LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOLS BEGINS YEAR WITH 16 OF 19 SITES RESTORED TO PRE-FLOOD STATUS
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.
FEMA GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO REBUILD 2 OF 3 “SUBSTANTIALLY DAMAGED” SCHOOLS
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.
DISTANCE LEARNING TECHNOLOGY TO CONNECT STUDENTS TO GREATER OPPORTUNITIES
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.
HIGH PERCENTAGE OF STUDENTS SCORE MASTERY AND ADVANCED ON STATE ASSESSMENTS
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.
DENHAM SPRINGS HIGH WELCOMES JUNIOR ROTC PROGRAM
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.
DISTRICT EXPANDING ESL PROGRAM
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 225-664-9427.
DISTRICT WORKING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT TO ADD THREE OFFICERS TO CAMPUSES
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.
LIVINGSTON PARISH TEACHERS LEARNING HOW TO TRANSFORM TRADITIONAL CLASSROOMS INTO MORE EFFECTIVE LEARNING SPACES
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 FISHING TEAMS TO COMPETE AT BASS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNEY
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.
ASSESS THE NEED COLLECTING SCHOOL SUPPLY DONATIONS
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.
SUMMER CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS UNDERWAY ACROSS THE PARISH
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)
DISTRICT WRAPPING UP FLOOD RECOVERY EFFORTS ON OPERATING CAMPUSES, CLOSED CAMPUSES REMAIN IN LIMBO
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 GRAVES ADVANCES FAVORABLE LEGISLATION FOR LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOLS, ACTION STILL NEEDED BY THE U.S. SENATE
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.
STUDENTS LEARN HOW TO OPERATE DRONES AT SUMMER CAMPS
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.
SUMMER FOOD PROGRAM PROVIDING FREE MEALS
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.
VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR HONORED
LIVINGSTON PARISH NO. 2 FOR NUMBER OF GRADUATES EARNING CREDENTIALED DIPLOMAS
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.
2018 STUDENTS OF THE YEAR RECOGNIZED
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:
TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS OF THE YEAR HONORED
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.
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.
DENHAM SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL BAND FEATURES STATE’S FIRST UNITED SOUND® PERFORMANCE
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.
SHERIFF CONSIDERS REQUESTING SALES TAX TO PUT ARMED OFFICERS ON EVERY CAMPUS
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.
YES I CAN WINNERS RECOGNIZED
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.
LIVINGSTON PARISH CHAMBER AWARDS STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS
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.
ALBANY-SPRINGFIELD LIBRARY DISPLAYING GIFTED & TALENTED ART
DOYLE ELEMENTARY STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT DOWN SYNDROME
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.
FRENCH SETTLEMENT STUDENT FEATURED ON AMERICAN IDOL
Laine Hardy, a 17-year-old senior at French Settlement High School, made his debut appearance on the ABC Network’s American Idol on Monday, March 12, with an audition that won the approval of this year’s celebrity judges – country music superstar Luke Bryan, music icon Lionel Richey and pop star Katy Perry.
Hardy’s solo audition on the show marked the first time he ever performed on his own. He said he started singing a couple of years ago with his brother and cousin, and the trio had only performed in a few local restaurants before Hardy got his break.
Hardy’s gritty country voice is prominently featured by the show. His performances are posted on YouTube and his Facebook page.
LIVINGSTON PARISH SENIOR SCORES A PERFECT 36 ON ACT
French Settlement Senior Brayden Aime has done what most students can only imagine. He scored the maximum score of 36 on the ACT.
The ACT is one of the nation’s top college entrance exams, and the predominant exam given to college-bound students in Louisiana. It includes four mandatory sections – English, math, science and reading – and an optional writing section. Out of the 1.8 million students who take the test every year, only about 1,000 get the highest possible ACT score.
Aime said he earned the 36 on his second attempt. “I felt relieved when I got my score. I knew my family would want me to take again if I hadn’t done that,” he said.
Aime said he plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Yale University in the fall to pursue a double degree in Computer Science and Mathematics, with a minor in International Relations. Aime has a scholarship to study in in Rome, Italy this summer, and he has lined up a paid internship in Washington D.C. for next summer.
