Webster Parish School Board to hire Jump Start coordinator

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The school board unanimously agreed to advertise to hire a Jump Start coordinator to head up the initiative set in place by the Louisiana Department of Education.

During Monday’s meeting, board members discussed the importance of having such a position, and it was made clear by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls that this position is required by law.

“This program has now been in effect for a year and a half,” he said. “Part of the program is what we used to call the old cooperative program, where kids go out and work. It is for junior/senior students. This will be for students who elect to go into some type of career path.”

LDOE officials say the Jump Start program is a new model for career and technical education, requiring students to attain an industry-endorsed, industry-based credential in order to graduate high school. Officials say the state’s career diploma has fallen into disrepair, and students with career diplomas were not prepared to attain entry-level jobs in high industry sectors. Jump Start is the solution to this issue.

This program aligns Louisiana’s K-12 career and technical education with the state’s economic development strategies, officials say.

The problem, Rawls says, is the state is requiring it but again is underfunding it.

“You now have to start funding those vocational programs for all the materials and supplies they need, because they are under Jump Start,” he said. “That was one of the issues that we had with (State Superintendent) John White. The Louisiana State Association of

Superintendents wrote to legislators begging them to finance these new programs. The state passes the program, it’s handed to you and it’s underfunded. This is our first step in getting on board with someone who will set up this entire program.”

He explained some of what the new coordinator would do, saying the person hired will have to work with employers to supervise the students and make sure memorandums of understanding are signed between the schools and the employers. An evaluation rubric will have to be developed and a wealth of issues will need to be addressed.

Board President Charles Strong says he’s in favor of the concept, but, he says, the issue becomes having credible training taking place with actual oversight.

“The future of these children is too important to leave up to that, and I think that just adds to your concern, Dr. Rawls, that this position is going to be very busy,” he said. “It can be quite a challenge to see that all the bases are touched so that a quality product results.”

The new coordinator will be a 12-month employee who will be paid roughly $50,000 to $60,000 plus benefits.

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