February 2020


Cecil Harris, District 5 School Board Member

The Livingston Parish School Board recently appointed Denham Springs resident Cecil Harris to serve as the District 5 member, filling the vacancy left by former member Buddy Mincey, Jr., who resigned earlier this year to take on his newly elected position of State Representative.

Harris, who is a graduate and Athletic Hall of Fame member of Denham Springs High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from Southeastern Louisiana University. He also has a minor in special education. Harris taught and coached for three years in Livingston Parish before taking a supervisor position with the Louisiana Department of Education in the Health and Physical Education division. He later moved to the private sector, working as regional vice president for an educational publishing company for several years before opening his own company, Pinnacle Education.

Harris will hold the appointed seat until voters can elect a new board member this fall. Harris said he plans to run for the elected position at that time.



Livingston Parish Public Schools will host a free 2020 STEAM Expo on Saturday, March 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Denham Springs High School STEM and Robotics Center at 1129 South Range Avenue to give students of all ages, parents and community leaders on opportunity to experience and access educational programs in science, technology engineering, art and math.

The expo will provide engaging displays and activities aimed at increasing awareness and interest in STEAM education and career opportunities, such as robotics, 3D printing, photography and video, and performing arts.  The STEAM Express will be on site, as well as an ambulance simulator, which is used in instruction at the Literacy and Technology Center to prepare students pursuing certification as a first responder.

Demonstrations will rotate on a 30-minute cycle and tours of the center will be provided throughout the day. For more information, send an email to the STEAM Expo coordinator.


Students from across the parish who are enrolled in the Livingston Parish Talented Arts Program will present two Disney productions at the Suma Hall Conference Center, located at the Satsuma Exit (Exit 19) of Interstate 12, over the next three weeks.

They will perform Disney’s “The Little Mermaid, Jr.” on two nights — Feb. 20-21, with the performances beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and adults, and they can be purchased at the door.

Students will also present three performances of Disney’s “Frozen, Jr.” March 5-7.  Evening performances will be held March 5 and 6, beginning at 7 p.m. each night, and a special 11 a.m. brunch performance will be held March 7.  The cost of general admission for the evening performances is $10, while the cost of admission to the March 7 brunch performance is $15.  Click here to purchase tickets.



The Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center will host its 6th Annual Car Show Fundraiser on Saturday, March 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The event, which will be held at 9261 Florida Boulevard in Walker, will include a bounce house, green screen photobooth, 50/50 raffle, music, door prizes, and jambalaya lunch plates.  Registration for car entries is $20 and will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.




Superintendent Joe Murphy presents district administrators with his vision for school leaders to return to teaching for one hour in March as a “hands-on” way to be more engaged in the day-to-day activities across the district.

Ask any educator why they do their job, and they will tell you it’s for the thrill of helping children learn.  District administrators will have an opportunity to “return to their first love,” by going back into the classroom for a day, thanks to a special effort implemented by Superintendent Joe Murphy.

Murphy recently asked all district administrative personnel who hold teaching certificates to sign up to teach a class next month, either on March 6 or March 13.

“It’s always good to remind ourselves why we do what we do; and stepping back in the classroom is one powerful way to do that,” Murphy said.  “It’s a chance to return to our first love, reacquaint ourselves with our students, and see first-hand what our teachers are facing each day.  It’s my hope this exercise will create greater engagement for our leadership and stir excitement on our campuses.”


January 2020


The Livingston Parish School Board elected new leaders at its Jan. 9 meeting.  David “Bo” Graham of Walker was named the new president, and Jan Benton of Denham Springs was voted vice president. The two were unanimously elected to their positions.

Graham replaces outgoing School Board President Buddy Mincey, Jr., who resigned his seat to move into his newly elected position of State Representative for District 71.  Mincey was sworn in as State Representative on Jan. 13, prior to the governor’s inauguration ceremonies that same day.

The board is expected to take nominations to fill Mincey’s seat at its Jan. 23 meeting until a special election can be held in November.

Outgoing Livingston Parish School Board President Buddy Mincey, Jr., right, hands the gavel to newly elected President David “Bo” Graham following the board’s vote on Jan. 9, 2020.  Mincey resigned his seat to move to his newly elected position of State Representative for District 71.

Livingston Parish School Board Vice President Jan Benton












Speaker and author Thomas Murray, who is director of innovation for Future Ready Schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, D.C., spoke to parish educators on Jan. 7 as part of a full day of professional learning presentations, walk-throughs and workshops across the parish.

Murray presided over two sessions at the Walker High School gym for approximately 1,100 certified schoolteachers at each session. He presented information from his new book, “Personal & Authentic: Designing Learning Experiences that Impact a Lifetime,” which was released in October 2019.

Parish schools also showcased their campuses with “gallery walk” presentations and several schools hosted EdCamps, which were smaller education workshops.

“We wanted to pause just a moment during this ‘half-way’ point in our schoolyear, before returning to the classroom for the spring semester, to remind our employees why we do what we do,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said. “It’s about the kids, and we can’t ever lose that focus.  We wanted to remind our employees in a powerful and meaningful way that it’s our job to foster personal and authentic learning experiences for all our students – every day.”

Thomas Murray presented two sessions to Livingston Parish educators and staff on how to design learning experiences that are personal and authentic.

