November 2017


The Livingston Parish Public School System recently announced its top teachers of the year. Superintendent Rick Wentzel, Director of Curriculum Dawn Rush, Title 1 Coordinator Tammy Kuhn and Title 2 Coordinator Debbie Kropog made the rounds to visit the winning teachers, presenting each with a trio of gifts in front of their students.

Livingston Parish Elementary Teacher of the Year Dane’ Long is pictured with her second graders at Live Oak Elementary

Dané Long, a second grade teacher at Live Oak Elementary, is the parish’s Elementary Teacher of Year. She is a 16-year veteran educator who says her strongest skill is to teach students to read.  Long spent her first 12 years as a first grade teacher, and the last four as a second grade teacher – all at Live Oak Elementary.

Livingston Parish Middle School Teacher Kimberly Lejeune, pictured back middle, was recognized by Superintendent Rick Wentzel, back left; Live Oak Middle Principal Ryan Hodges, back right; and some of her students.

Kimberly Lejeune, an English/language arts and science teacher at Live Oak Middle, is the parish’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. She has 18 years of experience in the classroom, where she emphasizes hands-on learning and finds ways to spark curiosity with her students.  She is in her first year teaching ELA and science at Live Oak Middle.  She began her career at North Live Oak Elementary.

Livingston Parish High School Teacher of the Year Jessica Bonura is recognized with some of her Live Oak High School students and the paraprofessionals who work with them.


Jessica Bonura, a significant disabilities/autism (SDA) teacher at Live Oak High School, is the parish’s High School Teacher of the Year. Bonura began her career as an SDA teacher 12 years ago, and has been on a mission to change the “negative stigma” surrounding her students and other like them. Her work stems from a personal experience of having a son born with Downs Syndrome.

Each school in the parish submitted a nomination for Teacher of the Years honors.  Each nomination included a portfolio detailing the career of the nominee.  A selection committee reviewed the applicants and narrowed the selection down to two finalists for each of the grade levels – elementary, middle and high school.  Those two finalists in each category were brought in for face-to-face interviews where they were asked questions on an array of topics, including what they believe to be the biggest struggles in education today and how they would explain the Louisiana school system to someone from another state.

The three winners are required to submit videos of themselves in their classroom setting as part of the state competitions at the regional and state levels.



Live Oak High School and Walker High School recently announced they have received grants from the National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI) to improve student achievement through expanded access to challenging coursework. In particular, the grants help to fund teacher development and student participation and achievement in the Advanced Placement (AP) program.

Both NMSI grants are for a three-year period. Live Oak High School received $714,909, and Walker High School received $482,902.  Through this partnership, the two high schools hope to dramatically increase the number of students taking and earning qualifying scores on AP math, science, computer science, and English exams.

Research has shown that students involved in AP math, science and English classes with the NMSI partnership have a dramatic increase in qualifying scores on exams. Research also shows that students with AP scores of 2 or higher have a significantly higher college GPA over students who have not taken AP courses. This is one of the leading indicators of success in college.

The grant pays 50 percent of exam fees for AP Math, Science, English and Computer Science classes. Students receive $100 for every 3, 4, or 5 earned in these classes. The grant is providing training for teachers during the summer and throughout the school year through the College Readiness Program. It also provides money for these teachers to use in their classrooms.

Live Oak High has students enrolled in 645 AP exams for the 2017-2018 school year. Walker High School offers 12 AP courses and has 178 students scheduled to take 229 AP exams this school year.

Walker High School Principal Jason St. Pierre, pictured front left, and the school’s Advanced Placement students recently accepted a check from the National Math & Science Initiative to expand access to challenging coursework and improve student achievement. Also pictured are NMSI’s Taylor Bunn, standing next to St. Pierre, and Chad Spurgeon, standing right of the check.



Well before the first bell of the school day rings at French Settlement High School or Maurepas School, one can find a small group of students already at work. Some students have laptops in hand, punching out final edits to their written stories, while others are adjusting audio levels on mics or setting up lighting equipment in bright green production rooms.

The busy mornings are routine for the digital media classes at these two schools as they do the necessary prep work to broadcast a live daily newscast at each of their schools – “Good Morning, French Settlement!” and “Good Morning, Maurepas!” respectively.

Teacher Janet Blankenship works with the students to develop news stories, and to edit copy and piece together bits of recorded video to fill up the newscasts. She began teaching a digital media class at Springfield High, and has now expanded her efforts to Maurepas and French Settlement this year.

School Board Member Jim Richardson helped to spearhead the initiative. He invested some of the district’s funds into the equipment and to pay Blankenship’s salary.  She shares time between French Settlement and Springfield and oversees the efforts at Maurepas from afar, where two of the school’s teachers help to coordinate broadcasts there.  Springfield High does not produce a live daily broadcast.

The daily broadcast episodes at French Settlement High and Maurepas School feature student interviews about current events or personal topics, weather reports, state and national news updates, sports news and updates on the school’s lunch menu and activities calendar.

Walker High School also offers its students a digital media elective. Currently about 55 students are enrolled in the class on that campus, which teaches them to use video editing equipment, operate broadcast video equipment and produce live broadcasts.

In the control room, producing “Good Morning, French Settlement!,” clockwise from the left, Brittany Bonin, Faith Farris, Chase McCreary, Brayden Aime, Dawson Marlow, teacher Janet Blankenship and Charles Samson. Photo courtesy of The Advocate




Students and faculty at Maurepas School will host their 13th Annual French Café on Dec. 7 from 5-8 p.m. to raise funds to buy Christmas presents and food for children of less fortunate families in the community.

Café patrons will be able enjoy food, entertainment and activities. The evening will include a Silent Auction, where people can bid on artistic pieces and crafts; the “Raffle for a Basket,” where people can purchase raffle tickets to win a huge basket full of goodies; Santa’s Little Workshop; a Cake Walk; an Ornament for a Donation; and a Christmas program.

Last year’s event raised more than $8,900, which provided presents to more than 100 children and also provided students with school supplies, uniforms and even graduation fees. The event raised just over $5,000 the year before.



Live Oak Junior High was one of 12 schools that recently competed in the 17th annual mathematics competition sponsored by the Department of Math and Computer Science at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts on Nov. 16.

The other schools were Natchitoches Magnet School, Caddo Middle Magnet School, Rapides Academy, St. John Berchman’s Cathedral School, D’Arbonne Woods Charter School, Rusheon Middle School, St. Jude School, NSU Middle Lab School, Cope Middle School, Sterlington Middle School, and Grace Christian School.

The contest consisted of individual and team competitions. The exercises in each contest came from algebra, geometry and other areas of mathematics, and not from any specific curriculum. The questions were designed to challenge students to draw from their knowledge of mathematics, to think, to synthesize concepts and to solve problems.

Members of the Live Oak Junior High math team work on a problem during the team competition at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts in Natchitoches.