Off to a good start

Published 9:42 am Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Bogalusa City School Board began its Monday Committee Meeting with a moment of silence for recently deceased former Superintendent Greg Genco.

Afterwards, it was business as usual as the School Board heard reports from the system’s various departments, especially in regard to the 3-week-old school year.

Child Welfare and Attendance Supervisor Phlesher Mingo was first up.

“On Aug. 20, our babies at pre-K started,” she said.

This year, the system added 3-year-olds to its student roster, and according to Mingo, all is proceeding well.

“We’re just full of joy over there,” she said, encouraging board members to visit Denhamtown Elementary, where the pre-K program is housed.

Regarding transportation, she said the district has worked to resolve some minor bus issues since the start of school and that the transportation system has grown better daily.

“We have not received any phone calls today,” said Mingo.

Maintenance Supervisor Vic Boyles said his department is currently working on the field house at Bogalusa High School. He said the roof and windows have been installed and most of the painting is complete. He added that doors and flooring for the facility have been ordered.

“They can move back in to utilize it,” he said, noting he has asked the athletic director to hold off on putting the weights back in until the flooring can be installed.

Besides the field house, the Maintenance Department has spent much of its time since the start of school resolving mostly minor A/C problems.

Superintendent Toni Breaux asked about air conditioning for the auditorium at Central Elementary, but Boyles said a tentative plan to move a unit from Pleasant Hill Elementary was not feasible because the unit is not powerful enough to cool the space. Instead, that unit will be installed at the BHS field house.

Child Nutrition Programs Supervisor Lorene Randazzo said the Summer Feeding Program served more than 14,000 meals.

With the district now offering free breakfast and lunch to all students enrolled, Randazzo said participation stands at 52 percent for breakfast and 77 percent for lunch as of Monday but added that participation continues to increase.

“We’re hoping we can grow this participation,” she said, noting letters had been sent to parents in an effort to increase awareness of the program.

Today Randazzo will be heading to Baton Rouge to meet with representatives from 15 other districts as well as USDA Deputy Under Secretary Dr. Janey Thornton and other USDA staff to have a roundtable discussion on their experiences implementing the free meal program and the challenges they face.

“Everything is running very well at Byrd Avenue and at Central,” said Debbie Jenkins, Elementary Curriculum and Instruction supervisor.

She said enrollment at Byrd Avenue, which now houses the district’s second-grade classes, continues to grow. Because of the better-than-expected growth, the school will need to hire another kindergarten teacher and another second-grade teacher, she said.

She also said the district will soon be adding an executive master teacher in the form of Alicia Carr of Jefferson Parish. Carr will be on campuses throughout the district four days per week.

“She is very capable, and this is a huge asset to Bogalusa Schools,” said Jenkins.

Of the state’s current indeterminate status regarding participation in Common Core, Jenkins said she has been advised to prepare students for the PARCC test.

“How can they justify stringing along the educational system?” asked board member Curtis Creel.

“It does put us in a pickle, but we’re going to continue to move forward,” Jenkins replied. “What we have to do is make sure our children understand the format.”

At the secondary level, Supervisor April Nobles spoke a little about a task force that has been assembled to tackle some of the high school’s most pressing academic needs, a topic the superintendent expounded on during her portion of the meeting.

Called Working to Improve Scholastic Excellence, or WISE, the team consists of the principal and assistant principals at Bogalusa High School as well as Breaux, Nobles, Jenkins, Shelley Gill and Central Principal Eric Greely.

“What we’re trying to do is get high school on the right track,” said Breaux. “We’ve all come together as a team.”

She said the team has established a plan to deal with the school’s deficiencies.

“It’s very similar to a school improvement plan,” said Nobles, who noted that some of the matters being addressed include raising standardized test scores and improving the graduation rate.

Personnel Supervisor Karla McGehee said the student population continues to grow but added that numbers are not finalized until October. She said on the first day of school the student population was recorded as 1,498 and that as of Monday it had risen to 1,730.

“Every day hopefully we’ll get more and more back,” she said.

A growing student population would certainly be welcome by Finance and Business Supervisor Deloris Walker, who told the School Board that the state is taking $105,000 per month from the district’s MFP funding because of students lost to other districts or the charter school. She said she will be fighting this decision as the numbers have yet to be finalized and has asked for a list of students in question so the claim can be validated.

“This is what we’re dealing with on a daily basis,” she said. “We’ve taken hit after hit.”

Despite the somewhat gloomy financial news, Breaux seemed resolute in her mission to turn the district around, not just academically, but in regard to discipline, as well.

She said she has been visiting classrooms since the start of school and observed some classes where there were no evident routines or procedures being followed, especially at the high school, and she let the board know that she placed the blame squarely on the administrators.

“It is incumbent on (the principal) to see that proper procedures are in place,” she said, adding, “It’s not about me. It’s about these students. Now is the time. I am going to make a difference.”