Gray’s Creek Elementary Para-professional Julianne Sadler and Assistant Principal Michelle Denton showcase robotic projects they do with their students as part of their STEM curriculum. The school’s kiosk was one of many in the “gallery walk” at the district’s professional learning day.


Freshwater Elementary has been named the most improved school in the state and among the top 2 percent of all elementary and middle schools across Louisiana, according to the most recent accountability report by the Louisiana Department of Education.

According to the state report, only nine schools in Louisiana improved by 10 percentage points or more.  Freshwater Elementary was the most improved – increasing its overall mastery rate from 43 percent to 60 percent – a 17 percent jump.  Out of 1,267 elementary and middle schools (non-magnets) statewide, Freshwater came in at number 27. Freshwater Elementary’s overall School Performance Score also grew from 83.5 in 2018 to 95.7 in 2019 – a 12.2-point improvement.  One of the most impressive score indicators was the school’s progress index, which measures the number of individual students who meet their growth target level – that number grew from 100.7 points in 2018 to 115 points in 2019, reflecting a 14.3 jump that easily earned Freshwater Elementary an “A” status rating as a Top Gains Honoree.

“When they started announcing the numbers, I couldn’t believe it.  I knew our students and teachers had given their best, but the numbers were amazing,” Principal Julie Dugas said.  “Our school was at the top in our district and among the state’s very best.  Most of our teachers recorded the top scores overall in their grade and subject areas.”

Dugas noted that some teachers grew their individual sections by double digits and a few by more than 20 points.

Freshwater Elementary third-grade teacher Sarah Hodges, left, reviews the completed projects of her students Preslee Zimmerle and Jimmy Burton, as Principal Julie Dugas asks them questions about their work.



School officials honored this year’s winners of the Council for Exceptional Children’s 2019 Parent Advocate Award, Tessa Walters, and 2019 “Yes I Can” Award of Self-Advocacy, Camilla Rios.  Walters is a paraprofessional at Seventh Ward Elementary, where 9-year-old Rios attends school.  Pictured, left to right, are: (back row) Freshwater Elementary Principal Julie Dugas, Seventh Ward Elementary Principal Laura Dunlap, Livingston Parish Special Education Department Director Eric Penalber, Livingston Parish Superintendent Joe Murphy, Seventh Ward Elementary SRO Burley McCarter, Seventh Ward Elementary Assistant Principal Bridget Castille, Freshwater Elementary Assistant Principal Amy Cheney, (front row) Walters, Rios and Freshwater Elementary Adapted Physical Education Teacher Sarah Lambert.

Seventh Ward Elementary Student Camilla “Cami” Rios and Paraprofessional Tessa Walters have both received awards from the Council for Exception Children for their outstanding efforts.

Rios is a recipient of the Council for Exceptional Children’s 2019 “Yes I Can” award in the self-advocacy category, which honors children with exceptionalities who have demonstrated determination and achievement.  Rios suffered from a severe meningitis infection at the age of 2, causing her to have both legs amputated above the knees, her left arm amputated below the elbow, and damage to her right upper extremity, including a deviation in her hand and damage to her fingers that has severely limited her range of motion.  Despite her physical limitations, she is one of her school’s most independent – and most popular – students.

Walters is a winner of the same organization’s 2019 Parent Advocate Award, which recognizes parents who promote and provide for the education and enhancement of individuals with exceptionalities in order to promote and support their full participation in the community. Walters also serves as a spokesperson for disabled children and their families, advocating for greater services and more funding.  She has spoken to the Louisiana House Appropriation Committee, advocating for funding of a Pediatric Day Health Center in the Baton Rouge area, and she has been the subject of numerous news articles.  Walters works with her daughter, Piper, and with Cami Rios, at Seventh Ward Elementary.

December 2019


The Louisiana Department of Education’s most recent accountability report showed Livingston Parish continues to improve its cohort graduation rate, which measures the number of students who graduate on time, and its strength of diploma measurement, which accounts for credentials added to the diplomas awarded to students.

Livingston Parish’s graduation rate is currently 87.4 percent – the highest ever for the district.  The number of students who successfully matriculate through high school in four years has improved nearly 11 points from 76.2 percent in 2013.

At the same time, the district’s strength of diploma score jumped to 108.5 points, up from 90.5 points in 2013.  The latest score represents an 18-point improvement is just six years.  Students can strengthen their diplomas by attaining college credit and career certifications that advance their post-secondary education, training and employment desirability, allowing them to enter the workforce or advanced education fields more rapidly and at higher skill levels.

“We continue to identify ways to make our high schools more relevant and responsive to the expectations of today’s workforce as it relates to preparation at higher education institutions, advanced technical and industrial schools, and on-the-job entry positions,” Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis said.




Robinson Brothers Ford presented the Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center with a 2014 Ford Focus in recognition for being one of the Top 5 programs in the nation to utilize the Ford Learning Management System.  Pictured with the car, and some of the parish’s automotive program students, from left to right, are Ford Motor Company Field Service Engineer Paul Evans, Robinson Brothers Ford Service Director Bill Reitenour, AST Instructor Mike Deville, Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill, and LPLTC Director Kim Albin.

Robinson Brothers Ford donated a 2014 Ford Focus to the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center (LPLTC) to further enhance the center’s Automotive Service Technician program, after the program was recognized as one of the best in the nation.

