April 2023

SCHOOL BOARD IMPLEMENTS CHANGES IN RESPONSE TO EMPLOYEE CONCERNS

The Livingston Parish Public School Board recently voted to approve a series of recommendations by the administration to address employee concerns and burdens, including ending the school year a full week early.

The board voted to move up the end of school for this year to May 19, rather than the scheduled May 26 date, allowing teachers to work virtually during that week if deemed appropriate by their campus principals. The virtual work week will allow the teachers to meet their contractual obligations.

Other action taken by the board included:

  • Limiting the scheduling of parent-teacher conferences to a teacher’s contracted hours and during that teacher’s non-instructional time;
  • Giving principals the discretion to discontinue any non-essential club or activity that takes place outside the sponsor’s contracted work period for which they are not being compensated; such activity may continue if the sponsor is compensated. This action does not impact those after-school activities for which sponsors are currently receiving a stipend.
  • Not requiring school employees to work outside their contracted work hours to assist with athletic events or other extracurricular events, such as manning the gate, working concessions, or performing other related activities. For the remainder of the school year, any such after-hours tasks can only be filled voluntarily by an employee, or the employee shall be compensated at the discretion of the principal.
  • Contracting with a third-party consultant to perform an analysis of the district’s staffing and salary structure.

Superintendent Joe Murphy said he presented the measures for board consideration in response to concerns from school employees across the district.

“The recommendations presented are a culmination of the information we have received at the central office staff, and through the Livingston Parish Teacher’s Association (LPTA) and the Livingston Parish Principals’ Association,” Murphy said. “I believe these changes are a starting point to help us through the end of the year, but I think we all know that we must have a plan for moving forward.”

Murphy noted that the concerns have compiled over the current school year, but school leaders had hoped the approval of a March 25 ballot measure to give a 10-percent pay raise to all employees would diminish some frustrations.

However, Livingston Parish voters rejected a 1-cent sale tax proposal that would have funded the salary increases. In addition to reducing employee frustrations, the pay increases are needed to allow Livingston Parish Public Schools to compete with employee pay scales in neighboring school districts.  Currently, the district ranks last in the region.

 

DISTRICT’S TOP PERFORMERS RECOGNIZED

School leaders with Livingston Parish Public Schools recently held a district-wide ceremony of celebration at the Walker High School gym to honor those students, teachers, principals, and staff workers who have been recognized as top performers in their respective categories.

At the same time, those schools receiving academic achievement awards from the Louisiana Department of Education were also recognized.

“This event is always a wonderful occasion to showcase some of our district’s top-performing professionals and top-performing students.  These are the people who are leading the push for excellence in our district,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

Pictured below are the district’s top winners. A full listing of award recipients and school honors is available on the district’s webpage.

Pictured, from left to right, are Livingston Parish’s 2023 Elementary Student of the Year Adeline Wolfe, Juban Parc Elementary; Middle School Student of the Year Sadie Foster, Southside Junior High; High School Student of the Year Sylvia White, Live Oak High School; and Superintendent Joe Murphy.

 

 

Pictured, from left to right, are Livingston Parish’s Elementary Principal of the Year Lauren Kennedy, Juban Parc Elementary; Superintendent Joe Murphy; Middle School Principal of the Year Brian Gunter, Westside Junior High School; and High School Principal of the Year Jason St. Pierre, Walker High School.

Pictured, from left to right, are Livingston Parish’s Middle School Teacher of the Year Tara Hymel, North Corbin Junior High; High School Teacher of the Year Yvette Hill, Springfield High School; Superintendent Joe Murphy, and Elementary Teacher of the Year Brice Larson, Northside Elementary.

 

Pictured with Superintendent Joe Murphy are this year’s New Teacher of the Year winners, Phoenix LeBlanc, Albany Middle School, left, and Payton O’Nellion, Albany Lower Elementary, right.

 

March 2023

 

VOTERS TO DECIDE FUTURE OF LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOLS

Livingston Parish voters have an opportunity in the March 25 election to improve the district’s ability to hire and retain qualified employees.  The ballot includes a 1-cent sales tax proposition to fund a 10-percent salary increase, with a minimum $2,500 pay raise, for all Livingston Parish Public School employees.

The funding is needed to enable the district to compete with neighboring school systems.  Currently, Livingston Parish Public Schools ranks last in nearly every employee pay category, when compared to other districts nearby.  That disparity has caused many experienced employees to leave the district for higher pay, while also lessening the ability of local schools to attract new qualified hires.

For more information on the proposition and how the dedicated funds will be utilized, visit Livingston1Cent.com.

 

DISTRICT HOSTS CAREER FAIR ON APRIL 1

Livingston Parish Public Schools is hosting a district-wide Career Fair on Saturday, April 1, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Southside Campus, located at 26535 La. Hwy 16 in Denham Springs.

Applicants for job positions are needed in all classifications across the district, including teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, food service technicians, maintenance workers, technology specialists and various special education professionals, according to Human Resources Supervisor Steve Vampran.  He noted that the Career Fair is not for current employees, but for prospective candidates to add to the district team.

Vampran said the district held its Career Fair last year in June, but this year’s event was scheduled earlier to allow Livingston Parish to compete with other school districts that are hosting similar job fairs in the coming weeks.

“This is a highly competitive environment,” he said. “We decided to move our event up earlier in the year to allow our administrators and school principals an opportunity to interview more candidates.”

Vampran said persons interested in working for Livingston Parish Public Schools can fill out an online registration form, which is available at www.lpsb.org.

 

SPRINGFIELD HIGH SCHOOL’S ROBOTIC TEAM QUALIFIES FOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

The Springfield High School “Bulldog Bytes” robotics team recently finished as the runner-up in the Louisiana State Championship Robotics Team competition, earning a spot in the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas, in April.

