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  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.



April 2019


Joe Murphy

The Livingston Parish School Board voted at its April 18 meeting to have current Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy take over as the district’s next superintendent.

Murphy has worked in the Livingston Parish Public School System since 1992, serving as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal and supervisor.

He has worked in his current post for the past four years and is credited with managing much of the district’s recovery from the August 2016 flood.  Murphy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from Louisiana State University and a Master’s Degree of Educational Administration and Supervision from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Current Superintendent Rick Wentzel announced in February that he would retire on June 15, 2019, forfeiting the last year on his four-year contract agreement.

Although Wentzel has nearly two months remaining of his term, he said he will step aside to allow his successor to begin serving in the district’s top position immediately.

Murphy bested a field of four other candidates who were vying the position, including two current Livingston Parish Public School administrators:  Supervisor of Personnel Bruce Chaffin and Supervisor of High School Instruction Jody Purvis. Others candidates were C. Michael Robinson, Jr., of Thibodaux, La., and Elizabeth Duran Swinford of New York.



The Livingston Parish School Board voted on April 4 to give an additional $750 paycheck to each full-time school system employee.  Part-time employees will get a percentage of the full amount based on the hours they work. The checks are expected to be distributed in May.

Superintendent Rick Wentzel said the “13th check” is one of his final major initiatives before retiring in June.  The one-time payment to the district’s 3,475 employees will cost the school system $3.2 million, which will be primarily funded through surplus funds gained in 2018 from the parish’s one-cent sales tax that is dedicated to salaries and employee benefits.

“Our parish saw a large increase in sales taxes after the flood because of the increase in expenditures related to the recovery.  We would like to give more to our people, but we know these monies are ‘one-time’ dollars, and so we’re allocating them through this ‘one-time’ process,” Wentzel said, noting that the checks will be distributed next month.

Wentzel noted that the school system had a tradition of giving employees a “13th check” each year from 1997 through 2008, but when the state stopped funding the 2.75 percent cost-of-inflation increase, the district did not have the funds to give employees the extra check.



School Board President Buddy Mincey, Jr., addresses a room full of state legislators and school leaders during a Legislative Breakfast.

Livingston Parish School officials met with those state legislators who represent Livingston Parish at the new Walk On’s Conference Center on the campus of Walker High School to share with them priorities and funding needs for the school district.

Superintendent Rick Wentzel noted that district leadership is supporting the governor’s proposal for a pay raise for teachers and school staff, and he said an increase in funding for the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) is long overdue and much needed. The MFP is the formula used by the state to determine funding for local school districts.

Those state legislators in attendance included Senators Dale Erdey, Eddie Lambert and Mack “Bodi” White, and Representatives Valerie Hodges, Sherman Mack, Rogers Pope, and Clay Shexnayder.  This year’s Fiscal Legislative Session runs from April 8-June 6.

Wentzel also told legislators that the state currently allocates no funding for facilities; yet in parishes with growing populations – like Livingston Parish – that creates a tremendous financial burden.



Livingston Parish Public School leaders unveiled the architectural renderings of the new Denham Springs Elementary and new K-8 Southside Campus, replacing those campuses destroyed by the August 2016 flood.

The new 80,000-square-foot DSE campus will be the parish’s first two-story elementary school, and it will honor the city’s history with an exterior design that is similar to the original Denham Springs High School that was once located on the same site.  That original structure was destroyed by a fire in 1949 and rebuilt two blocks north, at its current location.

The new K-8 Southside Campus will house Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High.   The two schools will be combined into one two-story complex, but each with separate entrances and learning spaces.  They will share a large courtyard that can be viewed by the glassed library area.  The elementary school will accommodate 700 students, while the junior high can hold 1,00 students.

New DSE Rendering – District leaders unveiled this architectural design for the new Denham Springs Elementary by Ziler Architects.  The new school will be the first two-story elementary school in the parish.  It will replace the school destroyed by the August 2016 flood.


SSE/SSJH Campus Rendering – District leaders presented this rendering of an aerial view of the new K-8 Southside Campus.  The rendering from Alvin Fairburn & Associates shows that both schools will have separate entrances at the front of the building, with a shared outdoor common area in the center of the complex.




