Schools strive to help athletes in classroom

The athletic directors of Ascension Parish’s four high schools shared with School Board members on Tuesday their goals for helping athletes achieve academic success.

David Alexander, the board’s director of secondary education, said the district last year began a renewed effort to track data to help athletes reach goals set at each high school for ACT scores, grade-point averages, scholarships and more.

“This process has helped us all get on the same page. It’s turned into ‘What can we do to help this student be successful?’ I think this data can show we are a positive force,” said David Oliver, the athletic director at St. Amant High.

The high school athletic programs offer a number of interventions to student athletes before, during and after school, including tutoring and changing practice times.

While some benchmarks have stayed static or dipped slightly, the schools’ student athletes have seen some gains in some areas.

At St. Amant High, for instance, the average ACT score for athletes in 2013-14 was 22.14, up from an average 21.59 the previous year, and the GPA was 3.36, up from 3.25.

At Dutchtown High, athletic director Benny Saia said, 52 athletes earned TOPS scholarships in 2013-14, compared with 34 the previous school year.

Information for 2013-14 from East Ascension High showed that the average gpa for all student athletes in ninth through 12th grades was 2.98, very close to this school year’s goal of 3.0.

“We have all set higher goals for this school year,” said Paul Bourgeois, athletic director at East Ascension High.

Benny Guilbeaux, athletic director at Donaldsonville High, said the school has seen drops in benchmarks for student athletes, but the school is offering academic help, particularly in reading skills.

“Some of the things we’re up against are somewhat different than other high schools,” Guilbeaux said of the school, which is located in an area with a high level of poverty.

As football season gets underway, representatives of the locally owned LeBlanc regional grocery store chain presented each of the high schools’ athletic directors with a check for $1,000 for their schools’ athletic programs. Brothers Randy LeBlanc and Marcy LeBlanc said the grocery business supports local football in memory of their late parents, Paul and Janice LeBlanc.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated on Aug. 21, 2014 to correctly give the name of Dutchtown High athletic director Benny Saia.)