The car is valued at approximately $7,500, and it will give added hands-on practice to the program’s students to prepare them for the Automotive Career Exploration exam that can earn them an entry-level position in the automotive service industry.

LPLTC Director Kim Albin said the center’s Automotive Service Technician program received the donation from Robinson Brothers because Livingston Parish high school students have performed among the nation’s best on the Ford Learning Management System training modules.  Ford Motor Company ranked the Livingston Parish program among the nation’s Top 5 school programs.



Livingston Parish Public Schools is offering an array of Career & Technical Education night classes to high school students during the spring semester.  The courses are open to juniors and seniors, and they include scaffolding, NCCER Carpentry I, NCCER Carpentry II, NCCER Electrical I, NCCER Welding II, Drones, Operation Spark I, and Baking & Pastry.

The courses allow students the opportunity to earn Carnegie credits and industry-based certifications, which can help them advance in their careers or educational options.  A $300 stipend will be paid to those students who attain certification in most courses, excluding the baking and pastry class.  Students enrolled in the baking and pastry culinary class can receive dual enrollment credit through the Northshore Technical Community College.  Students completing the scaffolding training course may be eligible for immediate employment with Apache Industrial Services.

For more information, contact Brandi Desselle at 225-686-7044 or brandi.desselle@lpsb.org.



Four Livingston Parish elementary schools – Eastside Elementary, Freshwater Elementary, Northside Elementary, and Seventh Ward Elementary – have earned a spot on the state’s “Honor Roll” as a result of high performances during the 2018-2019 school year in their early childhood programs, according to a report released by the Louisiana Department of Education.

This is the second year in a row for the early childhood classes at Eastside Elementary and Northside Elementary to receive this honor.  According to the released scores, Northside Elementary earned the third-highest score in the state among all Pre-K sites evaluated.

These schools were recognized in the “Excellence” category, which is the state’s highest possible rating on the school’s annual performance evaluation.  Only 113 schools statewide earned this top rating, according to the state report.

Representing Seventh Ward Elementary, left to right, are paraprofessional Mandi Brown, teacher Tammi Fielding, and paraprofessional Samantha Soileau.

Representing Eastside Elementary, left to right, are paraprofessional Donna Foster, teacher Dana Baier, and paraprofessional Angela Brand


Representing Freshwater Elementary, left to right, are paraprofessional Monica Nelson, teacher Meghan Yerby, and paraprofessional Jennifer Stanley.

Representing Northside Elementary, left to right, are teachers Kellie Bridgers and Elizabeth Jordan.

November 2019


Thirty of Livingston Parish’s 43 schools that received performance grades in the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2019 report showed academic improvement as compared to last year.

In particular, the district improved its number of “A” schools by three, up from 10 to 13, while the district’s overall performance score improved 2.2 points, growing from 86.3 points to 88.5 points.

The parish had 28 schools earning Top Gains, which is a designation for academic progress at an “A” level, and 11 Equity Honorees, which recognizes schools in the top 10 percent of schools in Louisiana among targeted subgroups, such as special needs students, English learners and economically disadvantaged students.

Other significant gains were reported in the following indices:  K-8 assessment index, up 2.9 points; K-8 progress index, up 4.5 points; high school progress index, up 0.4 points; ACT index, up 1.2 points;  Strength of Diploma, up 3.8 points; and Graduation Cohort Index, up 0.9 points.



Nearly 20 female high school students from across Livingston Parish recently participated in an automotive industry learning session.  The girls were presented with an assortment of pink accessories for the occasion, including reflective vests, headbands and protective eye wear. The district hopes the session and additional promotions will generate enough student interest to offer a “girls-only” automotive class in the summer or next school year.

Female student ambassadors and high school counselors from each of the nine high schools in Livingston Parish were recently invited to attend an information session at the parish’s automotive learning center to learn how the automotive industry may offer them promising employment opportunities after graduation.

The girls and counselors heard from local professionals and academic leaders who shared their desire to enroll and hire more women in automotive certification programs.  Those speakers included the automotive program directors from Baton Rouge Community College and Northshore Technical Community College, representatives from O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and Neighbor’s Credit Union in Walker, and Eric Lane, CEO of Gerry Lane Enterprises in Baton Rouge.

“Our goal is to better educate and create greater awareness of career opportunities that women have in those career fields that are now male-dominated.  There is now a high demand for women in many of these fields; but for many girls, these opportunities are not even on their radars,” Career Technical Education Coordinator Staci Polozola said.



Those participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Ferrington Place included: (left to right) LPPS Transition Coordinator April Morgan; LPPS Special Education Department Director Eric Penalber; City of Walker Mayor Jimmy Watson; family member Gail Fitzpatrick; LPPS Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis; family members Cindy Sibley, Chuck Smith, Ed Ferrington, Dottie Marler, and Betty Ferrington; LPPS Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill; family members Kaytlin Taylor and Tracy Cunningham; Walker Councilman Tracy Girlinghouse; family member Tommy Williams; Walker Freshman High School Principal David Clark; and Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre.

Students with special needs who attend school in the Walker School District can now utilize a life skills facility in their home community that is designed to teach them how to perform day-to-day activities in a home setting.

The City of Walker, Livingston Parish school leaders and members of the Ferrington Family of Walker held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 7 for the new Ferrington Place, which is located at 10266 Florida Boulevard, just east of Walker.

