The West Feliciana Parish School Board met on Tuesday, January 29 for a regular meeting.
The board elected their officers for 2013. Kevin Beauchamp will serve again as President and Milton Coats will serve again as Vice President.
The board then recognized WF Middle School Principal Ben Necaise for being named Educator of the Year at a recent LACUE conference. Stephen Comfort, WFP Information System Analyst, said, “Sometimes you see things happening in a circle. About 30 years ago, while I was President of LACUE, we established this yearly award for outstanding leadership in computer education. Our goal was to acknowledge the great things going on in our state. We established many categories for awards, and the highest honor was and still is for Educator of the Year. This year, this award has come to our district, which is very exciting.” Jerome Matherne, Supervisor of Technical Services, who nominated Necaise, said, “It’s always good to have good material to work with. Ben has been a learner and a leader in the true fashion of what our system is doing to help everyone succeed. He has a willingness to do any kind of learning and he has a military honed leadership style. These things give him a great ability to take the technology that is provided and use it towards the success the students and the faculty in this district. When you nominate someone you ask what they have done to forward the technology used in the k-12 market. He has done something that is apparent to a lot of people by shepherding the 1-1 initiative at the middle school. So, we are fortunate to have Ben in our school system and to have him receive this award that is at the top of the ladder for the educational organizations in Louisiana.” About winning the award, Necaise said, “It’s not just an individual award. There are a lot of people that put a lot of time and effort into this, including our teachers and our students. They have blazed trails. We just keep looking for ways to become better, and often we get to the point where we realize that no one else is doing what we are doing. When I started in 2000, I remember very distinctly at the first faculty meeting we celebrated achieving one computer in every classroom. We had just gotten to that point just 12 years ago and it was a big deal. Then we celebrated having one for every group. I was looking over a college paper I had written about model schools and part of what I wrote was that every student should have a laptop, and so it is amazing to see that happening now. So, thank you to everyone that had a part in that.”
The Capitol Area United Way then presented the board with information on the Early Development Inventory that they will be doing in West Feliciana Parish. Dr. Geoffrey Nagle, Associate Professor at Tulane University and Director of the Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, described the process to the board. It is an assessment completed by kindergarten teachers in the spring using on line software. The teacher reports on the group level, and nothing is ever reported about individual children. The report is about how the children in the community are doing. The data is then used for community and activities planning. It’s not about grading schools or teachers. It is about the community coming together to better prepare young children for school. The data can be presented by showing the results within different neighborhoods in the parish with different categories of school readiness like social ability, emotional stability, vocabulary, communication skills and health. It will show leaders what is needed by neighborhood, and can help them cater to the specific needs of the children. West Feliciana’s results will be reported by our 3 census tracks. “Obviously, your community has been on the forefront of investing in early childhood development, but there are still children that are in need,” said Nagle. Nagle stressed that this will not report on any specific child, ever. It is about the community getting more information so that they can best prepare children for school. The parish will receive a community profile report on each of the three areas. This is the 4th year that this program is in the United States, and West Feliciana will be one of four districts implementing it this year.
Randy Metz with the WFP Sheriff’s Department then gave a report on school safety. Metz stated that the department, along with the St. Francisville Police Department, has been working on drills and emergency response plans at each of the schools and plans to have the new procedures fully implemented within two months. Each school must have a unique plan since each school is laid out differently. The last step will be to merge the new plans with the existing plans at the schools. To help increase school safety, the Sheriff’s Department will be adding a school resource officer, which will allow for one officer to be at each school at all times. They have also made a list of safety improvement suggestions for each school and will work with them to make the changes. Michael Thornhill, School Safety Supervisor, said the schools have each updated their crisis plans, which include evacuation routes and lockdown procedures. He stated that each school has held drills to help familiarize students and faculty with the procedures. Thornhill said that there are school wide communication systems in place along with security cameras, teachers on duty, warning and directional signs, visitor passes and school uniforms, which all help with school safety. The school system also has a call out system, which can immediately alert parents via phone with a recorded message. Thornhill reported that there are seven areas that still require improvement, which they will be working on throughout the year. Those areas include doors, locks and keys, gates and fences, security lighting, additional security cameras, more signs around the campuses, ID Badges, and to constantly upgrade policies and procedures.
The board then passed a motion to use funds from the Julius Freyhan Trust Fund to pay for window improvements up to $47,000 in the Julius Freyhan building. They also passed a motion to allow the Family Service Center to seek grants from several resources, which they do every year.
In the Superintendents report, Hollis Milton reported that WFHS Band trip was a huge success and that they brought home several trophies. He also reported that Zach Lester was named Beta Club’s State Treasurer. Milton reported that the Instructional Salary Committee is making progress and that the board will have a new teacher salary recommendation for approval on the March meeting agenda. Milton reported that Sharon Necaise, a WFHS ELA teacher, was chosen by the state DOE to work on Common Core Curriculum and the PARCC Assessments in an upcoming trip to Atlanta. The DOE is sponsoring and paying for the trip. Milton also reported that Claire Leming, a WFMS student, submitted artwork for a contest to promote the environment and was chosen to be published in the “Louisiana Waters: Protect, Conserve, Enjoy!” calendar. Two students, Eli Milton and Teiara Johnson, have artwork being displayed at the Governors Mansion for the month of February.
The next regular School Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 26 at 5 p.m.