EASTSIDE’S KENNEDY NAMED A TOP-FIVE FINALIST FOR LIFE CHANGER OF THE YEAR AWARD
Eastside Elementary Assistant Principal Lauren Kennedy has been named a grand-prize finalist for the National Life Group’s 2017-2018 Life Changer of the Year award. Kennedy received word of her Top 5 status at a surprise presentation at her school on March 5.
Lured to the school’s gym under the false pretense of a “maintenance issue,” Kennedy opened the gym door to a resounding “Surprise!” from nearly 600 students, teachers, school administrators and family members.
Kennedy was nominated for the prestigious award by a former high school classmate who knew about her efforts to help others after the August 2016 flood.
Kennedy and four other national finalists will be flown to Bermuda in mid-May to attend the awards ceremony, where the top winner will be announced. The winner will receive $10,000, with half of that going to the winner’s school. For being named a grand-prize finalist, Kennedy has already be awarded at least $5,000 to be split between her and Eastside Elementary.
TWO LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOLS RECOGNIZED FOR INCREASING BREAKFAST PARTICIPATION
French Settlement High School and North Corbin Junior High recently received the state’s highest awards in the “No Kid Hungry” Breakfast Challenge, which is sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Education and Gov. John Bel Edwards. French Settlement High had the largest increase in breakfast participation among schools with grades 9-12, while North Corbin Junior High topped the list among schools in the K-8 category.
Participation in school breakfast is up 46 percent this year across the parish. The school system has been able to offer the food for free through the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) – Livingston Parish qualified due to the large number of families impacted by the devastating 2016 flood. At the same time, the district has made the meals more appealing, by feeding students in their classrooms with a bagged breakfast and offering them a mid-morning break.
The two winning schools celebrate their increase with pep rallies that featured representatives from the New Orleans Saints football team.
SPRINGFIED HIGH THEATRE TO PRESENT BEAUTY & THE BEAST
The Springfield High School Theatre students will perform a live, on-stage production of Walt Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast” April 9-14 at the school.
Daily performances will be held at 9 a.m., noon and 7 p.m., April 9-13. Ticket prices for each session are $5 per person, except admission for the 7 p.m. show on April 11 will be free and will include an inspirational message delivered by Wind Ministries Pastor Terry Lobell.
The students will also present a dinner theater performance on April 14 at 7 p.m., which will feature a full-course meal prepared and served by Johnny Ziegler, owner of Pop’s Blazin’ Smokers. Tickets for that one-night-only event are $25 per person.
The production is based on a French fairy tale about a prince who is magically transformed into a Beast and his servants into household objects as punishment for his arrogance. The Beast imprisons Belle, a beautiful young maiden, in his castle in hopes of breaking the spell. To become a prince again, the Beast must learn to love Belle and earn her love in return before the last petal from an enchanted rose falls, or else the Beast will remain a monster forever.
EASTSIDE ELEMENTARY EDUCATOR NOMINATED FOR LIFE CHANGER AWARD
Eastside Elementary Assistant Principal Lauren Kennedy is a nominee for the 2017-2018 Life Changer of the Year Award for the positive impact she has made in the lives of her faculty, staff, and students.
Life Changer of the Year is a prestigious awards program that recognizes K-12 educators and school employees across the nation who make a significant difference in the lives of others by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership. The winner and top finalists receive a generous cash award for themselves and their school districts.
Kennedy is credited with organizing flood relief efforts for her school’s community following the August 2016 flood. Like most people in the area, Kennedy wanted to do what she could to help. But what made Kennedy standout was her experience dealing with flood recovery, her leadership skills to organize and motivate people to do important tasks, and her loving heart and fierce faith-based determination to bring hope to those around her.
“Lauren will tell you that she feels like she’s not done anything special to receive this nomination, but the difference between Lauren and others is that she displays her kindness and helpfulness everyday! She thinks nothing of it, because it’s just a part of who she is,” Eastside Elementary Principal Kelly LaBauve said.
“When the 2016 flood devastated so many in our school family, she stepped up and turned our campus into a distribution center for our affected families,” LaBauve said. “And when our employees need someone to turn to, it’s Lauren you see them pull aside for counseling or prayer. When our students are struggling or they just need someone to pick them up, Lauren has a special way of connecting with them.”
Kennedy is competing against more than 850 people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The finalists and overall winner are expected to be announced in March.
