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LSU Law Center offers buyouts to 7 professors as interest in law schools dwindles nationally

Advocate staff file photo by Richard Alan Hannon -- The LSU Law Center

LSU’s Law Center is offering an incentive to seven professors if they retire next summer as it looks to cut costs amid a dwindling interest in law schools nationally. The professors, all older than 65 and tenured faculty members, have until Monday to decide whether they will retire June 30 and get paid a bonus of roughly… Continue reading →

Capitol Buzz: Jindals go camo for holidays

Bobby Jindal

The Jindal family went camo for Christmas this year. The family’s official Christmas card features Gov. Bobby Jindal, his wife, Supriya, and their kids sitting in an ATV, wearing camouflage hunting regalia in the wilds of the Governor’s Mansion grounds. “Oh what fun — May your Christmas be filled with joy and laughter,” the card says.… Continue reading →

Heartbroken students, alumni mourn Redemptorist High closure: ‘Everybody’s like family over there’

Redemptorist High School students on Friday mourned their final year at the school, which will close in May, while alumni recounted their favorite memories of the north Baton Rouge institution. Declining enrollment caused Diocese of Baton Rouge Bishop Robert Muench to announce Friday the closure of the junior and senior co-ed Catholic schools, a presence since 1947… Continue reading →

Our Lady of the Lake College announces December 2014 graduates

More than 160 Our Lady of the Lake College students will be conferred master’s, bachelor’s or associate degrees during the college’s commencement exercises at 2 p.m. Friday in the Baton Rouge River Center. Anticipating trends in healthcare, the college transitioned from offering associate degrees in nursing and now offers only bachelor’s degrees in nursing. This graduation ceremony… Continue reading →

LSU to send 1,650 students off in fall graduations

About 1,650 students are expected to graduate during LSU’s fall commencement Friday. LSU doesn’t hold a main ceremony for its December graduation, but individual colleges will hold exercises throughout the day naming graduates and featuring commencement speakers. Keynote speakers include University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley at the College of Agriculture ceremony at 9… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School Board approves plans for Riveroaks and Wedgewood, OKs dropout program

Months after first considering the idea, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board voted Thursday to move ahead with plans to spend as much as $6.2 million to replace temporary classrooms and make other improvements at Riveroaks and Wedgewood elementary schools in 2016. Also Thursday, the board hired a Dallas-based online education company, for a cost… Continue reading →

Arguments erupt as Louisiana lawmakers debate implementing new special education law

A new state law that overhauled Louisiana’s special education system triggered more arguments Wednesday, including finger pointing on whether state or local officials are to blame for the biggest parental complaints. State Superintendent of Education John White said that few grasped the implications of the measure earlier this year when it won lopsided approval… Continue reading →

‘Jena Six’ teen Mychal Bell graduates from Southern University

Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six, is shown outside the LaSalle Parish Courthouse in Jena, La., Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007, in this Advocate file photo. Bell has just graduated from Southern University. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Mychal Bell, who made national headlines a few years ago as part of the ‘Jena Six,’ has graduated from Southern University. According to a graduate list supplied by the school, Bell received a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies during Friday’s graduation. In 2006, Bell and five other black teens were charged as adults with attempted murder… Continue reading →

Six months after East Baton Rouge School Board rejects renewal of superintendent Bernard Taylor’s contract, topic coming up again Thursday

Just six months after rejecting the idea, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday is set to once again consider keeping Superintendent Bernard Taylor after his contract expires ends in June, perhaps for as much as 18 more months. Outgoing East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Mary Lynch requested adding… Continue reading →

Sen. David Vitter's turnaround on Common Core renews debate on volatile topic

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- U.S. Sen. David Vitter

Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s turnaround on Common Core — he now opposes the standards — has reignited debate on the volatile topic four months before legislative arguments begin in earnest. Many opponents of the overhaul concede that 2015 likely is the last best chance to shelve the new guidelines in reading, writing and… Continue reading →

Secret trials and a confidential system: A look inside the inner workings of LSU's sexual misconduct policy that many praise

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU students walk by the campanile.

Louisiana’s largest university has a confidential internal system for investigating claims of sexual assault and other crimes. The LSU sexual misconduct policy that was adopted before the fall semester says people who claim they have experienced criminal sexual misconduct are “strongly encouraged” to report the offense to campus police or local law enforcement, but there’s no requirement… Continue reading →

Southern graduates 465 in Friday ceremony

Southern University graduate and nationally recognized minister, Bishop Joseph W. Walker III, was the commencement speaker Friday at the 2014 fall graduation ceremony, and465 students received diplomas at the morning ceremony. Walker is pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the largest churches in the United States. In 2015,… Continue reading →

Southeastern to confer degrees on 1,200 grads

Southeastern Louisiana University will confer degrees on more than 1,200 graduates Saturday at the university’s fall commencement exercises. At the ceremony held in the University Center, Southeastern will honor one of Central America’s most influential business leaders with an honorary doctorate. Jose Barrios Ng, who has led current efforts to… Continue reading →

LSU Alumni Association outlines revamp plans

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The LSU Campanile.

