City school scores dip slightly

Published 4:39 am Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Bogalusa City School Board was notified Thursday that district scores slipped 2.5 points in the last year.

The school is still rated “D,” a letter grade it has held for the last two years. For the 2015-2016 school year, the district is ranked at 59.1.

The dip in the district score was due to a decline in the high school numbers. In the past year, the high school has dropped 4.9 points for a rank of 58.5.

All the results weren’t bad though, as Central Elementary School improved more than 11 points, from 49.8 to 61.1 points.

Both schools are ranked D.

The school board members seemed frustrated and Superintendent Toni Breaux said she was also let down.

“You’re upset — well, I’m upset too because I wanted to get out of here on a positive note,” she said.

Breaux has already submitted her resignation for the end of this year. Breaux said there are a number of factors that the district is fighting against.

“We have too big of a turnover every year,” she said.

After the meeting, in an interview, Breaux said she estimates somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of the teaching staff leaves at the end of any given year and they all have to be replaced. She said teachers don’t want to move to Bogalusa because the pay is low and they leave as soon as they’re offered jobs in St. Tammany Parish. This means the district often has to hire teachers who are not certified to teach, or teachers who don’t want to be here.

Breaux also said top students frequently leave the city schools and go to parish schools, leaving the city schools with the worst-performing students.

“Our best students go to the outlying parish schools,” said Breaux. “I know for a fact that Washington Parish will not accept students if they’re not ‘A’ or ‘B’ students and they can’t have behavioral problems, so they take the cream of the crop. And this happens every year.”

Paul Kates said if the citizens of Bogalusa want better city schools they have to keep their kids in city schools.

“The citizens of Bogalusa are the ones keeping the system down, because they’re sending our children to other places,” he said.

Kates also said poverty and the single-parent households are contributing factors to the low district performance.

Nevertheless, Breaux said she’s put effort into improving Bogalusa High School, and she hopes that work will result in higher scores next November.

Recently, Breaux replaced Leslie McKinley as principal and installed Tonyah Jefferson as principal and Breaux said she’s made other adjustments, as well. Overall, she added that this year is going better than last year, at least in terms of discipline.

“Discipline is excellent,” she said. “We’ve had tremendous improvement this year.

“Last year at this particular time, we had 60 some kids who were going to ARC, the alternative school at Northside. And this year at the same time we’ve only had six students go to ARC.”

During the school board meeting, board president Curtis Creel asked why students at Central Elementary School were back in block lessons. For the past two years, the students in grades three through five had gone to subject-specific courses. However, this year students returned to the old schedule, in which a single teacher teaches all the subjects.

Creel asked why it was a good idea to change, particularly after an 11-point increase in scores.

Debbie Jenkins, the testing coordinator for the district, said switching elementary school students so frequently was disruptive. She said it also led to a system where teachers could not adequately assess who needed extra help in a subject, because the teachers were not spending enough time with a student.

After the meeting, Breaux said she is holding the principals more accountable, and she is hopeful that will make a difference in school scores.

“A lot of times I want principals to be able to run their schools and make educational decisions, but it’s not working all the time,” she said. “So I’ll have to be a lot more in tune to what they’re doing to hold them accountable.”