WALKER HIGH STUDENTS TAKING LESSONS FROM MONEY EXPERT
Students at Walker High School are getting important lessons in how to better manage money, thanks to a popular new course elective on the campus that’s being taught by one of the world’s most renowned personal finance experts.
The course, Foundations in Personal Finance, is the creation of financial consultant Dave Ramsey, who developed an easy to use, turnkey school curriculum that teaches students the value of saving, spending and giving them guidance down the path of financial literacy. Ramsey delivers the course lectures, which are designed for high school students, through a series of videos, printed lessons and activities. The course meets the standards and benchmarks in Louisiana as an accredited course.
“Knowing how to manage money is a lifelong skill that every person should know. We believe that having a healthy understanding of money better prepares our students to make smart financial decisions in life,” said Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre.
St. Pierre said the Foundations in Personal Finance elective was made possible through a donation from local members of the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce.
FROST ELEMENTARY PILOTING SCHOOL BUS TRACKING SYSTEM
Frost Elementary is serving as a testing ground for a bus tracking application that allows parents to follow their child’s ride.
Transportation Director Jeff Frizell said GPS trackers have been installed on four buses that serve the K-8 school. For the next month, the trackers will show parents and district administrators where the buses are in real time. By knowing if the bus is running late or quickly approaching their child’s pick-up stop, parents can better adjust their schedules to meet the bus. At the same time, the application can help to track if a driver is speeding or making harsh turns.
Frizell said the pilot will help to determine if the application is worth rolling out
parishwide. The cost to implement the technology parishwide would be $118,000 per year. The technology is already in use in East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa parishes.
DISTRICT PARTNERS WITH LIBRARIES AND MIGHTY MOMS FOR AFTER-SCHOOL MEAL PROGRAM
Livingston Parish School System is partnering with the Livingston Parish Library System and Mighty Moms, a local volunteer organization, to support the after-school program, Feeding Young Minds. The program provides students with a free snack and drink and a safe haven to get homework done or take part in educational programs.
“Our district is actively seeking ways to reach outside our schools, beyond our campus boundaries and into our communities to positively impact our students,” Sommer Purvis, assistant director of child nutrition, said. “Our goal is to ensure all our students have an opportunity to learn and develop in a safe environment. The Feeding Young Minds program allows us to utilize existing resources to do just that.”
Purvis said the program utilizes all five libraries in the parish and serves as many as 100 students each week. Assistant principals, counselors and librarians across the parish help to staff sessions at the library closest to their schools.
“It’s an opportunity to socialize with students and their parents and connect with them in a meaningful way,” said Juban Parc Assistant Principal Justin Wax, who serves as a volunteer board member for Mighty Moms. “We are already starting to see better established relationships between with these kids and their families.”
DENHAM SPRINGS SENIOR EARNS TOP HONORS AT STATE LIVESTOCK SHOW
Denham Springs High School Senior Megan Mincey recently won the Overall Senior Showmanship Champion Award and top awards in the Dairy and Beef categories of the 2018 LSU AgCenter State Livestock Show, which was held earlier this month at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. Mincey’s Jersey cow outscored all other dairy cows, earning her the Supreme Champion Dairy Female. Her beef cow also bested all others in the All Other Breeds Class in the Beef Division to earn Reserve Grand Champion AOB. Other awards included first place in showmanship in Dairy and two first place awards in the Jersey Class.
Mincey is president of the Future Farmers of America Club and vice president of the 4H Club at Denham Springs High. She has been competitively showing livestock for the past seven years. Mincey plans to attend LSU in the fall and major in animal science.
DISTRICT ANNOUNCES PLAN TO RECLAIM MISSED INSTRUCTIONAL TIME CAUSED BY WINTRY WEATHER
School administrators have announced a change in the 2018 spring academic calendar to add instruction time that was missed by students because of hazardous weather conditions.
The district will eliminate two scheduled half days on Feb. 21 and March 22, and replace them with full days. A student contact day also will be added to the end of the school year – May 25, which was originally a teacher-only day, will now be the last day for students to attend.
The school system has had to close for five and half days so far this school year because of weather conditions. Two days were missed last fall – one to hurricane-like weather conditions and another to snow. Three and a half days were missed in January due to snow and icing conditions.