Laine Hardy, American Idol Contestant

American Idol hopeful Laine Hardy, a recent graduate of French Settlement High School, is hoping his second chance at the big stage is the charm.  He has advanced to be among the popular talent show’s Top 10 contestants.  His renditions of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” and the Beatles’ classic “Come Together” have impressed the judges.

Hardy was a part of the last season of American Idol and hadn’t intended to audition this season — he attended a friend’s audition as support, to play guitar, but couldn’t say no when judges thrusted a Hollywood golden ticket at him after an impromptu performance.


March 2019


Superintendent Rick Wentzel

Superintendent Rick Wentzel told Livingston Parish School Board members at the Feb. 21 meeting that he will retire June 15, 2019.

“I have been honored to serve as superintendent of this great district, and to work with some of the state’s very best teachers and school administrators.  I couldn’t ask for a better job than the one you’ve allowed me to have over the past three years,” Wentzel said.  “But after much prayer and discussion with my family, I believe now is the right time for me to make this transition so I can spend more time with my family.”

School Board President Buddy Mincey, Jr., said the board will perform an extensive search for the best possible candidates to replace Wentzel.  The board expects to announce its selection before May 2019.



Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre, Walker High Pro-Start Student Amber Stroughter, Papa John’s Representative Dan Murphy and Livingston Parish Schools Career & Technical Supervisor Staci Polozola cut the ribbon for the on-campus location of the pizzeria.  The restaurant is operated by Pro-Start students, and it’s open from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Mondays-Fridays, and from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays.

Walker High School administrators, teachers, students and local business leaders participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 7 to celebrate four businesses opening locations on the new, expanded campus.

The four businesses include Papa John’s, Neighbors Federal Credit Union, Nike’ Apparel and Walk-On’s Conference Center.  All four businesses are jointly operated and managed by students and professional business professionals, and all four businesses are open to on-campus and off-campus customers.

“These partnerships offer our students real-life learning opportunities and valuable experience they can parlay into an immediate career or use to further their knowledge and skill-level for additional training in one of these career pathways,” Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre said.



The Livingston Parish Library recently announced it is partnering with Livingston Parish Public Schools to provide all students immediate access to the library’s digital resources and services through a new eCard program. The program automatically enrolls more than 26,000 LPPS students into the library system.

The new LPL eCard grants students access to all electronic resources provided by the library, ranging from scholastic databases that offer assistance, to homework, to resources offering downloadable eBooks, audiobooks and magazines. In addition, the LPL eCard will allow students to visit their local library branch to check out physical items such as books, DVDs, video games and more.



Albany High recognized its nutrition workers during a Saints-sponsored pep rally at the school. Pictured from left to right are, (front row) Livingston Parish Schools Child Nutrition Director Leah Smith; Albany High School Child Nutrition Technicians Janie Morgan, Jessica Lopez, and Amy Ellzey; Cafeteria Manager Scarlett Ray; Production Manager Shannon Davidson; Albany High Child Nutrition Technician Lindsay Pallia; Livingston Parish Schools Child Nutrition Special Programs Administrator Sommer Purvis, Saints Mascot Gumbo, (back row) Saints Tight End Josh Hill (#89), and Albany High School Child Nutrition Technicians Lynette Glascock and Wanda Anthony.

Albany High School won first place in the second year of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “No Kid Hungry: School Breakfast Challenge,” a contest aimed at increasing statewide breakfast participation.

The NFL Saints’ mascot, Gumbo, interacts with Albany High School students during a school-wide pep rally to celebrate the school wining first place in the “No Kid Hungry: School Breakfast Challenge.”

Albany High saw the highest increase of any school in the state, bumping up its breakfast participation by 65 percent.  Approximately 83 percent of Albany’s students eat a school-provided breakfast, through traditional breakfast services and the “Second Chance Breakfast” program, according to Child Nutrition Special Programs Administrator Sommer Purvis.

Purvis noted that all Livingston Parish students are eligible to receive a free breakfast.  She said the parish has seen an increase in breakfast participation over the last couple of years. Last year, French Settlement High and North Corbin Junior High were recognized for recording the highest increases of breakfast participation in the state.



