School board hears idea for new school

Published 1:11 pm Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Bogalusa City School District’s search for a new approach to education might start with an in-system charter school for gifted and talented students and ultimately include other specialty schools focused on things like engineering and career technology.

Kimberly Williams, a consultant with Millennium Education, told the School Board Monday that she’d met with Superintendent Toni Breaux and system supervisors to discuss innovative ideas to improve the educational opportunities for students.

The hope is to bring back students who have left the system, attract others and to keep those who are currently in the system.

Williams said there are “several unique options we can offer.”

“We talked about an art school and a gifted and talented school,” she said. “We could create a pre-K through 12 school that serves the truly talented and highest performing students at a single site.”

Such a school could be designed to make use of local musicians, actors and other artists, all overseen by a master teacher, in a non-traditional way that could deepen the learning and improve academic performance, Williams said.

The state Department of Education would allow a Type 4 charter school if the board enters into an agreement with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the new school would fall under the board’s jurisdiction without the red tape required by other charters, she said.

Believe and Succeed and Early Childhood grants could provide funding.

Williams suggested the school start with initial elementary and high school grade levels and then grow to a full pre-K through 12th grade.

Once the creative arts/gifted and talented school gets established, it could be a “pipeline,” or model, for other specialty schools designed to address needs of other students, she said.

Board members questioned the charter idea’s potential benefit for a school system struggling with an overall D rating.

“We are in a situation at the present,” said Paul Kates. “How is this going to get us out of it?”

Williams said the new school could benefit the whole by doing well itself.

“Over time, there is no reason it should not be an A or B school,” she said. “It gives a whole child experience.”

Kates and Board President Adam Kemp expressed concerns that moving many of the system’s highest academically performing students to one school could hurt the other schools, their students, and the system as a whole.

“What if the other schools go down?” Kates asked.

If other schools decline, the district could evaluate and address “the needs of those kids” and ultimately maybe even offer a school with a focus on intensive intervention, Williams said.

Board Member Brad Williams said the plan could possibly allow teachers to spend more time with a special population.

“What’s going to happen to our very high number of special ed students?” he asked. “At this point, we’re not doing good.”

Raymond Mims said some special education students are talented. Kimberly Williams agreed and said that all-important parental involvement would be encouraged by the shows and programs at the new school.

Williams said the grant applications are due on March 7, and a charter school program must be designed before the application is submitted.

She asked the board to contract her to start the process of evaluating a new school model, in partnership with the system and with public input, and then to write the grant applications.

Williams said she is typically paid monthly on a not-to-exceed dollar amount basis, and she would forward a proposal to the board before Thursday’s regular meeting.

In other business, Child Welfare and Attendance and Transportation Supervisor Phlesher Mingo told the board that, in response to public requests, pre-K to 3 classes will be offered at Denhamtown School starting in the 2014-15 school year. She said Breaux gave her permission to move forward with a plan to add three classes for 3-year-olds.

And Supervisor of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction April Nobles announced that the school system is the second in the state to offer a new mobile communications application from School Connect.

The free app, available through Jostens, enables Apple and Android users to access district and school information, including student grades and activity calendars, and to receive notices in real time via push and email messaging.

The School Connect app can be downloaded from the App Store and goes live on Monday, Feb. 3, Nobles said.