DISTRICT RECEIVES FEDERAL GRANT TO ENHANCE LITERACY
Livingston Parish Public Schools will receive $703,000 in federal dollars this school year to improve reading and writing for struggling students. The grant is part of a $12 million allocation that is being divided among 56 Louisiana public schools and districts.
According to State Superintendent John White, the money will be used to buy popular children’s books and teacher tools to implement a high-quality literacy curriculum aligned with state standards. It will also finance literacy assessments, intervention programs and professional development for educators.
SPECIAL NEEDS FAMILIES LEARN ABOUT RESOURCES AT 9TH ANNUAL WINTER WONDERLAND
Parents and caretakers of students with special needs were introduced to services and programs that benefit their students at the 9th Annual Winter Wonderland, which was held Jan. 11 at the Literacy and Technology Center’s Family Resource Center.
A total of 17 booths, which were manned by businesses and agencies that provide services and unique products that can be of assistance to those with special needs, were available to those in attendance. School system teachers, especially those involved with teaching special education students, were also present to meet with parents and inform them about services available for students who need special attention.
Jeanne Ebey, project coordinator for the Livingston Parish Public School system’s Special Education Departments, said about 12 percent of the students enrolled in the parish’s schools require special treatment for various reasons. She said the term “special needs” defines a wide array of conditions that some students may possess. For example, gifted and talented students fall under the category of special needs and for these students the school system offers art, theater and music programs.
“The state issues regular bulletins informing us of the services that our school systems must offer. These requirements can be confusing for the families of special needs students, and the problem is complicated by families who also get opinions from doctors,” Ebey said. “That is one reason we hold Winter Wonderland, to help inform caregivers of what the school system and other businesses and agencies can offer to help them better care for and provide for students with special needs.”
LIVINGSTON PARISH CHAMBER HOSTS STUDENT CONFERENCE
The Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce recently joined with district officials to host “Connecting to Success,” a student business conference for Maurepas and Albany High School juniors.
Some 85 students attended break-out sessions for skill development for sessions and roundtable discussions with local business leaders. The event was geared toward helping students become job-ready and career-focused. Organizers encouraged attendees to pursue advanced training in technical skill areas and/or to attend college.
OCHSNER PRESENTS PRIZE TO GRAY’S CREEK ELEMENTARY STUDENT
PARISH ANNOUNCES TOP TEACHERS OF THE YEAR
The Livingston Parish Public School System recently announced its top teachers of the year. Superintendent Rick Wentzel, Director of Curriculum Dawn Rush, Title 1 Coordinator Tammy Kuhn and Title 2 Coordinator Debbie Kropog made the rounds to visit the winning teachers, presenting each with a trio of gifts in front of their students.
Dané Long, a second grade teacher at Live Oak Elementary, is the parish’s Elementary Teacher of Year. She is a 16-year veteran educator who says her strongest skill is to teach students to read. Long spent her first 12 years as a first grade teacher, and the last four as a second grade teacher – all at Live Oak Elementary.
Kimberly Lejeune, an English/language arts and science teacher at Live Oak Middle, is the parish’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. She has 18 years of experience in the classroom, where she emphasizes hands-on learning and finds ways to spark curiosity with her students. She is in her first year teaching ELA and science at Live Oak Middle. She began her career at North Live Oak Elementary.
Jessica Bonura, a significant disabilities/autism (SDA) teacher at Live Oak High School, is the parish’s High School Teacher of the Year. Bonura began her career as an SDA teacher 12 years ago, and has been on a mission to change the “negative stigma” surrounding her students and other like them. Her work stems from a personal experience of having a son born with Downs Syndrome.
Each school in the parish submitted a nomination for Teacher of the Years honors. Each nomination included a portfolio detailing the career of the nominee. A selection committee reviewed the applicants and narrowed the selection down to two finalists for each of the grade levels – elementary, middle and high school. Those two finalists in each category were brought in for face-to-face interviews where they were asked questions on an array of topics, including what they believe to be the biggest struggles in education today and how they would explain the Louisiana school system to someone from another state.
The three winners are required to submit videos of themselves in their classroom setting as part of the state competitions at the regional and state levels.