The team consisted of 23 students, ranging from grades 6 to 12, who utilized computer science and engineering skills to program and operate robots to perform a range of timed tasks. They competed against student teams from other schools across the state.

“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to qualify a team to compete in the state tournament; so to have made that tournament and qualify for the Worlds is a dream come true,” Springfield High School STEM Club Sponsor and Robotics Team Coach Yvette Hill said.

The VEX Robotics Competition High School Event is scheduled for April 25-27 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.

 

LIVINGSTON PARISH SCHOOLS TO HOST 2023 STEAM EXPO

Livingston Parish Public Schools will host its 2023 STEAM Expo on April 29, giving students and their family members an opportunity to experience and access fun hands-on activities related to science, technology, engineering, art and math.

The event will be held at the Denham Springs High School STEM & Robotics Center, located at 1129 S. Range Avenue in Denham Springs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The goal of STEAM education is to provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century by fostering creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. STEAM education helps students to see how these subjects are interconnected and how they can be applied to real-world problems.

Last year’s event attracted nearly 1,000 community members and more than 40 vendor participants.  District organizers anticipate this year’s event to be even larger.

 

February 2023

PAY RAISE PROPOSAL ON MARCH 25 BALLOT

A 1-cent sales tax proposal to fund a pay raise for all Livingston Parish Public School employees will be on the March 25, 2023, ballot.  The new tax is projected to raise $24 million each year in recurring revenue, enabling the district to give a 10% across-the-board pay increase, including a minimum of $2,500 per year increase for the district’s lowest paid employees.

The pay increase is needed to allow the district to compete with neighboring school systems. Currently, Livingston Parish Public Schools ranks last in the local region in pay, causing many qualified employees to leave for higher-paying positions elsewhere.

Members of the Livingston Parish Educational Facilities Improvement District (EFID) met last year and voted to seek voter approval of the funding proposal to address the urgent need. The 1-cent sales tax will NOT apply to purchases made on groceries, prescriptions, and gasoline. It is dedicated to paying LPPS salaries and benefits and subject to a 20-year renewal.

Election Day is March 25, 2023, and Early Voting will be held March 11-18. Visit Livingston1Cent.com for more information.

 

SUMMER SCHOOL DATES AND GUIDELINES ANNOUNCED

The district has announced dates and guidelines for summer remediation courses that will be provided to students, following the results of end-of-year testing and/or course results this school year.  Those programs include:

  • 8th Grade Summer Remediation – June 19-23
  • High School Summer Remediation – June 19-23 and June 26-29
  • 3rd & 4th Grade Summer Boost – July 17-21

Supervisor of Assessment and Accountability Kelly LaBauve said this year’s summer remediation sessions for 8th graders and high school students will be fewer days, but classes will be held for six hours per day; while the session for 3rd and 4th graders will be held later in the summer, and those classes will extend for eight hours per day.

She said summer remediation will be recommended to those 8th graders who do not pass due to pupil progression requirements, and to high school students who need help with improving LEAP assessments that are required for graduation.

The summer boost session will be offered to students in grades 3 and 4 who score below the “core” rating on the state’s DIBELS 8 literacy screening test that is given near the end of the school year.  The session is being provided in response to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (BESE) policy revision; most notably, Bulletin 1566, which addresses students at-risk in developing grade-level literacy skills.

Those students in 4th grade who do not meet pupil progression requirements will also attend the Summer Boost session.

 

January 2023

4 NEW MEMBERS, 5 RETURNING MEMBERS MAKE UP SCHOOL BOARD

Livingston Parish School Board members include, from left to right, Katelyn Lockhart Cockerham, Brad Sharp, Jeff Frizell, Bradley Harris, Cecil Harris (president), Steve Link, Jeff Cox (vice president), Dr. Ron McMorris, and Kellee Dickerson.

Those new and returning members of the Livingston Parish School Board took their oath of office on Jan. 5 to begin their term, which runs from 2023 through 2027.

The four new members include Jeff Frizell, District 3, who ran unopposed; Katelyn Lockhart Cockerham, District 7; Dr. Ronald McMorris, District 8; and Stephen Link, District 9. Returning to office are Brad Sharp, District 1; Kellee Dickerson, District 2; Bradley Harris, District 4; Cecil Harris, District 5; and Jeffery Cox, District 6.

The new board members, after taking their oath of office, presided over their first meeting, which included the election of the board president and vice president.  Cecil Harris was elected board president and Cox was named board vice president.  Both votes were unanimous.

 

DISTRICT TO HOLD PUBLIC MEETINGS ON PAY RAISE PROPOSITION

Livingston Parish school leaders will hold five public meeting in February to provide information and answer questions on the Livingston Parish Education Facilities Improvement District’s (EFID) proposal to utilize a parish-wide 1-cent sales tax to fund much-needed pay raises for all district employees.

The school funding proposition will be on the March 25 ballot, with early voting from March 11-18.

The 1-cent sales tax proposal is projected to raise $24 million each year in recurring revenue, allowing the district to give a 10-percent across-the-board pay raise to employees, or a minimum increase of $2,500 per employee.  The 1-cent sales tax would NOT apply to purchases made on groceries, prescriptions and gasoline, and all funds will be dedicated to paying salaries.

Public meetings on the Livingston 1-Cent Funding Proposition will be held as follows:

  • Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the Denham Springs High School cafeteria
  • Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Live Oak High School cafeteria
  • Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Albany High School cafeteria
  • Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Springfield High School library
  • Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Walker High School gymnasium, in conjunction with the school’s scheduling fair.

For more information on the Livingston 1-Cent Funding Proposition, visit Livingston1cent.com.