Southside Elementary Principal Laura Williams and Southside Junior High Principal Wes Partin serve up jambalaya to children who participated in the STEAM Express Community Outreach event that was held on March 11.

The Livingston Parish STEAM Express recently headlined a community outreach event in the South Denham Springs residential area of Eastover Estates.  Educators were joined by volunteers from various parish organizations to provide a variety of learning activities, games and food for local families. More than 350 people attended the event.

“Taking learning into our communities is at the very heart of what we envision with our STEAM Express mobile classroom,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said.  “This event was a powerful opportunity for our teachers and school leaders to interact with our students and their parents in their home environment.  We want these families to know that we care about their wellbeing and the education of their children.”


February 2019


The Livingston Parish School Board approved plans to convert two buildings on the former Southside Elementary campus into a new STEM & Robotics Center for Denham Springs High School.

The new center will offer classes in partnership with LSU designed to enrich student learning in science, technology, engineering and math. The center will be run by the administration at Denham Springs High School.  Some of the courses planned for the center include Computational Thinking, Digital Storytelling, Intro to Engineering, as well as a suite of courses focusing on digital media and engineering.

Under an approved recovery plan by FEMA, the district will demolish all but two buildings on the Southside Elementary campus.  Those two buildings, which are valued at $2.1 million, will be restored to house the STEM & Robotics Center. The demolition of most of the campus and refurbishment of the two buildings are expected to complete before the start of the school in August 2019.



Livingston Parish Public Schools recognized 24 schools that were named 2018 Schools of Excellence.  The schools’ principals or designees were present at the January 24 school board meeting to receive placards of recognition for their schools.  Pictured, from left to right, are: (front row) Kathy Rodosta, Albany Lower Elementary; Stacey Viator, Levi Milton Elementary; Marty Henry, South Live Oak Elementary; Jo Jean Saucier, Albany Upper Elementary; Cassie Phelps, Maurepas School; Donna Sibley, Doyle Elementary; Lindy Gill, French Settlement Elementary; Kris Roundtree, Holden School; Beth Jones, Live Oak High School; Lee Hawkins, French Settlement High School; Lynette Wheat, Lewis Vincent Elementary; Julie Dugas, Freshwater Elementary; Lauren Kennedy, Juban Parc Elementary; (middle row) John Hill, Albany Middle; Michelle Wheeler, Live Oak Elementary; Michell Stone, North Live Oak Elementary; Kelly LaBauve, Eastside Elementary; Gail DeLee, Denham Springs Elementary; Kim Freeman, Albany High School; John Chewning, Springfield High School; Ken Magee, Denham Springs Freshman High; Kelly Jones, Denham Springs High School; Bryan Wax, Denham Springs Junior High; Dwayne Dykes, Springfield Middle School; (back row) Livingston Parish School Board Members Frank Parrino (seated) Devin Gregoire, Jeff Cox, Bo Graham, Brad Sharp, Buddy Mincey, Jr., Bradley Harris, Jan Benton and Kellee Hennessy-Dickerson; and Superintendent Rick Wentzel.

Livingston Parish Schools recently recognized 24 schools that were named 2018 Schools of Excellence by the Louisiana Department of Education for their academic progress.  The state’s Schools of Excellence include those schools that earn Top Gains status, which is a designation for academic progress at an “A” level; and Equity Honorees, which recognizes schools in the top 10 percent in Louisiana among targeted subgroups, including special needs students, English learners and economically disadvantaged students.

Nine schools earned Top Gains and Equity Honoree recognition: Denham Springs Elementary; Denham Springs Freshman High; Eastside Elementary; Holden School; Juban Parc Elementary; Live Oak High School; North Live Oak Elementary; South Live Oak Elementary; and Springfield High School.

Three schools earned Equity Honoree recognition: Albany High School; Denham Springs High School; and French Settlement High School.

Twelve schools earned Top Gains recognition: Albany Lower Elementary; Albany Middle School; Albany Upper Elementary; Denham Springs Junior High; Doyle Elementary; French Settlement Elementary; Freshwater Elementary; Levi Milton Elementary; Lewis Vincent Elementary; Live Oak Elementary; Maurepas School; and Springfield Middle School.