The newly renovated home is equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom and laundry room, enabling instructors to teach students how to perform daily activities in each of these settings in hopes of enabling them to live a safe, more independent lifestyle in their own private homes or in a group home setting.  A large den located in the rear of the house is equipped with tables and chairs to accommodate larger gatherings.

“Ferrington Place is a tremendous resource for the special needs residents in the Walker community.  Not only does this facility lessen the hassle of traveling outside of the area to access a life skills facility, it also creates opportunities for more programs and more activities for the local special needs community,” said Eric Penalber, Ph.D., director of Livingston Parish Public Schools Special Education Department.



Superintendent Joe Murphy and Delia A. Taylor, APR, show the two awards that Taylor recently received from the Southern Public Relations Federation.

Delia A. Taylor, APR, recently received two top awards from the Southern Public Relations Federation’s Lantern Awards program for her work for the Livingston Parish School System.  The SPRF Lantern Awards program recognizes outstanding work in the field of public relations in the four-state region of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Taylor earned the Lantern Award in Media Relations for her management of the story of a fiery bus accident in September 2018 and the teacher-firefighter who responded to the incident.  She also earned an Award of Excellence in Media Relations for the promotion of the “Stronger Than Ever” campaign kickoff, which was marked by the staged demolition event at Denham Springs Elementary, held in August 2018.

Taylor is only one of four PR practitioners from Louisiana to earn a top Lantern Award in this year’s competition.



Thirty-seven students enrolled in classes at the Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center have pledged to serve as social media ambassadors this school year for the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA).  LOPA is a nonprofit organ and tissue recovery agency responsible for servicing the state of Louisiana.

As ambassadors, the students will post on their personal social media channels facts about organ, tissue and eye donations, relevant news stories, and stories from those impacted by donations and LOPA-related activities across the state.  LOPA has also partnered with iHeartMedia and public relations students in the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication to increase awareness about services.


October 2019


Construction activity at the site of Denham Springs Elementary will soon get underway, now that a contractor has been selected and a formal “kick off” will be held Oct. 24.

The Livingston Parish School Board recently approved Blount General Contractors to be the contractor of the new Denham Springs Elementary School.  The estimated cost of building the new school and making repairs to the multi-purpose building that remains on the campus is $16 million. School officials will hold a ground breaking ceremony for the new school at 3 p.m. Oct. 24 at the original campus site.


Five Livingston Parish teachers have been selected to receive a Deborah Rochelle Teacher Grant to support school-site projects that provide direct service to students.

D’anna Macaluso of Juban Parc Elementary received $4,994 for her project, “Prevent a Gap with the Lap.” Carrie Young from Juban Parc Elementary earned $5,000 for her proposal, “Developing 21st Century Skills.” Leah Davis from Southside Elementary received $4,843 for her project, “Using Technology for Academic Success.” Rebekah O’Neal from North Corbin Junior High received $5,000 for “Blending Learning in the Classroom.”  Michelle Crochet from Live Oak Junior High earned $5,000 for the project, “Design. Build. Experiment. Repeat.”

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WHS Paint and Body Shop Ribbon-Cutting – Livingston Parish School officials and Gerry Lane Enterprises President Eric Lane recently cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially open Walker High School’s Paint and Body Shop.  The shop will give students hands-on training in automotive painting and repairs, which will qualify them to earn certification in the industry.  Pictured from left to right: Gerry Lane Enterprises President Eric Lane; Walker School Board Member Bo Graham; Career Technical Education Coordinator Staci Polozola; Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre; and Walker High School CTE Teacher Chris Ledoux.

Students at Walker High School who are interested in a career in automotive repair and maintenance can now get hands-on experience and earn certification thanks to a new 1,200-square-foot paint and body shop that’s been constructed on the campus.

The new facility houses two bays, one for holding the painting booth and the other for body work lessons.  Gerry Lane Enterprises donated the facility, while PPG Paints has given much of the paint needed for the work.

“This is a collaborative effort of educators and industry professionals working together to give our students greater opportunities in a career field that offers good-paying jobs in the local area,” Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre said.

Students who complete the class will be eligible to earn the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) certification, which is the collision repair industry’s leading standard for measuring skill, training and professional excellence.   Gerry Lane Enterprises President Eric Lane said body shop workers can make up to $1,500 a week, and they have a “portable trade.”



Livingston Parish School System leaders recently held an official ribbon cutting for the Denham Springs High School STEM & Robotics Center.  The center already has nearly 300 students enrolled in classes.  Participating in the event were, pictured from left to right, (front row) Career Technical Education Coordinator Staci Polozola; Superintendent Joe Murphy, School Board Members Jan Benton and Buddy Mincey; Former School Board Member Karen Wax-Schmitt; Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry; (middle row) High School Supervisor Kelly Jones; School Board Member Bradley Harris; U.S. Congressman Garret Graves; Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis; State Sen. Dale Erdey; (back row) Denham Springs High School Principal Wes Howard; School Board Member Bo Graham; Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill; State Rep. J. Rogers Pope and Denham Springs Freshman High Principal Ken Magee.


September 2019


U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy made a special visit to the Denham Springs High School STEM & Robotics Center during his visit to Livingston Parish this month. During the tour, Cassidy spoke with students in a digital storytelling class.  The students were unboxing new cameras and tripods and learning the basics of video photography equipment.



