The Webster Parish School Board held its regular meeting as well as a curriculum committee meeting Monday, March 5.
More than an hour of the meeting was spent in executive session to discuss the widely publicized religion lawsuit against the school board, as well as two workers’ compensation suits. Upon reentry of regular session, the board voted to accept the recommendations of its attorney in the former case and its financial director in the latter.
During the curriculum committee meeting, representatives of the Louisiana Department of Education spoke to the board.
Dana Talley, part of the task force that works with Webster Parish and 31 other school districts in the state, recounted the progress she has seen since working with Superintendent Johnny Rowland as he stepped into office last year.
“We started working through how we can not only support teachers in implementing a high-quality curriculum but hold them accountable for it and set the expectation for them as well,” she said. “I think we’ve seen a change in attitude, a change in what is happening in the classroom. And we believe that’s going to translate into better outcomes for kids. It’s not going to be overnight, but if they stay the course, and I think they will, they are going to see results.’
Curriculum Supervisor Dusty Rowland presented the board with the 2018-2019 school calendar that had been voted on by all school system personnel. The calendar was eventually approved by the board, but some doubts were raised.
While over 77 percent of school system personnel voted for the calendar in question, Frankie Mitchell, representing district 9, voiced concern that parish parents may not be as satisfied.
“The parents are talking about it, and I do represent parents,” Mitchell said. “They don’t understand the number of days students are out, like how we got out that last Thursday and came back the following Thursday.”
Mitchell suggested the board look into alternative calendar options, such as starting school in September and having fewer out-of-school days during the school year.
The problem with starting later may lie with block schools, Dusty Rowland said. Currently Minden High School, Doyline High School, and Lakeside Junior/Senior High School have at least partial block schedules.
“If you start after Labor Day, a block school will not finish the semester by Christmas, which is a problem for many people,” she said.
The board eventually approved the calendar by majority vote with the provision that they will soon revisit alternative calendar options for the 2019-2020 school year and beyond.
The board also elected to support a resolution being put before Governor Edwards by the Louisiana State Association of School Personnel Administrators. This resolution will ask the governor to create a state task force to investigate the “critical shortage of teachers” in Louisiana.
Just before the executive session, Superintendent Rowland gave his report, which centered on one theme: safety. Rowland said the topic of school security dominated the agenda in the wake of the recent tragic shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida.
“Student safety is on everybody’s mind,” he said. “It is paramount, first and foremost, the most important. We feel that way and look at it that way.”
Rowland said that on Friday, Feb. 23, several school system officials and administrators met with local law enforcement across the parish to discuss this topic.
“We had a discussion on what they observed, what they saw, at Minden High School,” he said. “It’s our largest campus by population and probably our most open campus. Many different entrances, exits, outlets – it’s tough logistically. We began to talk about what we can do.”
Expect more updates on school security in the Press-Herald soon.