Education

Apr 5, 2012 1:07 AM by Jim Hummel

Superintendent Cooper Presents Turnaround Plan For Lafayette Parish Schools

At Wednesday night's Lafayette Parish School Board meeting, Superintendent Pat Cooper presented his turnaround plan for the district.

Over the next six years, Cooper is proposing big changes to improve the school system's standing with the Department of Education, from its current "C-rating" to an "A."

"It's going to be messy for two or three months," Cooper told a standing-room only audience. "But then, we're going to have this six-year plan that's going to be clear as a bell."

The plan includes sweeping reforms to the following areas: academics, health/wellness, facilities/maintenance/grounds, and communications/outreach. Reforms in those areas were proposed by four corresponding task forces and subcommittees.

Many of the proposals are on the academic side, and include, but are not limited to the following:
-Establishing an Early Childhood Department to provide services for all children from birth to 5 years of age.
-Reformatting the district calendar to have four, 9-week grading periods, with one week intercessions for either in-service or remediation.
-Implementing block scheduling in middle schools
-Lowering the pupil/teacher ratio in K-5 classrooms to 20/1.
-Hiring a "Supervisor of the Arts" to develop, coordinate and supervise a comprehensive arts-in-education program, in compliance with BESE directives.
-Creating a new combined alternative education site to provide academic, behavioral and career services to students.
-Completely renovating the NP Moss Annex campus.
-Extending the school day by one hour to implement an 8th period for all students scoring below basic on state testing in 3rd through 10th grade.
-Integrating technology to gather a variety of data on student achievement.

Among the facilities/maintenance/grounds reforms, the task force hopes to accomplish three objectives. The first is implementing an effective and efficient system for maintaining, cleaning, and renovating buildings. The second is to re-visit the master plan in hopes of developing a strategy for refurbishing/re-building facilities for the long-term. The third objective is to increase student and teacher performance.

Among the health/wellness proposals, the task force recommends random drug testing for 2% of students in grades 5-12. The plan also calls for classroom-based health education programs, which would be mandated in the K-9 curriculum.

Among the communication/outreach proposals, the task force recommends providing a central location to access information/services, in the form of a parent hotline.

Dr. Cooper says implementing the plan will require a major re-organization of the school system. "[The public] can expect to see a leaner central office, most of the personnel are going to be embedded in the schools, helping the principals and teachers with the academic enhancement we want for our children," he said.

The school board did not take any action on the turnaround proposal Wednesday night, but board members are expected to vote on the plan's overall concept at their April 18th meeting. At that meeting the board will be voting on specifics for the first year of the plan, so that Cooper and his team can begin the process of budgeting and re-organization.

"I do not know what the plan is going to cost," said Cooper. "What we do know is when we put the plan in place, it will be one that can live within the means of the school district."

At least one public forum is already planned before the board votes on the concept. The Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council is sponsoring a community meeting Tuesday, April 10th, starting at 6 pm, at the David Thibodaux Career & Technical High School.

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