New Iberville Parish School Board faces high expectations in 2023

Staff Report

A new year brought back some familiar faces and several new members to the Iberville Parish School Board, which heads into a year filled with challenges and growth potential.

The board's first meeting of 2023 also marked the inaugural session for the term that will run until 2027.

Chris Daigle will continue as board president, while Yolanda Butler Laws will serve as vice president. Laws also serves on the Board of Directors for the Louisiana School Board Association.

Daigle said he expects growth from students after a full year back in the school system.

Iberville Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Arthur Joffrion (top right) is shown with members of the Iberville Parish School Board who began their four-year term in office on Jan. 9. From left: (top) Mario Migliacio, District E; Daven Tullier, District D; School Board Vice President Yolanda Butler Laws, District F; School Board President Chris Daigle, District G. In the bottom row are Pam George, District C; Catherine Williams, District B; Michael Hebert Jr., District H Polly Higdon and Theresa Roy, District A.

“We want to see them continue to grow now that they’re back in a social environment after the pandemic,” he said. “As for the board, I’m excited, and I believe we have a great group that will work together.”

Other returning members include Theresa Roy of District A, Pam George of District C, Polly Higdon (member at large) and Michael Hebert Jr. of District H.

The current term will mark the last for the returning members, due to term limits enacted by the Louisiana Legislature.

It marks the first term for District B member Catherine Williams, Daven Tullier of District D and Mario Migliacio of District E.

On the academic front, the school system heads into a year they hope will be marked by academic growth. But the Iberville schools – as with most throughout the state and across the nation – are still working to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The parish made strides last year. Crescent received an A in progress, while Dorseyville, Iberville Elementary and White Castle High all exceeded pre-COVID performance scores.

The diploma strength for the school system has an “A” letter grade, as does credit accumulation and interest in opportunity. The K-8 and high school progress index rates a “B.”

“We gained probably a year and a half of progress in 2022,” Iberville Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Arthur Joffrion said. “It’s still not where we were pre-COVID, but we probably gained a year and a half toward reaching the potential and we’re hoping at the conclusion of this year we will be where we were before the pandemic.”

Iberville scored 1.9 on average growth, just above the state average of 1.6.S

State assessment and ACT scores need the most work, Joffrion said.

“We’re making concerted efforts to ensure that we’re teaching to the rigors of the standards in our classrooms, that we’re providing ongoing support and professional development to assist our teachers in doing that,” he said.

In terms of projects on campuses, the board has approved a priority order for needed upgrades of cafeterias and kitchens.

The school system is in the process of working with architects to finalize plans with Dorseyville Elementary School, which will get a new dining room and kitchen, Joffrion said.

The board approved $1.4 million for that project.

The scope of work varies from minor upgrades to major projects, depending on the campuses, he said.

In an ongoing project, work will continue baseball/softball facility at Plaquemine High School. Progress has been steady, Joffrion said.

At White Castle High School, plans are on the board for a new White Castle High School gymnasium, while the current gym will be renovated for use as a band facility and competition gym for volleyball and other activities.

It will provide more space for practices for both boys and girls athletics, as well as more space for tournaments.

In addition, construction is on the drawing board for a fieldhouse/weight training facility for East Iberville High School.

On personnel issues, most positions in the district have been filled. Eight teacher vacancies in the district, according to Joffrion.

“Overall, we’re doing really well with staffing, but we do have classified positions that need to be filled,” he said.

The school system has openings for paraprofessionals, bus operators and HVAC and electricians, custodial jobs and food services.

A total of 13 classified positions are open. Anyone interested in teaching or working in other positions should contact Gwen Breaux or Shavonda Skidmore in Human Resources.

The board has teacher vacancies at East Iberville, the alternative school, Iberville elementary, MSA West and Plaquemine High.

Those that are fully staffed are Crescent, Dorseyville, Iberville Virtual Learning Academy, MSA East, MSA West, North Iberville Elementary, North Iberville High and White Castle High, Joffrion said. “We hate having teacher vacancies, but we’re probably better off than those in our neighboring parishes,” he said.