak High School; and Speech Therapist Allison Richardson. Not pictured are 2017 National Winner Zachary Yang, Southside Elementary; and 2017 State Winner Isaiah Johnson, Freshwater Elementary.

Livingston Parish Public School administrators, board members and faculty recently recognized the parish’s top winners in the “Yes I Can” competition at the state and national levels for 2017 and 2018.

The “Yes I Can” awards program, which is sponsored by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), recently recognized Livingston Parish students with exceptionalities for their outstanding achievements. The program recognizes accomplishments in six categories:  academics, arts, school and community activities, self-advocacy, technology and transition; as well as those education professionals who work with the children and youth.



The Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce recently awarded scholarships to 17 parish seniors during its annual State of Education meeting. Each scholarship, valued at $500, is made possible through contributions from member businesses.

Winners of this year’s scholarships included: pictured left to right, (standing) Ryan Bishop, Madison Milton, Shelly Ardonne, Luke Seguin, Marian Luzier, Emily Otken, Alana Chandler, Superintendent Rick Wentzel, Trevor Ray, Halee Morris, (seated) Hannah Delatte, Hannah Gautreau, Taylor Alleman, Rebecca Judge, Sara Hazleton, Nathalie Danie, and Aimee Ardonne.





For the remainder of the month of April, the Livingston Parish Library’s Albany-Springfield Branch will showcase the 15th Annual Talented Visual Art Show featuring artwork from K-12 gifted and talented art students from across the parish. The library is located at 26941 La. Hwy. 43 in Albany. Photo courtesy of the Livingston Parish News.





Pictured from right to left are: (top row) Teacher Sara Young, Rylla Gautreau, Carmelo Morris, Justice Deer, Jackson Poe, Abby Washburn, Autumn Stafford, Maddox Thompson, Teacher Melanie Hickman; (middle row) Morgan Scott, Charlie Jo Walters, Lailah Sylve, Myles White, Garrett Inman, Cohen Johnson, Hayden Wilson, Collin Christian; (bottom row) BraLynn White and Chloe LaCost.

First graders at Doyle Elementary recently celebrated World Down Syndrome Day with a special lesson that illustrated how children with Down syndrome are more alike other children than they might appear.

The most interesting moment of the lesson came when the teacher asked the students if they knew someone with Down syndrome and they all answered “no.” That’s because one of their classmates, Myles White, is a child with Down syndrome.

“What a beautiful demonstration of inclusion,” said Elise White, Myles’ mother and a teacher at Doyle Elementary. “Our family is so thankful Myles attends a school that places value on an inclusive education. We strongly believe when children are educated together every child benefits and learns to accept their peers regardless of differences.”

The lesson included a story about a Down syndrome boy and emphasized how children with Down syndrome can accomplish many of the same things as other children, but maybe with a little help and support to get it done.

At the end of class, the students participated in a demonstration that allowed the students to experience what it might be like for a Down syndrome student learning to write and talk. The students put socks on their writing hands and tried to write a sentence, and then they stuffed marshmallows in their mouth and tried to talk.