LSU alumni leaders have set out on a six-step plan for overhauling the university’s Alumni Association in the wake of a sex scandal and lawsuit that made headlines this fall. New Alumni Association President Cliff Vannoy reviewed the proposal during the LSU Board of Supervisors meeting Friday. The plan includes revamping the organization’s employee manual… Continue reading →

Ogden gives $12M to LSU Honors College

 Roger Ogden

LSU’s Honors College will benefit from the university’s largest unrestricted endowed gift ever — the third-largest gift overall in the university’s history. LSU announced the $12 million donation from New Orleans real estate developer Roger Houston Ogden, an alumnus and former member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, on Friday. The Honors CollegeContinue reading →

New $6 million frat house approved for LSU campus

Kappa Sigma fraternity will build a new $6 million, 23,000-square-foot house on LSU’s campus. The LSU Board of Supervisors on Friday agreed to plans for the three-story fraternity house, which will replace the existing Kappa Sigma house. It will be paid for entirely by the fraternity, but the LSU board had to approve the fraternity house design… Continue reading →

People magazine: Louisiana teacher was school's janitor for 27 years; now he's the principal

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Port Barre Elementary School Principal  Joseph 'Gabe' Sonnier greets students while walking through the campus. Many of them are children of students who attended the school during the 20 years Sonnier worked as a head custodian there.

"I'd rather see you grading papers than picking them up." That's what Port Barre Elementary principal Wesley Jones told janitor Joseph "Gabe" Sonnier one day in 1985. Fast forward to 2014, and Sonnier now has Jones' job. People Magazine profiles Sonnier's story in a series called "Heroes Among Us." After going to school… Continue reading →

Background check did not show prior arrests for janitor accused of raping a Baton Rouge student

Adrian Wright Jr.

A former school janitor in Baton Rouge accused of raping a 14-year-old girl had several previous brushes with the law, raising questions about how he was able to work around schoolchildren. Adrian Wright Jr., 31, was booked Tuesday on a count of forcible rape in the Nov. 23, 2013, incident. On that Saturday, Wright… Continue reading →

BESE member Guillot misses string of board meetings

Jay Guillot

A member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has missed seven of the past nine board and committee meetings he chairs since June, according to state records. Jay Guillot, an engineer who lives in Ruston, missed gatherings of the full board on June 18, July 1, July 29, Aug. 13 and Dec. 3, BESE… Continue reading →

Politics blog: John White says latest TOPS report shows Louisiana should implement Common Core

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- State Superintendent of Education John White

The latest report showing TOPS funds go mostly to white and affluent students proves Louisiana should adopt Common Core, according to State Superintendent John White. White made those comments Thursday, saying "we have to react to tragic reports like this." Check out our politics blog for more details.… Continue reading →

Missing out on millions: Thousands of Louisiana high school seniors not filling out FAFSA papers

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU Graduates from the LSU College of Education wait to receive their diplomas during a graduation ceremony at LSU's Carl Maddox Fieldhouse in Baton Rouge on Friday, May 18, 2012.

Louisiana students are missing out on tens of millions of dollars that could help them pay for college, because more than half of the state’s high school seniors are not completing the application required for federal student aid. About 44 percent of Louisiana public high school seniors completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA,… Continue reading →

ExxonMobil wholesalers raise $100,000 for Baton Rouge teachers

Several companies that help Exxon Mobil products get to the pump amassed $100,000 to be divided among hundreds of teachers for classroom supplies, something many teachers often pay for out of their own not-so-deep pockets. These Exxon Mobil-branded wholesalers gathered Wednesday morning at Claiborne Elementary in Baton Rouge to deliver a $100,000 check to Continue reading →

National report gives Louisiana a 'C' for teacher training, cites faults

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Superintendent of Education John White.

