School opening goes well; AC problems only glitch

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

Air conditioning problems at Iberville Elementary School were the only problems in an otherwise smooth opening day of school Monday, parish school officials reported.

“Overall, it went very, very well,” said Janet Marionneaux, executive director of personnel, curriculum and instruction.

Some 3,800 students attended the first day of classes, Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. said.

The number is down from the official count of 4,200 in the 2008-09 school year, but not all students report to class on opening day.

School officials expect the number to increase this year, primarily because of the Math, Science and Arts Academy program, Chief Financial Officer Jolain Landry said.

This year, fewer than half the 155 seventh to 12h graders from the closed North Iberville High School made the trip to attend classes at Plaquemine High School Monday.

Some of the students are attending a private church school at Mt. Gideon Baptist Church in Maringouin. The Rev. Reginald L. Pitcher, the church pastor and president North Iberville Concern Citizens Inc., said 51 students attended classes Monday, and 65 have registered at the new school. The school is registered with the Louisiana Department of Education, Pitcher said, adding he would apply for state accreditation.

Maringouin Mayor John F. Overton and other parents have sued the School Board in an effort to keep the North End’s only high school open. At a hearing last month, District Judge Robin Free delayed the trial until Wednesday, two days after the opening of school.


Marionneaux said some 45 to 50 students from the Maringouin area rode buses to their old school, and then were transported on their new buses to Plaquemine High. Others provided their own transportation.

The director also reported that some 75 families were represented at an open house held at North Iberville Elementary School

Cancienne praised maintenance supervisor T-Joe Distefano and his staff for getting all but 11 of the school system’s 1,100 air condition units repaired before the start of school.

School Board Member Dorothy R. Sansoni of Plaquemine said that more than 800 students and cafeteria workers sweated it out in 90-degree heat at Iberville Elementary, where air conditioners were out.

“T-Joe did his best,” Sansoni said, noting he had arranged for fans at the elementary school.

Dr. Cancienne said Distefano is renting air conditioning units for installation in the cafeteria this week.

Board Member Brian S. Willis of Plaquemine, who chairs the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said the economy had affected northern companies who supply parts for the AC units.

“We have to bear with them,” Willis said. “Some of this equipment, they’re having a rough time getting parts.”

“They’re actually building the parts after we order them,” Board Member Nancy T. Broussard of St. Gabriel said. “That’s what we’re dealing with.”

Mechanical problems aside, the start of classes apparently went smoothly.

Marionneaux said she and other supervisors went to schools around the parish to check on opening day progress.

“I had no calls from any school with problems,” Marionneaux said.