Albany Upper Elementary Fourth-Grader Wyatt Bull shows his 4-year-old sister, Dakota, how to use air pressure to launch a rocket made from a plastic drinking straw during the STEM Café on Saturday at the Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center in Walker.

More than 200 students and their parents gathered at the Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center on January 26 to engage in learning activities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math through a variety of hands-on games, exercises and demonstrations – many of which were made available by the Livingston Parish STEAM Express.

The Community STEM Café was presented by a variety of educational and professional groups from Southeastern Louisiana University, the Northshore Technical & Community College, the State of Louisiana, Livingston Parish Public Schools and independent STEM educational groups.

Livingston Parish Schools Instructional Technology Facilitator Nikki Lavergne said the local turnout for the event, which was the first to be held in Livingston Parish, exceeded expectations, including the popularity and demand for access to the STEAM Express, which is a mobile learning laboratory that is equipped with learning activities for students and parents.  The mobile classroom can be customized to focus on any field of learning and adapted for any age group.

“It’s just so exciting to see our students engage in learning activities, to have their parents engage in the activities with them, and for students and parents to leave with plans to seek out more educational materials on their favorite subjects,” Lavergne said.

Soaud Henni and her son, Wascom Henni, learn how to create an electrical charge from a banana during Saturday’s STEM Café, which was held at the Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center in Walker.  Wascom Henni is a pre-kindergarten student at Juban Parc Elementary.




Springfield High School Senior Andrew Larpenter.

Springfield High School Senior Andrew Larpenter has advanced to become a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, making him eligible for one of 7,500 National Merit Scholarships to be awarded this spring.

“We were excited to hear the news for Andrew,” Springfield High School Principal Spencer Harris said.  “He has all the ability and drive to be one of the most successful people to come through our school. We congratulate him on this national honor and wish him the very best for a bright future.”

To enter the National Merit competition, Larpenter had to take the PSAT test during his junior year of high school.  From the 1.6 million students who met entry requirements for the 2018 competition, approximately 16,000 were selected as semifinalists.  From that list, 7,500 finalists were chosen.



The Livingston Parish STEAM Express will headline a community outreach event in the South Denham Springs residential area of Eastover Estates on Monday, March 11 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. near the Light of the Word Church at the corner of Aztec Drive and Chickasaw Avenue.

Educators with STEAM Express will be joined by volunteers from the Livingston Parish Library, Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, Might Moms, Assess the Need, Stewart Medical Center, Jackets Against Destruction Decisions and teachers from Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High School to offer a variety of learning activities, games and food for local families.

“Taking learning into our communities is at the very heart of what we envision with our STEAM Express mobile classroom,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said.  “This will be our first true community outreach effort, and we are excited about partnering with others in our parish to engage our students and parents where they live.”


January 2019


Denham Springs School Board Member Buddy Mincey, Jr., was elected president of the Livingston Parish School Board on Thursday (Jan. 10) by his fellow board members.  David “Bo” Graham of Walker was elected board vice president.

The vote was the first official act of business taken by the newly sworn-in board, which includes four new members:  Brad Sharp of Livingston, District 1; Bradley Harris of Denham Springs, District 4; Frank Parrino of Springfield, District 8, and Devin Gregoire of Albany, District 9.  Those returning members include Kellee Hennessy-Dickerson of Watson, District 2; Jan Benton of Denham Springs, District 3; Buddy Mincey, Jr., of Denham Springs, District 5; Jeff Cox of Walker, District 6; and David “Bo” Graham of Walker, District 7; all of whom received no opposition for re-election to their seats.

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



Demolition crews have received clearance to begin tearing down the old Denham Springs Elementary, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High Schools that were severely damaged by the 2016 flood.

Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said the demolition of Denham Springs Elementary and Southside Junior High is being managed by Gremillion Industrial Services, while Insulation Technologies, Inc., received the contract to tear down Southside Elementary.  As part of these companies’ low bids, they have the option to salvage some of the schools’ buildings materials – including two-by-fours, screws, nails and metal – and resale these items.