A national report issued Wednesday said Louisiana deserves a C for how it trains teachers, which is also the average grade nationally. The eighth annual study was released by The National Council on Teacher Quality. NCTQ calls itself a nonpartisan research and policy group. The state was faulted for what reviewers called a failure… Continue reading →

Called 'an enormous step for our state,' Louisiana lands $32M federal pre-K grant

After controversy on whether it was linked to Common Core, Louisiana landed a federal grant Wednesday of up to $32 million to provide new and improved pre-kindergarten classes for about 10,500 youngsters in New Orleans and elsewhere. “This grant is an enormous step forward for our state,” state Superintendent of Education John White told reporters.… Continue reading →

Two Hammond residents compete to serve interim term on Tangipahoa School Board after judge orders member off the board

Two Hammond residents are competing for an appointment as an interim representative on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board until a new board member can be elected in the spring. The development comes in the wake of Friday’s state court ruling that board member-elect Eric Dangerfield cannot take office in January… Continue reading →

LSU re-accredited by SACS after concerns over president-chancellor merge

LSU’s accreditation has been renewed for another decade. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges announced Tuesday the final outcome of its two-year re-accreditation review, which is required every 10 years for schools to continue to award degrees. The review process included at least two trips to LSU, which resulted in several recommendations… Continue reading →

Looking for a new high school, Central School Board hires consultant on old Greenwell Springs mental hospital

The Central School Board took another step Monday toward building a new high school when it hired an environmental consultant to identify asbestos and plan for the demolition of the former Greenwell Springs mental hospital. The board unanimously hired Rayner Consulting Group, of Baton Rouge. Rayner’s initial estimate is $1.6… Continue reading →

Sen. Vitter steps up Common Core criticism

U. S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., on Monday stepped up his new-found opposition to Common Core. Vitter said in a prepared statement that he will offer an amendment to an upcoming federal bill to ensure that states continue to enjoy federal waivers even if they opt out of the new standards in reading, writing and math.… Continue reading →

Bellue, Ware-Jackson, Bernard win East Baton Rouge School runoffs

An increasingly expensive battle for control of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board came to an end Saturday with two of three business-backed candidates winning, cementing a clear 5-4 majority on the board that takes office in January. Evelyn Ware-Jackson’s trouncing of fellow incumbent Jerry Arbour in the District 5 race sealed that victory. Ware-Jackson, a… Continue reading →

Bradford re-elected to East Feliciana school board

East Feliciana School Board President Michael Ray Bradford won re-election on Saturday, beating a challenger he had trailed in the November primary. Bradford, a Democrat, has been on the school board for 15 years and secured 56.75 percent of Saturday’s vote. Chris Rouchon, a Republican, finished with 43.25 percent. The Advocate previously reported that Bradford… Continue reading →

Deaf student feels the music at Dutchtown High with high tech help

Photo provided by Julie Hebert -- James Gaugnard practices the French horn in the Dutchtown High School band hall.

Fourteen-year-old James Graugnard was born with almost no hearing and went fully deaf within a few years. Today, he plays the French horn in the Dutchtown High School marching band. Diagnosed at 18 months with sensorineural hearing loss, James grew up with sophisticated hearing aids. His hearing was getting worse with… Continue reading →

Common Core test plans sparks new arguments

The Jindal administration has renewed charges that Common Core tests plans pushed by top state education leaders may be illegal. But an attorney for the state’s top school board Friday denounced the latest comments and charged that the attorney who spelled them out in a letter violated legal ethics rules. The exchanges are the latest in… Continue reading →

Auditor finds financial faults at LSU and Grambling

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- A national report showing Louisiana students graduate with debt below the national average supports LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander's oft-repeated contention that LSU is a bargain.

Two new audits out on Louisiana colleges — one on LSU and another on Grambling State University — raise concerns about oversight and spending on campuses. At Grambling State University, the Louisiana legislative auditor found thefts totaling more than $130,000, and LSU’s separate audit found 10 instances of falsified payroll records, among other concerns.… Continue reading →

Teachers may face more on-the-job training

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Louisiana Association of Educators President Debbie Meaux speaks at a press conference in this August 2013 Advocate file photo.

State education leaders Wednesday held the first in a series of forums to find ways to give new teachers more real-world training before they are put in charge of classrooms. The gathering, called the Educator Preparation Policy Forum, attracted superintendents, regents, members of the state Board of Elementary and Education, and others. One of the themes… Continue reading →

BESE veteran named executive director

Shan Davis, a member of the staff of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, was named executive director Wednesday for the panel. The executive director is responsible for administrative and fiscal operations of the board office. BESE sets policies for about 700,000 public school students statewide. Davis said she officially starts the… Continue reading →

Teacher attrition holds steady, report says

Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- St. Martin Parish Schools Superintendent Lottie Beebe in January 2013.

The attrition rate for public school teachers has remained steady for the past three years, according to a report issued Tuesday by the state Department of Education. A total of 12 percent of teachers left the profession from 2013 to 2014, the same percentage as 2012-13 and just higher than the 11 percent in… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge high school biology teacher wins national award, $10,000

Crystal Gordon

Broadmoor High School biology teacher Crystal Gordon has been named one of five winners of an annual national teaching award given out by the National Education Association, bringing with it $10,000 for the Baton Rouge educator and a trip to the nation’s capital. The NEA Foundation’s Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence also is Continue reading →