More than 500 students on 20 teams from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas recently competed in the Dow Red Stick Rumble at Denham Springs High School.  The event is an off-season FIRST Robotics Competition and General Robotics Festival.

Teams were tasked with designing robots that could fill rockets and cargo ships while combating unpredictable terrain and weather patterns.  The robots were judged on their ability to manage the task in a timely and efficient manner.  Each team was given a six-week time period to work with mentors and coaches from their communities to design and build the robots.

The mission of the Red Stick Rumble is to provide robotics teams with a high-quality, off-season competitive event that allows teams of all strengths to develop their skills, recruit new members and network with friends.  It also provides the community with an opportunity to see the benefits of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) that is brought to local schools and communities by robotics programs.



The Albany Hornet Mascot helped to lead the large crowd into a cheer during the Open House Pep Rally that was held Aug. 24.

Members of the Albany community gathered on Aug. 24 to tour the four local campuses – Albany High School, Albany Middle School, Albany Upper Elementary and Albany Lower Elementary.

The open house included a first glance at two 16-classroom buildings that were completed during the summer at Albany High and Albany Lower Elementary.

Participants and guests were provided a free fried catfish lunch, prepared by a local restaurant and served by Albany High’s ProStart students.  The catfish was donated by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, in conjunction with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s Office.  Door prizes from local businesses were also handed out during a pep rally that featured entertainment by the bands, cheerleaders and dance teams.



Amanda Jones, Live Oak Middle School Librarian

Live Oak Middle School Librarian Amanda Jones is getting national attention for her efforts to use social media to garner support and awareness of literacy projects she has created for her students.

Jones was recently awarded two top national honors from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) during the group’s conference in Washington, D.C.  She received the group’s 2019 Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer Award and was awarded a 2019 Inspire Special Event Grant.  The grant includes a cash award of up to $2,000 for Jones to invest in her school’s social media project.

She has been featured on season two of the School Librarians United podcast to discuss a presentation she gave in Philadelphia last summer called “Put Your Self(ie) Out There: Using Social Media to Advocate for Your School Library Program.”  The national podcast is heard in all 50 states and was recently featured in the School Library Journal as the top podcast among school librarians.  Jones will also make that same presentation at the National AASL Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in November later this year.



Members of Cox Charities presented Juban Parc Elementary with a $500 grant to create a sensory room at the school.  Pictured with those representatives are: (standing) Adapted PE Teacher Lisa Dugas, Principal Lauren Kennedy, and Assistant Principal Pam Masters; (seated) Brock Galloway, Breanna Meche, Carson Tullier, Raimi Boudreaux, and Landon Chung.

Adapted Physical Education Teacher Lisa Dugas was recently awarded a $500 grant from Cox Communication, through its Cox Charities Foundation, to create a sensory room at Juban Parc Elementary.

While the sensory room is available to all students, research shows it can be especially helpful to calm and stimulate the senses in children with special needs.  Sensory issues can be common among children with special needs.  Sensory issues include sensitivity to smells, touch, texture, taste, light and sound.

“This room provides all our students and their teachers with a place where they can take a ‘brain break,’” Dugas said.  “Our students often need a place to go to just calm down, and this room will give them that special place and provide them with various items that can impact all the senses,” she said.



Walker High School students Anthony David, left, and Kataj Darden help organize donations for the Wildcat We Care pantry.  Photo courtesy of The Advocate.)

Students at Walker High School have transformed an old book hallway closet into a “We Care” pantry filled with hygiene items and food for students in need.  On any given day, the closet is stacked with items like shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, snacks and uniforms that kids in need might be too shy to ask for or buy for themselves.

“I’m seeing a lot of kids lately who just need that extra help and as a community we’re here to help them, to make sure they have everything they need,” said Katelyn Easlick, a baking and pastry instructor in the school’s Pro-Start Culinary program.  She and School Librarian Tessi Meaux help to oversee the project.

Easlick said student volunteers or teachers take much effort to be discreet about helping students.  They package the requested items in a plain black drawstring bag for students to pick up or have delivered to their classroom, so the bag doesn’t look out of place with other book bags.

August 2019


Livingston Parish Public Schools began the 2019-2020 school year with over 600 more students than it started with last year – that enrollment jump puts the district well above the district’s student count preceding the 2016 flood.

The district’s enrollment count grew to nearly 26,300 within the first week of classes. While officials anticipate that number dropping some due to “no shows” from students who transferred to other districts without first reporting their change,this count nonetheless represents the highest enrollment ever in Livingston Parish, and well above pre-flood counts. The official enrollment count in October 2015 was 25,994.

“It’s really exciting to start this year knowing that we’ve cleared another hurdle in moving past the 2016 flood,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.  “Our district continues to be stronger than ever – it’s a testament to our communities, our teachers and students, and our leadership for staying the course on this long recovery road.”

Murphy noted that the 600-plus increase is reminiscent of growth that occurred in the district about 10 years ago, when Livingston Parish was among the nation’s fastest growing areas.



Livingston Parish Public Schools recently welcomed newly appointed administrators, including, from left to right:  Livingston Parish Supervisor of Instruction Kelly Jones, South Fork Elementary Principal Misti Thomason, Northside Elementary Principal Ginger Bishop and Denham Springs High School Principal Wes Howard. The new leaders were recognized at a principals’ meeting that enjoyed a Hawaiian theme.



