Acadian Middle officials meet students, parents off campus

Acadian Middle School teachers and staff brought “school” to families Friday at Holy Family Apartments, the first stop on the bus stop tour to meet parents who cannot visit the campus and to inform them about upcoming changes.

“We want the community to know we’re reaching out to them by coming to them,” Acadian Middle Principal Linda Nance said.

Some teachers, counselors and other staff visited with students who live at the apartment complex, passing out hot dogs and bottles of Sunny Delight. Within the first hour of the group’s arrival, few adults ventured over, but the children were curious.

Acadian Middle sixth-graders Fabian Carrington and Keviona Duhon said they were surprised to get off the bus and see Nance and some of their teachers near the playground at home.

Carrington, 11, said he thought the visit was a good idea “because my mom probably has never met them.”

School counselor Denise Taylor helped smaller children over a puddle and played hand-clapping games with others on the playground.

The visit is about building community, Taylor said.

Fellow school counselor Gayle Guidry said he hopes the visit has a “longer ripple effect” for the J.W. Faulk Elementary students, who will soon attend the middle school, and that it “will help bridge the gap between the parents and school.”

Last month, the Lafayette Parish School Board approved Nance’s request to reconstitute — or restaff — Acadian Middle for the upcoming school year with teachers who have experience teaching in a high-poverty school.

That review process will begin next week, she said.

While there are “good teachers” at the school, Nance said, they may not be the right fit for students’ needs at Acadian Middle.

“We have some good teachers here, but we do have some teachers who really haven’t been trained on how to work with students from poverty and you’ve got to be very knowledgeable about where these kids come from, what their learning styles are and what works with them generally speaking and what doesn’t,” she said.

The school’s performance score has been on the decline in the past four years, Nance said. The school’s recent performance score is 76.2, which earned a state accountability label of a D. Schools with performance scores below 75 out of of a possible 200 points are labeled F schools under a policy approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“We’re two points away from an F school,” Nance said. “In order to help turn this thing around quickly, if I can get that kind of teacher in here, I can make it happen. If I have to take time to train people — it’s going to slow us down and I’m afraid we’ll be an F school before I can get that corner turned.”

Nance’s plan to improve the school’s performance score also includes team-teaching — a successful middle school instructional model where teachers work as a team to coordinate instruction and teach the same group of students. Acadian Middle enrolls about 590 students, 113 of whom are overage and in need of grade recovery to catch up academically with their peers, she said.

Nance said she and her staff also wanted to tell parents about state-mandated curriculum changes, known as common core standards, which are also in store for the new school year.

“We want to familiarize them with the verbage so when they hear common core that they know that it’s referring to the new curriculum that the district is using,” she said.

The school also prepared fliers with curriculum change information and how parents can help students at home by reading more non-fiction books or memorizing basic math facts.

Nance said the school will continue its outreach next school year.