 

SCHOOL BOARD BANS CRITICAL RACE THEORY

One of the last actions taken in December 2022 by the outgoing school board was the passage of a resolution opposing critical race theory and “other race-based training.” The resolution passed without opposition or public comment.

“Pertinent instruction regarding history of racism and inequality in America should not purport to deliberately undermine race groups, student/family values, religious beliefs, or founding principles,” the Livingston Parish School Board resolution says.

The text also underscores that teachers and other adults employed in the district should not engage in any type of academic materials not explicitly approved by the school board, adding that “political activism has no place in the professional development for teachers, administrators, or other employees and likewise has no place in the instruction given to the children entrusted to our care by the parents of this parish.”

“Our action was to ease the minds of many concerned parents,” said Dr. Devin Gregoire, who made the motion to pass the resolution. “It’s more of a preventative measure. We already had been looking to avoid those pitfalls in our curriculum. We just wanted to put something down as policy to alleviate fears from the parents.”

 

REGISTRATION & APPLICATION PROCESSES FOR KINDERGARTEN & PRE-K STUDENTS ANNOUNCED

Parents who wish to apply for pre-kindergarten for their child in the upcoming school year should visit applytolppsearlychildhood.com to access the application form and upload the required documents.

Required documentation must be submitted electronically during one of three application rounds – (1) Feb. 1 to May 1, (2) May 16 to June 15, or (3) June 20 and beyond. Parents of Pre-K applicants must upload copies of a certified birth certificate, Social Security card, immunization record, parent/guardian ID, proof of residency (utility bills) and proof of income for every adult in the household.

Parents of Pre-K students needing assistance with their application can visit their child’s home-based school on March 30 between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.  Hours for Albany Lower Elementary are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Parents of children who will enter Kindergarten in the upcoming school year and who are not currently enrolled in a Pre-K class in Livingston Parish Public Schools should go to www.lpsb.org and click the “Parent Resources” tab to access the registration form and online portal for uploading documents.  That portal opens on March 6. The documents required to be electronically submitted include a certified birth certificate, Social Security card, immunization records, parent/guardian ID, and proof of residency (utility bills). A child must have turned 5 years old on or before Sept. 30, 2023, to be eligible to register for kindergarten.

Parents of incoming Kindergarten students will be able to visit their child’s home-based school on March 30 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.  Those parents visiting Albany Lower Elementary can visit from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

December 2022

SCHOOL BOARD SUPPORTS RECOMMENDATION TO PUT 1-CENT SALES TAX ON MARCH 2023 BALLOT

The Livingston Parish School Board voted this month to approve the recommendation of the Educational Facilities Improvement District (EFID) to seek voter approval of a 1-cent sales tax to fund pay raises for all employees of Livingston Parish Public Schools. The tax would be subject to voter approval every 20 years.

Board members will request that the Louisiana Secretary of State put the ballot proposition on the March 25, 2023, election ballot.

The 1-cent parish-wide sales tax will be exempt on groceries, prescriptions, and gasoline. It is estimated to bring in $24 million annually, which will enable the school system to give its employees a much needed 10-percent pay raise or a minimum $2,500 annual increase.

The proposed pay increase will allow the Livingston Parish School System to better compete for qualified personnel and to retain its best teachers and instructional staff who have become highly targeted recruits by neighboring school systems.

Currently Livingston Parish Schools ranks dead last (out of six local districts) in pay for beginning teachers, and remains near the bottom, fifth out of six, for pay for teachers with 25 years of experience. The six neighboring districts include Ascension Parish, Central Community Schools, East Baton Rouge Parish, Livingston Parish, Tangipahoa Parish, and Zachary Community Schools.

“We have looked at the books, and we’ve compared the salaries our school system currently pays to what’s being paid in neighboring school districts, and it’s clear – we’re fighting a losing battle right now,” said EFID Board Chairman Thomas “Bruiser” Bryson of Springfield, a retired SFC U.S. Army.

EFID Board Member Kayla Johnson, a realtor in Denham Springs, said, “Our entire parish economy is built on the backs of our school system employees.”

“If our school system continues to lose people and continues to decline, then our parish will become very stagnant and begin losing many of the amenities we have gained over the years – that would mean a loss in retail options, fewer restaurants, less medical resources, and fewer jobs in our communities,” Johnson said.  “What we’re talking about is bigger than just paying teachers!”

 

LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS SLIP IN STATE RANKINGS, DISTRICT PERFORMANCE SCORE REMAINS STATIC

Livingston Parish Public Schools’ academic performance remained static with the district’s pre-COVID scores, according to this year’s state accountability report; however, that performance fell short of the state’s top-ten ranking, unlike past comparisons.

According to the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2022 report, which was released last month, Livingston Schools received an 88.5 District Performance Score (DPS), which is equal to the score awarded in 2019; but that score, which was worthy of a top-ten ranking in 2019, now received the state’s 11th best position.

Superintendent Joe Murphy said a breakdown of the data shows the district’s performance is being challenged in those areas where the district is experiencing staffing recruitment and retention issues as evidenced by the national, state, and local crisis in the teaching profession.

“First, let me say that for our district to hold student performance steady for the past two years through the pandemic and major storms, like Hurricane Ida, is a testament to all our employees and their dedication to our children. But the fact that we have not grown our overall score, and we are seeing a fall in our assessment scores, is evidence of the crisis we are facing,” Murphy said. “We must make every effort to recruit and retain the very best and brightest educational minds.”

