Inside Report for Dec. 25, 2012

Pointe Coupee High handling criticized

Pointe Coupee Central High School has struggled to bounce back since control of the failing school was yanked from the School Board and placed under the umbrella of the Louisiana Department of Education.

The state’s 2008 takeover of PCCHS was fueled by three years of substandard scores by its students on high-stakes tests.

The school’s oversight was first ceded to Advance Baton Rouge, a private charter school company, then transferred to the Louisiana Recovery School District in July 2012.

In the midst of the oversight shuffles, there have been a slew of administrative changes, various disciplinary problems and, according to School Board officials, very little improvement in student performance.

Residents should be outraged by what has occurred at PCCHS over the last few years, parish School Board member Chad Aguillard said at the Oct. 25 board meeting.

“I believe that if what has gone on at that school would have gone on under local control, you would have seen an uprising,” Aguillard told the board. “I don’t understand. Where is the outrage?”

Aguillard accused RSD of withholding the release of Pointe Coupee Central’s School Performance Score because it would prove student performance hasn’t improved in the years since the state seized the school.

LDOE spokesman Barry Landry said the school’s score wasn’t included in the 2012 report because of the school’s temporary closure after the 2011-12 school year while oversight was shifted to the RSD.

“And that’s the same with any school,” Landry said.

Board member Frank Aguillard, no relation to Chad Aguillard, criticized charter schools and some of the alternative educational choices now available to students, like virtual schools, for being exempt from state standards in spite of receiving state funds.

“I just wish people realized everyone needs to be held accountable to the taxpayers’ money — not just local school boards,” Frank Aguillard said.

RSD and state Department of Education Deputy Superintendent of External Affairs Dana Peterson appeared before the School Board on Nov. 15 and apologized for not updating the board on the agency’s efforts to improve PCCHS. Peterson said RSD’s plan for Pointe Coupee Central involves stabilizing the school and then, possibly, returning it to local control.

But Peterson stressed the RSD’s faith in charter schools, touting the agency’s success in New Orleans as proof the charter school system can work.

Peterson explained that Pointe Coupee Central didn’t receive a baseline score like most public schools, but instead received a Growth School Performance Score of 54.5 percent from grading range of 0-200, still an “F “school by state standards.

That score is attributed to Advance Baton Rouge’s oversight, he added.

Pointe Coupee Central’s new principal, William McInnis, who was hired by the RSD over the summer, assured the board he will reveal his detailed vision for improving the struggling school.

Peterson said RSD would not make any decisions around permanently chartering the school without input from the community.

“I know we take a hit as an organization because we have to make some tough decisions regarding failing schools,” Peterson said. “But I think we’re showing that the strategies we use around school improvement can work.”

Terry L. Jones is the Westside Bureau chief for The Advocate. He can be reached at tjones@theadvocate.com.