Lafayette School Board OKs school restaffing

The Lafayette Parish School Board voted 5-4 Wednesday in support of the implementation of collaborative teaching methods and an overhaul of staff at Acadian Middle School.

Acadian Middle Principal Linda Nance made the request to reconstitute or restaff the school and incorporate team-teaching practices to better target and students’ needs.

“These kids, they’re high-need kids. They need teachers that believe in them. They need teachers that believe they can learn,” Nance said.

Board members Greg Awbrey, Mark Allen Babineaux, Mark Cockerham, Shelton Cobb and Tommy Angelle voted in support of the reconstitution and teaming concept for the school. Board members Hunter Beasley, Kermit Bouillion, Rae Trahan and Tehmi Chassion voted against it.

Nance told board members it would cost about $250,000 to hire four additional teachers to create three-member teacher teams at the school.

Chassion questioned whether the concept could be implemented successfully when ideally, a five-member teacher team would be needed. A five-member teacher team would cost about $500,000.

Acadian’s performance score of 76.2 earned it a D rating under the state’s accountability system. The school’s performance has continuously dropped over the past few years and was 85.1 in 2008-09.

A new policy approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education requires schools to score at least 75 out of 200 to avoid a failing grade.

The grades stem from a 2010 law pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The grades are linked mostly to how students did on key state tests, including the LEAP test that fourth- and eighth-graders have to pass for promotion and end-of-course tests for high school students.

Nearly a third of the Acadian Middle School’s nearly 500 students receive services for special learning needs. The school also serves 113 overaged students in need of grade recovery to catch up academically with their peers. There’s also a high number of absences among both students and teachers at the school, based on information provided to board members. At least 31 percent of faculty members had missed more than eight days.

Beasley questioned the need for teaming at the school based on prior school scores when teaming was previously used at the school.

Beasley said he also did not support the school’s reconstitution and said a school’s leader should work with staff to “the point of being able to effectively work with these children.”

Nance explained that had teaming not been implemented at Acadian, the school’s scores would have suffered. The concept of teaming is commonplace in middle schools across the country, she said.

“It just seems that in this parish it’s a constant battle,” Nance said.

Edgar Martin Middle Principal Bobby Badeaux said he has used the concept, which he said is referred to as the “middle school concept” because of the way it addresses the needs of students.

“Eighty percent of all dropouts can be predicted in the sixth grade,” he said. “If we don’t address what’s happening in our middle schools, it’s too late to have a dropout program in high schools.”

Badeaux encouraged board members to “buy in” into the middle school concept and support Nance’s recommendation.

“She can do the job, if you give her the tools to do that job,” Badeaux said.

Awbrey said he supported Nance’s request, but cautioned that the board may not be able to continue to financially supporting similar requests from schools with similar needs.

As of 9:30 p.m., the board had not voted on a new school calendar that alters the traditional 182 classroom-day calendar to provide teachers professional development during school hours.