 

SCHOOL LEADERS CUT RIBBON ON NEW DSHS ATHLETIC FACILITIES

Participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony in DSHS Yellow Jacket Stadium, from left to right, were: Superintendent Joe Murphy; Jamie Seal of Quality Engineering; Jennifer Curtis and Joe Staffioto of Coleman Partners Architects; Assistant Supt. Jody Purvis; State Rep. Buddy Mincey, Jr.; School Board Member Brad Harris; DSHS Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Bret Beard; School Board Member Jan Benton; District Maintenance Director Jerry Glascock; Blake Panepinto of Stuart Construction; Rev. Lynn Ridrique, pastor of Northside Baptist Church; School Board President Cecil Harris; Dwayne Mizell of Stuart Construction; Nicole Ridrique of Northside Baptist Church; Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry, DSHS Track & Field Coach Andy McLean; and DSHS Principal Wes Howard.

Livingston Parish school leaders held a ribbon cutting ceremony on the 50-yard line of the newly renovated Yellow Jacket Stadium field, prior to the start of a LHSAA Division 5A Playoff game, to formally celebrate the completion of the new athletic facilities on the Denham Springs High School campus.

Livingston Parish School Board President Cecil Harris recognized those individuals and organizations that participated in the planning, design, and construction of the various projects, including Coleman Partners Architects, Stuart Construction, Quality Engineering, Northside Baptist Church, City of Denham Springs and the DSHS and LPPS administrators, athletic and maintenance staff. He also thanked voters in Denham Springs who approved the April 2021 ballot request to extend an existing 8.64 mills to pay for the $13 million in improvements.

The completed construction projects include the resurfacing and realignment of Yellow Jacket Stadium, improved parking, a new stadium entry, a new track and field events facility, a new field house, expanded weight rooms, a new marching band practice area, and the addition of baseball and softball complexes on site.

 

LOCAL ROTC STUDENTS ASSIST IN PURPLE HEART CITY DECLARATIONS

Walker city leaders, veterans, active military personnel, and ROTC cadets pose for a picture after the Walker City Council approved a proclamation declaring the city as a Purple Heart City during its meeting in September. Picture provided by Livingston Parish News.

 

Denham Springs city leaders, veterans, active military personnel and ROTC cadets pose for a picture after the Denham Springs City Council approved a proclamation declaring the city as a Purple Heart City during its meeting in August. Picture provided by Livingston Parish News.

ROTC cadets from Denham Springs High School and Walker High School recently assisted local leaders in their respective cities in performing ceremonies that declared both Denham Springs and Walker to be “Purple Heart Cities.” The declarations recognized those military service personnel who sacrificed to defend the nation’s freedom.

The Purple Heart is a U.S. military decoration awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving with the military. It evolved from the Badge of Military Merit and was created by General George Washington in 1782.  More than 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been presented to service members, according to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

For a city to be declared a “Purple Heart City,” a mayor or city council must deliver an official proclamation, which is presented to the local chapter of the military order of the Purple Heart.  The City of Denham Springs became the sixth Purple Heart City in the state in August, followed by the City of Walker, which became the seventh in September.

November 2022

CHAMBER LEADERS UNVEIL CURBSIDE CAFE

Livingston Parish’s high school and junior high school students will soon have an opportunity to try new foods and weigh-in on whether to add them to school menus thanks to a new food serving “Curbside Café” trailer that has been created by the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Leadership Team.

The team unveiled the food serving trailer at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 3 at the Denham Springs High School STEM & Robotics Center. The trailer is the outcome of the team’s M.E.A.L.S. project, which stands for Meal Education & Awareness for Livingston Schools.

The “Curbside Café” is a mobile container that has been customized to include kitchen equipment and the necessary specifications for food service.

Pictured, from left to right, are: (back row) Amanda Cook (Brandy Robertson State Farm Insurance), Gene Higginbotham (LPSO), Steve Bernard (Client Technology Services), Thomas Lockhart (Black Label Holdings Real Estate), Jeff Taylor (Livingston Parish Assessor), Jamie Seal (Quality Engineering), April Wehrs (LP Chamber of Commerce President/CEO), Vanissa Murphy (Quality Engineering), Gary O’Neal (C.H. Fenstermaker), Jessie Stewart (Pelican State Credit Union), Tim McMasters (Livingston Parish Assessor’s Office); (front row) Angela Alessi (Holmes Building Materials), Heather Rosenthal (Edward Jones Investments), Chris Neal (Pelican State Credit Union), Amanda Seals (Ochsner Health), Leah Smith (Fika Skon), Lance Landry (LPSO), Christine Patrick (LP Chamber of Commerce),Sommer Purvis (LPPS Child Nutrition), Nicky Gautreau (Bank of Zachary); Kim McDonald (Bank of Zachary), Christina Coats (LPPS Child Nutrition), Jon Burckel (All Star Automotive Group), LP Councilman Garry Talbert; and Brandy Robertson (Brandy Robertson State Farm Insurance).

 

 

HOLDEN SCHOOL AND LIVE OAK HIGH SCHOOL NAMED COGNIA SCHOOLS OF DISTINCTION

Holden School and Live Oak High School have been named 2022 Cognia™ Schools of Distinction for excellence in education.

Cognia is a global, nonprofit improvement organization dedicated to helping institutions and other education providers grow learners, teachers, and leaders. The organization recognizes pre-K to Grade 12 education institutions that exemplify excellence in education and service to learners.

Cognia selected 96 schools in the United States and Puerto Rico and nine in other countries across the globe as 2022 Schools of Distinction.

Holden School and Live Oak High participated in Cognia’s rigorous Accreditation Engagement Review process, which is based on research-based performance standards. The process included a third-party review by education experts of evidence, interviews, and classroom observations. The evaluation covered Leadership Capacity, Learning Capacity, and Resource Capacity, as well as a demonstrated commitment to continuous improvement.

