WPSB hears school accountability presentation

Published 8:24 am Sunday, November 11, 2012

By Lucy Parker

The Daily News

The Washington Parish School Board Thursday night heard a presentation from Testing Coordinator Tricia Smith about the district and school accountability scores released last month by the Louisiana Department of Education.

In kindergarten through eighth grade, 10 percent of the school performance score, or SPS, is based on the attendance and non-dropout index and 90 percent on the assessment index, or standardized test result data, she said. At the high school level, 30 percent of the SPS is based on the cohort graduation index and 70 percent on the assessment index.

Each school received a school performance score and a corresponding letter grade. With an SPS of 110.3 and a letter grade of B, Franklinton High School was first in the district. Varnado High School and Wesley Ray Elementary were both given a D grade, and all other schools in the system were graded C.

Three schools, Franklinton High, Enon Elementary and Pine, were named “Top Gains” schools because they showed between two and 10 points of growth in their SPS from the 2010-11 school year to the 2011-12 school year, Smith said. Pine showed the biggest gain in the parish: 16.2 percent. All schools in the state showing at least 10 points of growth will receive funds to be used for educational materials, although the amount Pine will receive has yet to be announced, she said.

A District Performance Score, or “roll up” of all students, is also reported, with 10 percent of the score based on the attendance and non-dropout index and 90 percent on the assessment index, Smith said. The system had a score of 99.1 this year.

“Last year we were 91.8, so we had some pretty good growth there in Washington Parish,” Smith said.

The WPSS received a C grade and is ranked 43 out of 72 districts. The system, Smith said, has a free and reduced lunch rate of 84 percent and has one of the highest poverty rankings in the state, coming in at 11 out of 69 districts.

“If you look at the 13 highest poverty districts in the state of Louisiana, there are only four Cs,” she said. “One is Washington Parish, one is St. John the Baptist, one is Red River and one is East Carroll.”

None of the high-poverty districts were graded A or B, Smith said.

The District Performance Score has increased each year since 2006, when it was at 82.8.

“Over the past several years, Washington Parish has continuously moved forward,” Smith said. “Our scores have continued to grow. Our teachers are working very hard. Our students are progressing, and it’s evident by our District Performance Scores.”

The board also adopted a resolution that will allow the refinancing of $12,180,000 in general obligation school refunding bonds for Consolidated School District No. 4.

About $14 million in bonds was eligible for refinancing at a lower interest rate, said C. Grant Schlueter, of the firm Foley & Judell. The new interest rate on the outstanding bonds will be 2.64 percent, where the rate had previously been up to 4.55 percent.

“It’s an extremely healthy refinancing,” he said. “It has one of the highest percentage savings of the ones that I’ve seen across that state. It’s very high for a school board refinancing.”

The savings will go to the property tax payers, not the school board, Schlueter said.

“It’s all to save the taxpayers money,” he said. “After all costs of the refunding, total savings to taxpayers is over $1,633,000 over the remaining life of the bond issue. You’re reducing payments on the outstanding bonds by about $357,000 per year, through final maturity in 2023.”

The refinancing will take place through Capital One Bank, and the transaction will be closed Dec. 18, Schleuter said.

The current millage rate is 28.5, and it is projected to drop to between 23.5 and 24 mills, depending on the reassessment, Finance Director Beth Keaton said.

Additionally, the board gave Director of Technology Jimmy Thigpen permission to advertise for bids for telecommunications services and equipment for next school year, one of the requirements for e-rate funding; approved giving a restricted allocation to the schools that do not have city water or sewage, which is to be used if they have a problem with their water well; and recognized Franklinton High School for being one of 20 schools in the state to receive a College Readiness Award based on its students’ ACT scores.

Also approved were allocations to the schools for the spring semester of the 2012-13 school year of $254,480, based on $45 each for pre-K, elementary and junior high pupil and $50 per high school pupil, and advertising on Nov. 14 and 21 for surplus playground equipment at the old Franklinton Elem-entary School and Varnado Elementary School sites. That will include things like swing sets and slides but not basketball goal at the old Franklinton Elementary, Superintendent Darrell Fairburn said.