Sheriff: Try intervention program

Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom urged the School Board on Wednesday to consider entering into a contract with a nonprofit organization to provide educational and behavior intervention services for some of the parish’s most-troubled students.

“The community cannot continue to grow unless it addresses kids in schools who are causing problems. We don’t want them on the street because they’re going to end up in detention or (eventually) in adult corrections,” Neustrom said.

At its meeting Wednesday, the board received information about a proposed contract with the organization, AMIKids, to provide day treatment services on the Moss Preparatory campus beginning in mid-January. The program would serve up to 30 students at risk of being expelled from the school system.

Students who don’t follow school rules may be sent to Moss Preparatory, the district’s new alternative education site. The AMIKids program would serve those students who aren’t making it at Moss Prep, Superintendent Pat Cooper said.

Neustrom said the community needs to invest more resources in programs aimed at reaching troubled teens.

“I’m supportive of Dr. Cooper’s position that we can’t keep kids out of school and expect them to go home and say the rosary,” Neustrom said.

The program is a “personal growth model” that provides students rigorous academic courses, behavior intervention and mental health services, said Eric Hall, AMIKids director of educational services.

The model helps address and change behaviors that led to students’ displacement, Hall said.

The program has been recognized nationally and has a recidivism rate of 24 percent, Hall said.

Cooper told the board the district is in talks to share the cost of the program, which would be $184,000 for the remainder of the year, with Lafayette Consolidated Government and the Sheriff’s Office.

Neustrom said discussions are ongoing with other potential partners to cover the cost.

The annual cost of the program is $368,000.

City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said the city is prepared to share part of the cost for the remainder of the year.

“There is a commitment for that first six months to tune of about $60,000 for those first six months,” Boudreaux said.

Board member Tommy Angelle said he’d like the staff to explore more partnerships willing to share in the cost.

Board member Tehmi Chassion questioned Boudreaux and Neustrom if the board could count on a continued financial commitment to the program beyond this school year.

Both leaders said they’d have to evaluate any future financial commitment based on the program’s progress.

Also on Wednesday, the board received information about a proposed school safety plan that includes about $1.2 million in cameras and alarm systems for schools, and $550,000 in new personnel positions to improve safety on the parish’s high school campuses.

The proposal is still under review, but a request to fund some of the new positions will come before the board soon, district Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau said.

Billeaudeau said the board will be asked to consider two new assistant principal positions at Lafayette and Comeaux High schools and a dean of students at Carencro High.

The cost of those three positions, estimated at $55,000 each, could be covered by general fund dollars recaptured from the district’s overestimate of students it would lose to the state’s scholarship or voucher program, Billeaudeau said.

District Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry said the district drew up its budget based on a loss of 282 students to the voucher program, but only 142 students opted to participate.

The proposal also recommends four safety officers to work at Comeaux, Lafayette, Acadiana, and Carencro High schools and two safety officers for Moss Preparatory School. Billeaudeau said the safety officers are different from school resource officers, who are certified police officers assigned to work on school campuses.

The safety officers are needed to be “extra pair of eyes” to assist school resource officers, she said.

The board also approved revisions to its bullying policy to comply with state law and approved a purchase agreement for the sale of $30 million in bonds to fund school construction and improvements.