“These Livingston Parish Schools are to be commended on their recognition as Schools of Distinction,” Cognia President and CEO Dr. Mark A. Elgart said. “Cognia Accreditation is already a mark of distinction recognized around the world. Being named a School or System of Distinction further recognizes the commitment to education quality Live Oak High and Holden School have for their learners.”

 

SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES COMPENSATION PACKAGE FOR BUS DRIVERS

The Livingston Parish School Board, on a vote of 8 to 1, approved a compensation package last month that would pay drivers $10 per extra run that exceeded their normally assigned monthly routes.

To track the route information, the board also created 30 Driver Team Leaders and agreed to compensate those drivers an additional $1,500 annually.

Superintendent Joe Murphy said the action was made possible by district administrators submitting a letter to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education earlier this school year requesting that the board declare a bus driver critical shortage to allow for a compensation change to comply with federal labor laws.

 

HIGH SCHOOLERS FROM DOYLE AND HOLDEN LEARN ABOUT POST-GRADUATE OPPORTUNITIES

More than 300 high schoolers and family members from the Livingston and Holden communities gathered in the Doyle High School gymnasium on Oct. 18 to participate in a College and Career Fair that included displays and activities from a variety of local industry representatives, businesses, and post-secondary vocational schools and institutions.

“The purpose of the event was to provide our students with valuable information regarding post-graduate opportunities.  Students and their family members were able to ask questions and talk one-on-one with representatives,” Doyle High School Principal Lance Dawsey said.

Dawsey noted that students, teachers, school administrators and community members from Holden joined the Doyle High community for the event.

Doyle High School student Natalie Mincin and her parents speak with representatives from the Baton Rouge General School of Radiologic Technology.

 

 

Doyle High Schools students Jace Ware, Samantha Davis and Bella Baldwin, pictured left to right, speak with a representative from Tulane University about the many course degrees and extracurricular programs at the university.

October 2022

GROUNDBREAKING AND “BRICK-BREAKING” CEREMONIES CELEBRATE CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

Livingston Parish School officials recently traveled from one side of the parish to the other to hold ceremonies to commemorate the start of construction for two new facilities.

A groundbreaking for the new Live Oak High School Institute of Medicine, Aviation & the Arts in the Watson community was held on the school’s grounds on Oct. 5, while a “brick breaking” for a new cafeteria for Albany Lower Elementary and Albany Upper Elementary, located in the Town of Albany, was held at the existing cafeteria site on Oct. 10.

“It’s exciting to see the plans we have for addressing needs in our district are becoming reality,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.  “The needs that are being met by these two projects demonstrate the broad spectrum of care provided to our students. Livingston Schools is committed to meeting the needs of the whole child – from providing daily nutrition to expanded opportunities for learning.”

Live Oak High School Principal Beth Jones said the new institute on her campus will focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning areas that offer introductory material in the fields of medicine, aviation, and the arts.  Jones said the new institute will be named for the district’s current Career & Technical Education Coordinator Staci Polozola.

Albany School Board Member Dr. Devin Gregoire said the new expanded cafeteria will allow better scheduled lunch breaks during the school day, as well as give child nutrition staff an updated, modern workspace.  He said the new facility will be constructed with funds gained from the newly approved half-cent sales tax that Albany voters approved in April.

Those participating in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new LOHS Institute of Medicine, Aviation & The Arts were, pictured, left to right, Assistant Superintendents Bruce Chaffin, Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis, Chris Bankston of Gasaway, Gasaway, Bankston Architects, Duane Mizell of Stuart & Company General Contractors, Superintendent Joe Murphy, LOHS Principal Beth Jones, LOHS Student Sylvia White, School Board Member Kellee Hennessy Dickerson, State Rep. Valarie Hodges, and Monica Perez of Gasaway, Gasaway, Bankston Architects.

The school food technicians who work at the cafeteria for Albany Lower Elementary and Albany Upper Elementary participated in the “brick breaking” ceremony to commemorate the construction of a new larger cafeteria. Pictured from left to right are: Food Technicians Jodie Clark, Chloe Guidry and Rachell Moriarty, School Board Member Dr. Devin Gregoire, Albany Upper Elementary Principal Jo Jean Saucier, Food Technicians Sandra Caldwell and Tandra Arbour, Director of Child Nutrition Programs Sommer Purvis, Food Technician Crystal Stewart, Albany Lower Elementary Principal Robin Stewart, and Food Technicians Jenny Bertrand, Lynnette Glascock, Larrilyn Owens, and Bonnie DiGiovanni.

COMMUNITY VISITS NEW K-8 SOUTHSIDE CAMPUS

School officials held a community celebration on Oct. 15 to commemorate the opening of the new Southside Campus, which houses the K-5 Southside Elementary and 6-8 Southside Junior High School.  Activities included presentations by school and elected officials, a tour of the campus and lunch for participants.

As part of the event, school officials also unveiled the naming of the campus’ interior courtyard as the J. Rogers Pope Courtyard.  The courtyard is named for State Sen. J. Rogers Pope. Pope has been a life-long educator in the Livingston Parish Public School System, including the first principal of Southside Junior High School when it opened in 1976.  He has served as a teacher, coach, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent in the system.  He was selected the Louisiana Superintendent of the Year in 2000 and became the elected president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents in 2001. Pope is currently serving his 15th year as a state legislator.

Community members, parents, students and school employees gathered in the Southside Campus Courtyard on Oct. 15 to celebrate the opening of the new school and tour the campus facilities. Superintendent Joe Murphy emceed the event, which included several dignitaries and former school staff and district leaders.

State Sen. J. Rogers Pope, pictured with his wife Pat Pope, was honored at the Southside Campus Community Event on Oct. 15, as school officials unveiled the new name of the school’s courtyard as the J. Rogers Pope Courtyard.

