School district coverage is key in 2022 – The Observer

A strong school system is key to attracting families and building our community. As hectic as the past two years have been for all of us, our local school system has endured even more of a mad dash.

Since 2020, public schools in the parish of Saint-Jean-Baptiste have:

  • Bounced between in-person and virtual learning with 1:1 technology as required by the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures for natural disasters and other weather events.
  • Hired a new superintendent, Dr. Lynett Hookfin, amid the pandemic.
  • Had to make budget cuts to solve a financial crisis, while striving to offer teachers salaries competitive with neighboring districts.
  • Face the sudden collapse and eventual demolition of the long-vacant Godchaux High School.
  • Repair several school sites damaged by winds over 130 miles per hour during Hurricane Ida, one of the worst storms to ever hit St. John Parish.
  • Propose strategies to account for learning loss that reduced school and district simulated performance scores.

Of course, there are still great achievements underway across all school sites, and THE OBSERVER will strive to tell more inspiring stories of hard-working students and teachers in 2022. As for the challenges faced by the school district, my goal has never been to point fingers or lay blame. Much of what has happened over the past two years was unplanned and beyond anyone’s control. I hope that by examining these challenges, we can inform our residents of the steps being taken to strengthen our schools and our community.

The school board is meeting for a board retreat on Monday, January 24 and Tuesday, January 25 at the Embassy Suites Hotel, located at 4914 Constitution Avenue in Baton Rouge. The session will start at 9 a.m. each day.

I will be in close communication with Superintendent Hookfin to follow up on coverage of the following topics:

  • school board financial update, including funding for upcoming capital projects, employee salary schedule, and best practices for attracting and retaining qualified teachers;
  • Plans to address learning losses with a breakdown of gaps in various school sites;
  • An update on Hurricane Ida repairs to school sites, including East St. John and Emily C. Watkins, with plans to care for East St. John students returning to learning fulltime.

I am looking for parents, teachers and students to speak candidly about their experiences during these unusual and difficult times so that we can all better understand the kind of support needed at the district level.

Brooke R. Cantrelle is editor-in-chief of the newspaper L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at brooke.robichaux@lobserver.com.

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