Community feedback on Lafayette schools released

A student-focused School Board and more attention on student achievement, especially among poor students who are academically behind, are among the issues identified by residents during public discussions on public education in Lafayette Parish.

A summary of the feedback from the March discussions was released Thursday in the report, “What We Heard — Lafayette Public Education Round Tables.” More than 100 residents attended the sessions and provided their opinions on issues related to S chool Board governance and the school system’s turnaround plan, known as 100 Percent In, 100 Percent Out, which outlines district priorities to improve student achievement.

Professionalism and more collaboration among board members and administrators are needed, and the board needs to focus more on student achievement with clearly defined benchmarks to gauge improvement, the report reads.

Board members also should work on community relations and building trust, which some viewed as an obstacle to the school system receiving support on past tax proposals.

Related to the turnaround plan, a majority of roundtable participants favored health and wellness programs and identified early childhood education programs as a priority for the district.

The district has attempted to expand both initiatives, though funding remains an obstacle. In fact, a reduction of preschool teachers is on the list of proposed cuts for the board to consider during its general fund budget workshop on May 20.

The board faces a $12 million shortfall.

“A common thread that connected different priorities was maximizing student achievement and preparedness,” the report reads.

“Participants stressed that the focus must be on ensuring students are equipped with the right tools for the future, either through school-to-career programs that prepare them to immediately enter the workforce, traditional programs that prepare them for a two- or four-year college or university, or alternative education programs that provide training and opportunities to students who otherwise would not have them.”

The roundtable discussions were an effort to create a community vision for public education, which will be released during an event from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 28 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.

The nine-partner organizations organized the moderated roundtable sessions: 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette, the705, Community Foundation of Acadiana, Concerned Citizens for Good Government, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce, State of Greater Black Lafayette, United Way of Acadiana and the Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation.

During the roundtables, the groups also gathered feedback on ways to bolster community involvement in the school system, opinions on charter schools and public school facilities and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter @Marsha_Sills.