 

FRENCH SETTLEMENT HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER NAMED TO STATE ADVISORY COUNCIL

Erik Willie, French Settlement High School teacher and member of the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2022-2023 Teacher Advisory Council

French Settlement High School Teacher Erik Willie has been named a member of the Louisiana Department of Education’s (LDOE) 2022-2023 Teacher Advisory Council.

Louisiana’s inaugural Teacher Advisory Council includes 22 classroom leaders from a wide range of backgrounds and educational settings. This cohort of educators will meet with Superintendent Cade Brumley quarterly to share feedback on current education initiatives and offer insight on how Louisiana can continue to improve student outcomes.

“I am excited to have this opportunity to have a seat at the table to discuss vital issues that need the voice of those who work closest to Louisiana’s children – our teachers,” Willie said.

Willie currently teaches 7th and 8th grade math, Introduction to Engineering and Design Through Project Lead the Way at French Settlement High School. He has been a math instructor for the past six years.  He has served in the role of middle school classroom teacher, RTI Tutor, virtual learning instructor and adult education instructor.

 

LIVE OAK STUDENT NAMED NATIONAL MERIT SEMIFINALIST

Live Oak High Senior Mackenzie Himel has been named a National Merit Semifinalist.

Mackenzie Himel, a senior at Live Oak High School, has been named a National Merit Semifinalist.

Himel is one of 235 high school seniors in Louisiana to be awarded the distinction to compete for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship.  Each year, about 16,000 semifinalists are selected across the nation.  Only about half will be chosen to win the top scholarship.

She is the daughter of Alan and Tiffany Reynerson and Jonathan Himel.  She plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania after graduation where she wants to pursue an undergraduate degree in biomedicine.  Himel said she wants to eventually go to medical school.

By becoming a National Merit Semifinalist, Himel is in the running for scholarships to be announced in the spring.

September 2022

SCHOOL BOARD CREATES EFID TO REVIEW FUNDING OPTIONS FOR HIGHER SALARIES

The Livingston Parish School Board voted this month to create an Educational Facilities Improvement District (EFID) to review local funding options for improving salaries for all Livingston Parish School System employees.

The Louisiana Legislature recently enacted a “state of emergency” statute to allow many school districts to create EFIDs for the purpose of addressing local funding shortages for their essential needs. The legislation recognizes that existing conditions in many school districts could be “detrimental to the learning environment of the children they serve” if not remedied.

“Livingston Parish Public Schools, like many other school districts in our state, is facing the very serious threat of maintaining a highly qualified teaching corps, along with skilled, reliable staff members, to provide our students with the quality education they deserve and need to prepare them for the 21st Century,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

“To remedy this growing problem, we must find a way to pay our people more, so we can effectively recruit the area’s best educators and keep them in our schools for years to come,” he said.

The newly created EFID will have the ability as other governmental political districts to seek local taxpayer funding for the limited purpose of supporting financial needs in the school system, most clearly, the need for higher salaries throughout the district.

The school board is expected to name appointees to the board in the coming weeks, and at that time the members will call a public meeting to review the school district’s current funding status and review options for additional revenue.

 

ASST. SUPERINTENDENT CHAFFIN RECEIVES SLU COLLEGE OF EDUCATION DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD

Bruce Chaffin is the 2022 recipient of Southeastern Louisiana University’s College of Education Distinguished Alumni Award.

Assistant Superintendent Bruce Chaffin will join an elite group of educational leaders next month when he is recognized as the 2022 Distinguished Alumnus by Southeastern Louisiana University’s (SLU) College of Education. SLU will celebrate Chaffin’s achievements during its annual Alumni Awards Evening on Oct. 7.

Chaffin was appointed Livingston Schools’ Assistant Superintendent in May of this year.  He previously served 10 years as Supervisor of Instruction and Personnel, overseeing much of the district’s human resources and business operations.  In that capacity, he volunteered on multiple state and national committees that advance school business operations, including the American Association of School Personnel Administrators and the Louisiana Association of School Personnel Administrators, which he currently serves as President Elect. He also serves on the Louisiana Teacher Recovery, Recruitment and Retention Task Force created recently by the Louisiana Legislature.

Chaffin has been an expert speaker to various groups across the nation, addressing attendance initiatives, substitute pay and better communications in schools.  He also was 1 of 27 educators in the nation to have first received certification as a Human Capital Leader in Education.

Chaffin’s resume also includes stints as principal, assistant principal, teacher and coach.

 

LIVINGSTON SCHOOLS WINS NATIONAL AWARD FOR VOTER INFORMATION CAMPAIGN

Public Relations Consultant Delia A. Taylor, APR, president of Taylor Media Services, (center) by the Livingston Parish School Board for having received a 1st Place National Award from the National Federation of Press Women for her management of the 2021 Denham Springs Bond Extension Election to fund the improvement of athletic facilities at Denham Springs High School.  She is pictured with her family and school leaders.  Pictured from left to right are: Superintendent Joe Murphy, Denham Springs School Board Members Jan Benton and Cecil Harris; Jeff Taylor, Delia Taylor, Caroline Taylor, Denham Springs School Board Member Bradley Harris, and Zachary Taylor.

Livingston Parish Public Schools has been recognized nationally for its efforts to communicate the 2021 bond proposition requesting funding for athletic facility improvements at Denham Springs High School.

The National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) presented the 1st Place Award for the nation’s top public relations campaign to Delia A. Taylor, APR, president of Taylor Media Services, for her management of the school system’s campaign. The award was presented at the NFPW National Conference in Fargo, North Dakota over the summer.