Holden High School Senior Brendan Anderson is awarded the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, as his parents Andrea and Chris Anderson look on as Command Master Chief Roy W. LaPointe of the U.S. Coast Guard places a hat on his head during a special military ceremony

Holden High School Senior Brendan Anderson has been awarded the highest rank of Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, placing him among the top 3 percent of all the corps members.  He received the new rank on Aug. 10, during a military ceremony at Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is available to young people ages 13 through the completion of high school.  Each new Sea Cadet must attend NSCC recruit training, which serves to introduce each “recruit” to the standards and routine involved in the life of a Sea Cadet. Military drills, customs and courtesies, physical fitness training, and other courses related to the sea-going services, are part of the demanding schedule of recruit training.



Superintendent Joe Murphy speaks to the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce as Chamber President Candy Forbes and Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks look on

Superintendent Joe Murphy recently addressed the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce to present a “State of the Parish” report to its business members.

He thanked the business community for working with local schools to provide student internships, scholarships and career opportunities.  He said the district would be “ramping up” its efforts to partner with local businesses in the current school year to create even greater opportunities for students.



Pictured left to right: (front row) Anastasia Vincent, Taylor Threeton, Payton Barnum Kaileen Dampeer, Ariel VanTrease, Madyson Lacarbo, Makaylah Hall, Destiny Wright, Angie Woodson, Micaela Lynn-Bono, Kendra Keen, (back row) Chloe Spikes, Alyssa Landry, Camryn McKinney, Carley Babb, Hailey Harden, Jenison Riley, Joylyn Gaude, and Wal-Deyunna Lee.


Springfield High School recently identified a need for more female students to take trade skill classes because of a demand of career opportunities available to women in trade fields.

To remedy the situation, Agriculture Educator Kendra Keen decided to try something different to encourage more girls to try their hand at learning a trade — she offered a section of NCCER Carpentry to just female students.

The result of her experiment:  the class started the year with 20 female students enrolled.  That count is up from just one female student enrolled last year.

“We know that our Career & Technical Education programs have been proven academically rigorous and necessary for career exploration. It is important to offer classes that ensure all our students, including “non-traditional populations,” — in this case, our female students — have equal access to training for high-skill, high-wage occupations,” Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis said.

Purvis said the girls will be working toward NCCER Core and Carpentry certification throughout the school year.


July 2019


The state’s latest report shows a significant number of Livingston Parish students in grade 3-12 have upped their performance to Mastery, bringing the district’s overall mastery rate for all students in all subject areas to 48 percent – almost half!

That performance earned the district the third-highest improvement ranking in the state – increasing the number of mastery students in all subject areas by 3 percent – up from 45 percent in the 2017-2018 school year to 48 percent in the 2018-2019 school year.

Freshwater Elementary is the state’s most-improved school over this time, growing its overall mastery rate from 43 percent to 60 percent!  Only nine schools in Louisiana improved by 10 percentage points or more.

“Clearly our students continue to respond to the rigor and challenges set before them,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

LEAP tests were given in grades 3-8 in April and May, as well as in five high school subjects taken in all high school grades. Statewide results show students did the best in English, followed by math and then social studies. The results did not include science scores, which are scheduled to be released in August.



Pictured with one of the new buses, from left to right, are: Livingston Parish Schools Bus Shop Manager Tamara Pichon: Livingston School Bus Drivers Gayle Anderson, Angela Landry, Renee Newsom, Rebecca Garcia, Tracy Depriest, Shawna Carpenter, Amber Dugas, Vickie Cowart, Katrinka Davidson, Victoria McDonald, Nancy Bales, Kathy Griffin, Corie Crain, Leatrix Cockerham, Vickie Overmeyer, Dusty Sumrall, Steve Knight and Melvin Duncan; Kent Mitchell Representatives Dane Mitchell, Holly Chatellier, and Jamie Harper; Livingston School Bus Driver Renee Lawson, and Livingston Schools Transportation Director Josh Day.

Livingston Parish Schools is rolling out 22 new buses as part of its effort to upgrade its fleet and replace all the buses lost during the 2016 flood. The district instituted a system-wide upgrade plan in 2015 that would allow officials to add 10 to 12 new buses to the fleet each year to ensure the safest, most efficient buses are on the road for drivers and students.

“But that plan had to be escalated somewhat after the flood in 2016, when we lost more than 70 buses,” Transportation Supervisor Joshua Day said.  “Since that time, we’ve had to lease several buses in addition to what we could purchase. But, I’m glad to say that this year’s purchase allows us to do away with all flood-related leases, and we can return to our normal replacement schedule after this year.”

Day anticipates the district utilizing more than 250 regular buses this school year to manage the daily routes.  Most buses run more than one route each morning and afternoon. Several smaller buses will be utilized to transport special needs students.  Those routes can often vary, he said.



Live Oak High School Student Breli McCollister was selected to be a National Youth Correspondent for the 2019 Washington Journalism and Media Conference at George Mason University, which was held this month.

McCollister joined students from across the country for an intensive study of journalism and media.  She was chosen for her academic accomplishments and interest and demonstrated excellence in journalism and media studies.



This building at the old Southside Elementary campus has been refurbished to house part of the new STEM & Robotics Center.

