School board serves up recognitions

PETER SILAS PASQUA news@postsouth.com

PLAQUEMINE – Iberville Parish School Board members who completed ethics training were recognized at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Monday night.

Board members were required to complete six hours of training to meet requirements set in 2011. Members receiving certificates according to the board’s website were Michael Barbee, Nancy Broussard, Tom Delahaye, Pamela George, Michael Hebert, Glyna Kelley, Dorothy Sansoni, Yolanda Laws, Darlene Ourso, Donald Patterson and Brian Willis.

The board also recognized Math, Science and Arts Academy -West students who were elected to leadership positions and had bills signed into law at a youth legislature.

Recognition also went to the Academy for being named a “National School of Excellence” for the third year in a row and to Toby Willis and Peter Villia with the Plaquemine High School JAG program.

Tom Sowders also delivered a presentation about creating an academy at Crescent Elementary and virtual school at North Iberville.

“We are taking something already great and making it better,” Sowders said.

Superintendent Ed Cancienne said the proposed Atchafalaya Basin Academy and MSA Virtual School are a result of a compilation of research.

“This is a pilot,” Cancienne said. “All we are trying to do is offer parents more choices. There is no hidden agenda. We came to the board first so you are exposed to it.”

Some board members didn’t like the exposure.

“I think we need to target weaker areas,” Ourso said.

Sansoni said she has not been given enough information on the subject.

“The world is changing and this is about opportunity,” Willis said. “The most important thing is reading and writing.”

The board also received a presentation from Patrice Saucier and Shelba Harlan concerning the district’s accountability scores.

District scores have risen more than 20 points over the last five years but the system still received a grade of “D+” when latest performances scores were released.

An appearance by St. Gabriel Mayor Lionel Johnson was scheduled last in the superintendent’s report but Johnson was not identified during attendance of the meeting.

While the reason for Johnson’s scheduled appearance was unclear according to the agenda, it has been widely reported by other outlets that Johnson, through prepared statements, is seeking a split of east bank residents from the Iberville Parish School District to form their own municipal school system.

Cancienne confirmed Wednesday that Johnson choose not to speak before the board but met with him, east bank board members Nancy Broussard and Melvin Lodge and state Sen. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville and State Rep. Ed Price, D-Gonzales, privately before the meeting. Johnson was not reached Wednesday.

“We talked about facilities, services and personnel,” Cancienne said. “He laid out some things he thinks needs to be improved on the east side and we agreed to meet with a corps group of people that he has identified and address those issues.”

Cancienne said the date, time or place for that meeting had not been scheduled but was requested to take place within the next two weeks.

The Iberville Parish School District is composed of nine schools with seven on the more populous west bank of the Mississippi River.

East Iberville Elementary and High School and the Math, Science and Arts Academy-East campus are the only two schools located on Iberville’s less-populated east bank.

A breakaway district requires a state constitutional amendment granting the city the same authority bestowed on parishes to receive state Minimum Foundation Program funding and tax revenue to fund local schools.

“The efforts at that meeting were to try and lay out things to identify issues that can be addressed that would hopefully avoid something of that magnitude,” Cancienne said. 

Cancienne said the system takes complaints seriously with open dialogue. He also said reports from the Department of Education show annual growth by east bank schools.

“I am very open to talking with any delegation or individual from the east side to try and remedy or make right what they think is not right,” Cancienne said. “Some of this doesn’t appear to be just about the education of children. It seems to be about other things but I think this will unfold as time goes on.

“The schools are improving, there are more services being rendered and we hope to provide even more services. We are always evolving into a better school system and trying to address the needs of children and it just seems this type of abrupt, quick action is about something other than just students.”

Municipalities wanting to form independent school districts must first present their proposal to the state Legislature, where it must win two-thirds majority votes in both the House and Senate.

Next, the proposed constitutional amendment must be placed on a statewide election ballot and win majority support both statewide and in Iberville Parish.

Cancienne said Brown and Price each said they would like to see the school board continue to work on improving issues before “actions of this nature for separation will be made.”

“They want to see an effort made first before extreme actions such as separation takes place,” Cancienne said.  

The board’s lengthy agenda also included a presentation by Postlewaite and Netterville on an audit and discussion of three committee meetings and master salary schedules for the fiscal year along with eight other items to be addressed.