The award entry noted how the district effectively utilized several communication platforms to reach the target voting audience, including printed fliers, videos, outdoor signage, direct mail, public speaking engagements, social media, and school communications.  Effective press coverage and the engagement of community support groups were also lauded in the report.

The bond election, which was held April 24, 2021, asked voters in the Denham Springs School District to extend an existing 8.64 mills currently on the tax rolls to fund much-needed athletic facility improvements at Denham Springs High School.  The ballot measure passed by a vote of 76-percent in favor of the funding plan.

“Much credit goes to our Denham Springs board members for their leadership in this effort, and to Mrs. (Delia) Taylor for her guidance and expertise in the campaign.  Every element of the campaign was professionally delivered in a transparent manner that allowed voters in the Denham Springs area to easily understand the importance of the funding request and what deliverables to expect from the district,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

 

FOUR SCHOOL BOARD SEATS TO BE DECIDED IN NOVEMBER ELECTION

Races will be held for four seats on the Livingston Parish School Board, as more than one person qualified as a candidate in District 4, 7, 8 and 9, following the election qualifying period in July.  The election will be held on Nov. 8 in those school board districts. Those candidates include:

  • District 4 – Incumbent Bradley Harris (R) and Jeff Pendergrass (R)
  • District 7 – Katelyn Lockhart Cockerham (R) and Ryan Pope (R)
  • District 8 – Ron McMorris (R) and Monica Madere Sullivan (R)
  • District 9 – Incumbent Devin Gregoire (R) and Steve Link (R)

Four current board members – Brad Sharp of District 1, Kellie Dickerson of District 2, Cecil Harris of District 5, and Jeffery Coxe of District 6 – will return to their seats unopposed; while in District 2, Jeff Frizell will assume the post as he was the only person to qualify to run for the seat following Jan Benton’s announcement that she would not seek re-election. Board member Bo Graham (District 7) is not seeking re-election, and interim Board Member Norman Picou (District 8) agreed to only serve his appointment through the end of the calendar year. Frank Parrino, the person elected to the District 8 seat, resigned earlier this year due to health complications.

 

August 2022

SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES LARGEST COMPENSATION PACKAGE EVER

District employees will experience their largest local compensation package ever this school year thanks to the school board’s approval of a payroll proposal submitted by Superintendent Joe Murphy.

Murphy presented a pay increase proposal that included a permanent boost from the state, which was approved by the State Legislature in the 2022 General Session — $1,500 for teachers and district educators, and $750 for classified staff.  That pay increase will be “supplemented” by the local district under Murphy’s plan, to include another $500 for teachers and district educators and $250 for classified staff.

He said these added supplements obligate the district to dedicate an additional $1.9 million each year to salaries and benefits.

“These combined increases give our teachers a permanent pay raise of $2,000 per person, and our classified staff a pay raise of $1,000 per person,” Murphy said. He noted that these increases would be retroactive to July 1, 2022.

In addition to the permanent increases, the board approved a one-time supplement of $1,000 for every employee, plus a 3-percent salary supplement as calculated after the other increases are put into place for the 2022-2023 school year. The supplements will be paid in two installments, with half of the amount issued on Nov. 4, 2022, and the remaining half of the amount issued on May 5, 2023.

Murphy noted that these supplements are expected to cost $10.7 million, and those monies will be pulled from the district’s general fund.

 

SOUTHSIDE K-8 CAMPUS OPENS NEARLY 6 YEARS AFTER FLOOD

The hallway connecting the elementary and junior high sections provides much open space, easy access to the open library, and is decorated with banners that commemorate milestone events in the timelines of the two schools.

After being in temporary buildings for nearly six years, the students and staff of Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High now occupy a new shared campus in Denham Springs.

“This is the culmination of the combined efforts of so many,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said. He thanked Alvin Fairburn & Associates of Denham Springs, who designed the new campus, and Womack Construction, who managed the construction.

The elementary campus (grades K-5) can hold 800 students and occupies the right-facing side of the complex.  The junior high (grades 6-8) accommodates 1,000 students and occupies the left-facing side of the complex.

The rear section includes the band room, gymnasium, multi-purpose room and cafeteria that can be sectioned off for the different grade levels or opened to accommodate large gatherings.   A two-story, glass-walled library occupies the center of the main building, near the administrative offices, overlooking a large outdoor courtyard.

The school buildings have been built at an elevation of 9 ½ feet higher than the previous school complex.

Murphy said school officials plan to hold a community open house at the campus in the coming weeks, to allow parents, former Southside students and local community members to see the new facilities.

The new Southside K-8 campus includes a central courtyard that can be accessed from the main front building and rear building.  The courtyard has a turfed surface and provides covered gathering areas for organized student activities, and well as free time.

 

 

 

ASSESS THE NEED PROVIDES SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR PARISH STUDENTS

Volunteers with this year’s Assess the Need campaign have been in full action in August, collecting donations at area Associated Grocers stores and distributing supplies to every campus in the parish.

Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor, who is in his 22nd consecutive year of sponsoring the program, said more than 3,000 students have benefitted from this year’s efforts.  He also noted that the program is providing some “follow up” assistance, as requested by the schools, to assist families that may not have been included in the original count or who have additional needs.

“We are thankful to the people of Livingston Parish for their generosity and unwavering support of our program.  We want to thank our many business sponsors, our donors, and our volunteers, including several teachers and school officials who assisted us. We are so glad we can come together as a community to make a positive impact in the lives of our children,” Taylor said.

School officials assisted with this year’s Assess the Need school supply distribution effort.  Supplies for more than 3,000 students were sorted for schools to pick up at the district’s Automotive Center at the Literacy & Technology Center in Walker.  Pictured, from left to right, are Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis, volunteer Delia Taylor, Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor, and Assistant Superintendent Bruce Chaffin. (Photo provided by David Norman, courtesy of The Advocate.)