The new STEM & Robotics Center for Denham Springs High School will open with the start of regular classes on Aug. 9, providing local high schoolers with greater opportunities in advancing their studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The satellite campus, which is located at the site of the former Southside Elementary School on Range Avenue, will offer classes in partnership with LSU.  Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis said the campus will offer courses in Introduction to Computational Thinking, Digital Storytelling, and Introduction to Engineering.

Purvis said the STEM & Robotics Center grew out of an opportunity to partner with LSU, as well as the classroom space becoming available after the 2016 flood.  Two buildings on site were not severely damaged as the rest of the campus because they had been built later than the original campus, at a higher elevation.  They have been refurbished and remodeled to accommodate high school students.



Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor hands out school supplies during a STEAM Express Community Event.  Taylor has sponsored the ASSESS THE NEED school supply campaign for 19 consecutive years.

Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor, local volunteers and area businesses are once again sponsoring the ASSESS THE NEED campaign to provide school supplies for needy students in Livingston Parish for the new school year.

This is the 19th year the not-for-profit organization has collected donations to give classroom supplies and materials to students in grades pre-kindergarten to high school.

Volunteers will be outside parish Wal-Mart stores in Denham Springs, Walker and Watson on July 27-28 and Aug. 3-4 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to collect donations.  Donations can also be given securely online through PayPal or with a credit card by visiting the ASSESS THE NEED page on Facebook or going to www.AssesstheNeed.com.  ASSESS THE NEED is a registered charitable organization, making all donations eligible for tax deductions.

Taylor has sponsored ASSESS THE NEED since 2001.  To date, the program has collected some $1 million in donations, including special drives following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the August 2016 flood. The proceeds from each drive are used to purchase needed classroom supplies for students throughout the parish.  ASSESS THE NEED is a major sponsor of the mobile classroom STEAM Express.


June 2019


Livingston Parish’s school teachers and staff workers will get larger paychecks, and the district will get more money for operations, thanks to legislation passed during the 2019 General Legislative Session.

Under the agreed financing formula, teachers and other certificated personnel will get a $1,000 pay raise and staff works will receive a $500 pay raise.  The State Legislature also allocated an extra $39 million in discretionary money to all the state’s school districts, growing the per-student allocation from $3,961 to $4,015 for next school year.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, handled the legislation in the House of Representatives and pushed for his fellow House members to give it their support.

“All of the school people I have had conversations with say this is what they want, and this is what I am advocating,” Pope said, noting that the increased funding will be made available to school districts beginning July 1, 2019, which marks the start of the 2019-2020 fiscal year.



Livingston Parish Public Schools recently recognized the district’s Teacher of the Year winners from each school during a special ceremony at Revival Temple Church in Walker.

The parish’s 2020 Teacher of the Year winners include, left to right, High School Teacher of the Year Vickie Eaves, Denham Springs High School; Middle School Teacher of the Year Shannon Graham, Frost School; and Elementary Teacher of the Year Candace Shaidee, Live Oak Elementary.


All teachers who were named 2020 Teacher of the Year winners at their respective schools include:

Elementary Schools — Yvette Schilling, Albany Lower Elementary; Scarlet Starkey, Albany Upper Elementary; Tiffany Spears, Denham Springs Elementary; Alicia Murkowski, Doyle Elementary; Heather White, Eastside Elementary; Shyla Cochran, French Settlement Elementary; Stephanie Dufrene, Freshwater Elementary; Shannon Graham, Frost; Brittany Kelley, Gray’s Creek Elementary; Sarah Davidson, Holden; Jennifer Davenport, Juban Parc  Elementary; Tracey Carter, Levi Milton Elementary; Casey Nickens, Lewis Vincent Elementary; Candace Shaidaee, Live Oak Elementary; Christy Boston, North Corbin Elementary; Angie McKey, North Live Oak Elementary; Kellie Bridgers, Northside Elementary; Tiffany Battistella, Seventh Ward Elementary; Rachel Chavers, South Fork  Elementary; Pamela Lang, South Live Oak Elementary; Claire Michel, South Walker Elementary; Jessica Puissegur, Springfield Elementary; Ashley Newell, Southside Elementary; and Gorgon Nickens, Walker  Elementary.

Middle Schools — Juliette Shackleford, Albany Middle; Pam Robichaux, French Settlement; Shannon Graham, Frost; Kim Arnett, Holden High; Robin Howard, Juban Parc Junior High; Jennifer Sibley, Live Oak Junior High; Lauren Courville, Live Oak Middle; Susan Vallarautto, North Corbin Junior High; Leanne Payne, Southside Junior High; Morgan Duplantis, Springfield Middle; and April Jones, Westside Junior High.

High Schools — Krista Campbell, Albany High; Julie Dupuy, Denham Springs Freshman High; Vickie Eaves, Denham Springs High; Michelle Glascock, Doyle High; Cindy Harmon, Holden High; Jessica Haynes, Live Oak High; Laci Williams, Maurepas High; Sara Short, Springfield High; Holly Bernard, Walker Freshman; and Andrew Pullman, Walker High.



The parish’s 2020 Principal of the Year winners also were recognized in May at a special ceremony.

The top winners are, pictured left to right: Elementary Principal of the Year Gail DeLee, Denham Springs Elementary; Middle School Principal of the Year Greg Hayden, Juban Parc Junior High; and High School Principal of the Year Kim Albin, Literacy & Technology Center.