Murphy said the cost for demolishing the three campuses is more than $650,000.  FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are paying 90 percent of the demolition costs, with the school system paying the remaining 10 percent, he said.

Demolition of all three campuses is expected to be completed by the end of February.

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



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

Four Livingston Parish students have been awarded this year’s “Yes I Can” Awards by Louisiana’s Council for Exceptional Children, making each of them eligible for the organization’s national awards program. The “Yes I Can” Awards recognize children and youth with exceptionalities who have demonstrated their determination and achievement in multiple ways.  The “Yes I Can” Awards review committee selects one winner each year in each of the following categories:  academics, arts, school and community activities, self-advocacy, technology and transition.

The parish’s four winners include Alisha Davis, a 5th grader at South Fork Elementary, who won in the art category; Timothy Bell, a 4th grader at Freshwater Elementary, who won in the academic category; Heaven Barker, a 3rd grader at Freshwater Elementary, who won in the technology category; and Carson Tullier, a 3rd grader at Juban Parc Elementary, who won in the self-advocacy category.



More than 20 teachers from 12 schools across the parish recently gathered at the Livingston Parish Public Schools’ Central Office for more than two hours on a January afternoon to learn how to customize for their students the many learning activities and games that are available on the STEAM Express.

“This workshop is in high demand.  It’s the fifth one we’ve scheduled since rolling out our STEAM Express,” Instructional Technology Facilitator Nikki Lavergne said.  “And we’ve already scheduled another one at the end of the month. Teachers are excited about the potential the STEAM Express brings with making learning more exciting and engaging, and more hands-on for our students and parents.”

The STEAM Express is a school bus that has been converted into a mobile classroom that is equipped with Wi-Fi, touch-screen monitors and laptops, and hands-on, interactive modules that are designed to help students creatively learn concepts in a variety of subject areas.  The flexible design allows educators to easily transition the bus set up from elementary-level activities to high school-level projects.

Lavergne said at least one person from each school must be fully trained in how to set up the equipment, how to program it and use it, and how to manage the learning time among the various activities, before that school can schedule the STEAM Express for a visit.

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



December 2018


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

Eastside Elementary School in Denham Springs has been named a National ESEA Distinguished School in recognition of the success of its education programs and academic progress by its students over the past year.

The Louisiana Department of Education submitted Eastside Elementary as its single statewide selection for the honor in the elementary category.   The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides additional resources for at-risk students and federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of public elementary and secondary education.

“We are excited that our efforts, and the tremendous progress of our students, have gained the attention of state education leaders and now, the national administrators who oversee many of the federally funded programs in our schools,” Eastside Elementary Principal Kelly LaBauve said.

The National ESEA Distinguished School award was given to less than 100 schools across the country that gained recognition for exceptional student achievement in 2018.  These honored schools demonstrate a wide array of strengths, including team approaches to teaching and learning, focused professional development opportunities for staff, individualized programs for student success and strong partnerships between the school, parents, and the community.



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

Juniors from Doyle, Holden and Maurepas high schools took home lessons from some of the parish’s leading business professionals who helped to host the Third Annual Student Business Conference, which is hosted by the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce.

Students divided into three groups and rotated among the professionals who provided lessons on preparing for job interviews, managing ethical issues and working in a team setting to accomplish goals.  The half-day conference was held at Carter Plantation in Springfield.




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

Students, educators and parents marched through the Lewis Vincent Elementary campus to celebrate their school being named a National Blue Ribbon School.  Lewis Vincent is one of only six schools in Louisiana to get the award this year, and only the second school ever in Livingston Parish to receive the award.  The marchers wore blue and grey t-shirts emblazoned with the National Blue Ribbon logo.



The Livingston Parish STEAM Express is on the road – and in communities – sharing learning activities with children and their parents.  The activities introduce fun learning concepts on important subjects in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.  Already, the STEAM Express has scheduled stops at nearly every campus in the parish, visited the parish’s libraries and participated in the Livingston Parish Fair and local parades.

“The idea is to take learning to students and their parents to introduce them to new and exciting concepts,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

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