 

LEAP SCORES SHOW DISTRICT CONTINUES TO RANK AMONG STATE’S TOP 10 IN ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

Livingston Parish Public Schools ranks among the Top 10 public-school districts in Louisiana for the percentage of students in grades 3-12 who scored Mastery or Advanced on the state’s accountability exams, according to the latest Louisiana Department of Education report.

The state’s 2021-2022 report on LEAP scores showed that 41 percent of all students in grades 3-12 who took the LEAP 2025 exams last year scored at the two highest performing levels.

Albany High School was among the state’s top one-year growth schools, improving its overall percentage of Mastery and Advanced scores by 14 percent – jumping from 28 percent to 42 percent.

“The state’s full accountability measure, which encompasses many different components, will not be released until later this fall.  It will be at that time that our curriculum leaders will use that data to gain a better perspective on our efforts, and where we may need to improve our strategies,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

STATE TASK FORCE CREATED TO STUDY CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS

Pictured standing, left to right, are Dr. Monty Sullivan, president of Louisiana Community and Technical College System; Dr. Ashley Mullens, director of LCTCS Rural Innovation Education & Broadband Division; Dr. Janet Pope, executive director of Louisiana School Boards Association; State Rep. Buddy Mincey; and seated, Louisiana House of Representatives Speaker Clay Schexnayder.

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System recently hosted the inaugural meeting of the newly formed Workforce Opportunity and Readiness Task Force, which was formed during the 2022 legislative session to study workforce readiness programs and activities in the state’s public schools.

“In order for Louisiana to be competitive with surrounding states, we must do our best to develop educational programs that engage and motivate our students outside of traditional programs,” said State Rep. Buddy Mincey of Denham Springs, who authored HCR 81 Resolution, creating the task force. “Our economy needs a trained workforce, who can meet high demand occupations that will provide long-term foundational support for a robust and growing economy.”

Over the next 18 months, the task force will identify successful practices and develop recommendations for promoting successful career and technical education programs across Louisiana. It will submit an initial report of its findings and recommendations by January 2023, with a final written report due by January 2024.

 

July 2022

LIVE OAK JUNIOR HIGH GYM DESTROYED BY FIRE

A fire erupted in the Live Oak Junior High School gymnasium on June 22, destroying the building.

Nine local and nearby fire districts responded to the call, stabilizing the blaze by lunchtime, and successfully protecting surrounding classroom buildings from damage. The gym’s interior was destroyed by fire, smoke and water damage, as well as the fire caused the roof to become insecure, causing firefighters to abandon their work on the inside of the building at one point and only fight the blaze from the exterior.

“This is a tragic loss for the Watson community, as this building certainly holds many memories for so many. We are grateful that no one was injured, and we want to thank the 70-plus men and women who quickly responded to quench the fire and save the other buildings on our campus from being damaged,” Livingston Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

Murphy said school officials will continue to work with the fire district investigators and the State Fire Marshall’s Office to get a full report on the blaze, and then determine the appropriate action for clean-up and rebuilding efforts.

The Livingston Parish Fire District 4 ladder truck stands outside the burning Live Oak Junior High School gym.  The gym is reported to be destroyed by fire, smoke, and water damage; however, all adjacent buildings on the campus were saved from any damage.

 

Livingston Parish Fire District 5 Chief Joe Koczrowski points to the compromised roof structure, as barely seen through the smoke and debris inside the damaged Live Oak Junior High gym.

 

 

DISTRICT TO PROVIDE EMPLOYEES WITH COMPREHENSIVE MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

Employees of the Livingston Parish School System are now eligible to receive comprehensive mental health care for them and their dependents, thanks to the district’s investment in a new benefits package.

Superintendent Joe Murphy said the district has investment in services provided by TotalCare EAP, offering employees, their spouses and dependents, access to counseling services designed to address significant life problems. The benefits include counseling and guidance on issues such as career and education, parenting, cyber safety, human resources and supervisor management, challenges of military deployment or simply coping with “tough times.” Those “tough times” may include relationship issues, depression, grief, eating disorders, financial or legal struggles, retirement planning or quality of life issues.

“It’s important that we give our employees all the tools they need to effectively do their job, and sometimes that includes assistance with coping with difficult challenges,” Murphy said.

“We all know that issues we deal with in the home can impact our performance on the job, just as difficult days at work can negatively impact our home life.  The two lives are not inseparable, so we want to give our people the resources they need to manage issues on the campus and in their homes in a healthy, productive way.”

Many of the services provided by TotalCare EAP can be accessed online, through tele-med or tele-health appointments, or by having access to a wealth of collected wellness information, videos and blogs.  The service also provides employees with a list of local physicians or certified counselors who could assist with their health care needs.

 

PICOU SERVES AS DISTRICT 8 ACTING BOARD MEMBER

Norman Picou, acting board member for Livingston Parish School Board District 8

The Livingston Parish School Board recently appointed long-time educator, basketball coach and school administrator Norman Picou to serve as the acting board member for District 8, following the early departure of board member Frank Parrino.

Parrino resigned his seat due to health complications. His term was scheduled to run through the end of the calendar year.  Elections for all parish school board seats will be held this fall with elected candidates taking office in January 2023. The primary election for the school board seats will be held Nov. 8, and the run-off election, if necessary, will be held Dec. 10.

“I retired from the system with nearly 35 years of experience in education, including 23 in Livingston Parish.  I felt that serving in this temporary capacity would be a way of giving back to the system and helping out District 8 until the voters could choose a new representative,” said Picou.  He did not qualify to run for the open seat.