Hayden is a top finalist for the Louisiana Principal of the Year. He will join the state’s other top eight principal finalists at the 13th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration on July 19 in Baton Rouge to learn who is named the overall winner.



The Livingston Parish School System on May 24 held an appreciation luncheon and prize give-away for more than 200 employees who managed and provided day-to-day transportation for the district’s nearly 26,000 students during the 2018-2019 school year.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser attended the event, which was held in the transportation building, located behind the central administrative office in Livingston.  His office collaborated with the Louisiana Seafood Association to provide the fish and shrimp that were served at the event.

Also, during the drawings for door prizes, Nungesser gave away 10 three-night stays at the winners’ choice of state parks and campgrounds across the state.  “We hope this event is the first of what becomes a tradition,” Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill said.  “We want to do this event to honor the work that is done for us each and every day.”

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser speaks to more than 200 bus drivers, mechanics, school employees and community leaders during the appreciation luncheon at Livingston Parish Public Schools.  Nungesser’s office teamed up with the Louisiana Seafood Association to provide the fresh fish and shrimp that were served at the event.




Pictured from left to right are Laura Dunlap, principal of Seventh Ward Elementary; Mary Carlin, A+PEL officer (Livingston Parish Chapter); Brittney Rogers, Livingston Parish Volunteer of the Year; Tiffany Battistella, a teacher and nominator of the volunteer of the year; and Bridget Castille, assistant principal of Seventh Ward Elementary.  Rogers is one of the school’s most involved parents.


May 2019


American Idol Laine Hardy greeted students, faculty and hometown residents during a pep rally at French Settlement High School on May 14, prior to the show’s finale when he named the season’s top winner.

Newly crowned American Idol Laine Hardy, a 2018 graduate of French Settlement High School, recently made a return visit to Livingston Parish as part of the show’s finale that featured hometown visits for the top three contestants. Hardy enjoyed a pep rally at the French Settlement High School gym that was attended by students and faculty from the local elementary and high schools, parents, community leaders and adoring fans.  From there, he participated in a parade and rally at the Livingston Parish Fair Grounds before visiting with Gov. John Bel Edwards and legislators at the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge. Hardy was a top vote-getter week-to-week and consistently garnered praise from “Idol” judges Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry.  Hardy was named the new “American Idol” on the show’s May 19 finale.



Livingston Parish Public Schools recognized the district’s top Student of the Year winners in grades 5, 8 and 12, as well as those students from each of the parish’s schools, at a special awards ceremony on May 7.

“This is one of my favorite events, because we get to recognize some of the best and brightest that Livingston Parish Schools has to offer,” Superintendent Rick Wentzel said.

The parish’s top three 2019 Student of the Year winners include, left to right, Elementary Student of the Year Collin Sprouse, a fifth-grader at South Walker Elementary; High School Student of the Year Cade Canepa, a senior at Live Oak High School; and Middle School Student of the Year John Bergeron, an eighth-grader at North Corbin Junior High. All three winners competed in the state’s regional competition, with Sprouse advancing to be a state finalist in the elementary division.


Livingston Parish’s High School Student of the Year winners include, pictured left to right:  Alessa Clark, Doyle High School; Max Brown, Denham Springs High; Katie Miranda, Albany High School; Ava Borskey, Maurepas School; Cade Canepa, Live Oak High School; Emily Seighman, Walker High School; Alyssa Blount, Holden High School; Andrew Larpenter, Springfield High School; and Sara Cavalier, French Settlement High School.


Livingston Parish’s Middle School Student of the Year winners include, pictured left to right: (front row) Madelyn Morgan, Doyle High School; Clancy Morrison, Albany Middle School; Madalyn Harris, Juban Parc Junior High School; Autumn Herring, Holden School; Annabelle Fontenot, Westside Junior High School; Reaghan McMorris, French Settlement High School; James Ernest, Maurepas School; (back row) Kassidy Herrin, Southside Junior High School; John Bergeron, North Corbin Junior High; Sylvia White, Live Oak Junior High School; Nicholas Bowden, Denham Springs Junior High School; and Katie Riddle, Springfield Middle School.


Livingston Parish’s Elementary Student of the Year winners include, pictured left to right: (front row) Donovan Rogers, Albany Middle School; Baron Markwood, Gray’s Creek Elementary; Rachel Henry, Live Oak Middle School; Mialize Otero-Grey, Juban Parc Elementary; Brooklyn Kersey, Doyle Elementary; Collin Sprouse, South Walker Elementary; Celia Cecchini, Seventh Ward Elementary; Natalie Almand, North Corbin Elementary School; John Rodriguez, Maurepas School; Kaliyah Fynaut, Springfield Middle School; Clayton Watson, South Fork Elementary; (back row) Allie Duplantis, Walker Elementary; Summer Tillery, Springfield Middle School; Ava Mulholland, French Settlement Elementary; Miriam Kieronski, Freshwater Elementary; Ryan Luu, Denham Springs Elementary; Jenna Holman, Levi Milton Elementary; Mollie Bailey, Holden School; Angelina Bowden, Northside Elementary; and Parker Mitchell, Lewis Vincent Elementary.  Not pictured is Kaelyn Williams, Eastside Elementary.



Livingston Parish School Superintendent Rick Wentzel recently presented Walker High School Senior Shelbi Carroll with the Region II Louisiana Superintendents Association Scholarship Award. The award included a $250 cash award.