Ascension school policies discussed

The Ascension Parish School Board’s Policy Committee spent nearly an hour Tuesday discussing two potential changes that could be coming in the near future.

Committee members and school district administrators discussed a state-mandated change to the parish’s salary schedule as well as the possibility of the district becoming tobacco-free.

Superintendent Patrice Pujol said changing into a tobacco-free district, which would eliminate all tobacco use on every campus in the parish, is being pushed by state officials but is “not high” on her priority list. Currently, 47 of the 70 districts in the state have adopted a tobacco-free policy, district officials said.

“I’m not suggesting we make this policy right now,” Pujol said. “Just know that we’re getting pressure and will continue to get this pressure to go tobacco-free.”

Several board members expressed concerns about adopting such a policy, considering all of the other state-mandated changes that are being thrown upon educators.

Board member Jamie Bourgeois said he has plenty of questions about the issue, “but I’ll hold them.”

Meanwhile, Pujol provided board members with two teacher salary scale options for them to review, prior to adopting a new scale in January. The state set new requirements that allow districts to consider experience, demand and effectiveness in setting teachers salaries, though no single factor can contribute more than half of a teacher’s annual raise, she said.

Under the proposals, a first-year teacher would receive a base salary of $42,411, with that figure increasing to more than $55,000, depending on the experience level of the teacher. Teachers would be eligible for as much as $1,500 extra per year for advanced degrees, and also could receive as much as $1,200 per year for grading out as highly effective and working at an improving school.

Pujol said if teachers and schools show continued performance increases and growth, that the effectiveness aspect of the pay scale could get expensive for the district quickly. However, she added, “that would be a good problem to have.”

Other actions taken by the board included:

OATH OF OFFICE: Richard “Coach” Brown, who was elected on Nov. 6 to represent District 3 on the board, was sworn in during Tuesday’s meeting. State District Judge Alvin Turner administered the oath of office, gave Brown a hug and offered him congratulations. Then, the board and audience members gave Brown a standing ovation.

Brown, who was a teacher, coach and administrator in Ascension Parish for more than 30 years, said he believes that every child can learn and pledged to do his part to make sure students in the parish are given the opportunity to do so.

“I will do everything in my power and my control for the kids of District 3 because that’s my love,” Brown said.