St. Helena asks Legislature to rethink school cuts

St. Helena Parish school officials will ask state legislators to re-evaluate state education funding and to return the parish’s only middle school to local control, according to a letter the School Board unanimously approved Thursday.

The letter, drafted by Superintendent Kelli Joseph, urges legislators to “review the negative impact” state funding reductions and the Recovery School District’s control of St. Helena Central Middle School have had on the parish school system and to make changes to both.

The Louisiana Department of Education’s series of educational policy changes in recent years “overlook the specific needs and challenges of students in St. Helena Parish,” the letter states.

The parish school system has been named the most-improved district in the state, earned district accreditation and, after four failed attempts, won voter approval of two tax measures to increase employee salaries and make needed school renovations, Joseph said in the letter.

St. Helena Parish school officials “should be held accountable based on our own impact on the district, rather than being penalized for prior stagnant conditions,” Joseph wrote.

In the letter, district officials also will urge legislators to support House Bill 160, which would delay implementation of certain teacher evaluation requirements, and to reject House Bill 648, which would have the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education require high school students to complete at least one online course as a prerequisite for graduation.

Other business coming before the School Board included:

SUPERINTENDENT CONTRAC T: The board voted 4-2 to renew the superintendent’s contract for another two years.

Board members Joyce Porter and Linda Chaney voted against the renewal. Both declined to comment on their reasons for opposition.

BOND ISSUE: The School Board voted to authorize the issuance of $3.54 million in general obligation bonds to fund facility improvements in the district.

The bonds will be financed for 18 years at 3.25 percent interest, said Alan Offner, bond attorney with Foley and Judell of New Orleans.

The money should be available to the district by mid-May, Offner said.