LIVE OAK AND WALKER HIGH SCHOOLS RECEIVE NMSI GRANTS
Live Oak High School and Walker High School recently announced they have received grants from the National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI) to improve student achievement through expanded access to challenging coursework. In particular, the grants help to fund teacher development and student participation and achievement in the Advanced Placement (AP) program.
Both NMSI grants are for a three-year period. Live Oak High School received $714,909, and Walker High School received $482,902. Through this partnership, the two high schools hope to dramatically increase the number of students taking and earning qualifying scores on AP math, science, computer science, and English exams.
Research has shown that students involved in AP math, science and English classes with the NMSI partnership have a dramatic increase in qualifying scores on exams. Research also shows that students with AP scores of 2 or higher have a significantly higher college GPA over students who have not taken AP courses. This is one of the leading indicators of success in college.
The grant pays 50 percent of exam fees for AP Math, Science, English and Computer Science classes. Students receive $100 for every 3, 4, or 5 earned in these classes. The grant is providing training for teachers during the summer and throughout the school year through the College Readiness Program. It also provides money for these teachers to use in their classrooms.
Live Oak High has students enrolled in 645 AP exams for the 2017-2018 school year. Walker High School offers 12 AP courses and has 178 students scheduled to take 229 AP exams this school year.
STUDENTS GET HANDS-ON INSTRUCTION IN DIGITAL MEDIA
Well before the first bell of the school day rings at French Settlement High School or Maurepas School, one can find a small group of students already at work. Some students have laptops in hand, punching out final edits to their written stories, while others are adjusting audio levels on mics or setting up lighting equipment in bright green production rooms.
The busy mornings are routine for the digital media classes at these two schools as they do the necessary prep work to broadcast a live daily newscast at each of their schools – “Good Morning, French Settlement!” and “Good Morning, Maurepas!” respectively.
Teacher Janet Blankenship works with the students to develop news stories, and to edit copy and piece together bits of recorded video to fill up the newscasts. She began teaching a digital media class at Springfield High, and has now expanded her efforts to Maurepas and French Settlement this year.
School Board Member Jim Richardson helped to spearhead the initiative. He invested some of the district’s funds into the equipment and to pay Blankenship’s salary. She shares time between French Settlement and Springfield and oversees the efforts at Maurepas from afar, where two of the school’s teachers help to coordinate broadcasts there. Springfield High does not produce a live daily broadcast.
The daily broadcast episodes at French Settlement High and Maurepas School feature student interviews about current events or personal topics, weather reports, state and national news updates, sports news and updates on the school’s lunch menu and activities calendar.
Walker High School also offers its students a digital media elective. Currently about 55 students are enrolled in the class on that campus, which teaches them to use video editing equipment, operate broadcast video equipment and produce live broadcasts.
MAUREPAS SCHOOL SET FOR 13TH ANNUAL FRENCH CAFÉ
Students and faculty at Maurepas School will host their 13th Annual French Café on Dec. 7 from 5-8 p.m. to raise funds to buy Christmas presents and food for children of less fortunate families in the community.
Café patrons will be able enjoy food, entertainment and activities. The evening will include a Silent Auction, where people can bid on artistic pieces and crafts; the “Raffle for a Basket,” where people can purchase raffle tickets to win a huge basket full of goodies; Santa’s Little Workshop; a Cake Walk; an Ornament for a Donation; and a Christmas program.
Last year’s event raised more than $8,900, which provided presents to more than 100 children and also provided students with school supplies, uniforms and even graduation fees. The event raised just over $5,000 the year before.
LIVE OAK JUNIOR HIGH COMPETES MATH COMPETITION AT LSMSA
Live Oak Junior High was one of 12 schools that recently competed in the 17th annual mathematics competition sponsored by the Department of Math and Computer Science at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts on Nov. 16.
The other schools were Natchitoches Magnet School, Caddo Middle Magnet School, Rapides Academy, St. John Berchman’s Cathedral School, D’Arbonne Woods Charter School, Rusheon Middle School, St. Jude School, NSU Middle Lab School, Cope Middle School, Sterlington Middle School, and Grace Christian School.
The contest consisted of individual and team competitions. The exercises in each contest came from algebra, geometry and other areas of mathematics, and not from any specific curriculum. The questions were designed to challenge students to draw from their knowledge of mathematics, to think, to synthesize concepts and to solve problems.