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School superintendent asks community to help children overcome obstacles; looks to future of district

Advocate staff photo by CHARLES LUSSIER -- East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake gave an update Monday on the school system he took over in June to members of the Baton Rouge Press Club.

East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Warren Drake says he’s enlisting the support of everyone he can in Baton Rouge to assist children in overcoming the many obstacles that keep them from succeeding as adults. “In the past four months, I have reached out and engaged every community organization in Baton Rouge,” Drake told the Baton… Continue reading →

Key vote on Common Core test results set for Oct. 13, would create 'level playing field,' John White says

A vote by Louisiana’s top school board on Oct. 13 will be crucial in ensuring that Common Core test results in Louisiana are comparable to scores in other states, state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday. Under the plan, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will consider how scores on the exam translate into… Continue reading →

Scotlandville High principal fights to retain his job after using stick to break up student fight

From left: Tiffany Quiett and Calvin Nicholas

Scotlandville High School has a new principal even as the school’s old principal, removed after being caught on video breaking up a student fight using a stick, is trying to keep from being fired. Tiffany Quiett took over as Scotlandville’s interim principal on Tuesday. She has spent the past few years as an administrator… Continue reading →

An oasis for north Baton Rouge 'educational desert'? School Board moves toward reopening Istrouma High

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Exterior of Istrouma High School, front facing Winbourne Avenue, in Baton Rouge, La.,  as seen on Oct. 15, 2012.

Istrouma High, under state control since 2012 and closed a year ago, would reopen in August as a neighborhood high school under a proposal the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board preliminarily approved Thursday. The board also recommended extending Aramark’s school custodial, maintenance and grounds keeping contract for 16 more months, through the end of June 2017.… Continue reading →

Math, science need to be a bigger part of early childhood education, expert tells Baton Rouge audience

The growing emphasis on math and science instruction in elementary and secondary grades is almost nowhere to be found in many preschools and early childhood settings, an expert in the field told a Baton Rouge audience Wednesday. Kimberly Brenneman, program officer for education at the Heising-Simons Foundation in Los Altos, California, laid out for… Continue reading →

Candidates for Baton Rouge BESE slot air views on Common Core, suspensions and closing schools

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Ascension Parish educator Kathy Edmonston during a candidate forum for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seat currently held by Chas Roemer, Wednesday, September 30, 2015, at Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge.

Standardized testing, out-of-school suspensions and closing troubled public schools all came under fire Wednesday night during a forum in the race for an open seat on Louisiana’s top school board. The contest is for the Baton Rouge-based District 6 slot on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held by Chas Roemer, who opted not to… Continue reading →

Report: LSU’s Pennington Center the top recipient of Coca-Cola health-related research grants since 2010

LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center found itself in the cross-hairs in an ongoing ethical debate in August when The New York Times raised questions about the relationship between Coca-Cola and obesity research it has funded — including a study at Pennington in Baton Rouge. Last week, when Coca-Cola recently released a Continue reading →

These 3 candidates' campaign war chests outweigh the rest in key BESE races

Advocates for the changes that have swept public schools in recent years, including Common Core, enjoy wide money leads in key races for Louisiana’s top school board. Incumbents who have huge financial advantages over their challengers are Jim Garvey, of Metairie; Holly Boffy, of Youngsville; and Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans. All three… Continue reading →

Four Baton Rouge schools, one New Orleans school recognized with Blue Ribbon awards

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- St. Aloysius School kindergarten students Virginia Jones, 5, right, Gabe Valluzzo, 6, center and Jackson Laperouse, 6, enjoy blue cupcakes in celebration of  the school being named a National Blue Ribbon School in an assembly Tuesday in the gymnasium.

Baton Rouge and New Orleans schools were honored Tuesday when they were designated Blue Ribbon schools of excellence, the nation’s top school honor. Baton Rouge Magnet High, LSU Lab School, St. Aloysius Catholic School and St. James Episcopal Day School are among the nine Louisiana schools — six public and three private — named.… Continue reading →

Central School Board votes to tear down 1927-era girls gym after impasse with Central Cultural Foundation

After nearly a year of fruitless discussions with a local historic preservationist group about restoring the place, the Central School Board voted Monday to tear down the old Central High School girls gym, which was built in 1927. Superintendent Michael Faulk said the next step is to solicit quotes from contractors and then proceed with demolition.… Continue reading →

State will release initial Common Core test results Oct. 12; some would like to see results earlier

The first glimpse of how Louisiana students fared on Common Core tests will be Oct. 12, state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday. Those statewide results will show how about 320,000 students did on the exams in March and May, and eventually how they compare with their peers in other states. Students will be placed… Continue reading →

Southern, LSU wary of growing medical marijuana for state

Leaders at Southern University and LSU say that a new state law intended to pave the way for medical marijuana in Louisiana will need to be tweaked before they move ahead with any plans to grow it. “The bill is very limited in the way it’s structured,” Adell Brown, vice chancellor of research at Southern University’s Agriculture… Continue reading →

Southern names provost

M. Christopher Brown is Southern University's new provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Southern University has named former Alcorn State University President M. Christopher Brown as its new provost and vice president for academic affairs. Brown resigned from Alcorn State in 2013 as Mississippi higher education leaders considered putting him on administrative leave amid criticism over money spent on upgrades to the on-campus president’s house. He will… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee School Board agrees to creation of STEM Academy administrator, but hiring hinges on federal court approval for use of Central High campus

Advocate staff file photo by TERRY JONES -- Officials hope to turn Pointe Coupee Central High in Morganza into a STEM Academy

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board on Thursday took another step toward opening a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Academy by fall 2016 by creating a new administrative position to manage the proposed school. But, the board’s unanimous approval of the job description for the district’s new chief program… Continue reading →

Regents approve budget for Louisiana’s public colleges universities budget, but it comes with warning

The state Board of Regents has approved budgets for Louisiana’s public colleges and universities, but warned schools that they continue to face the threat of spending cuts. “There is a looming budget shortfall that we all have to face,” Regents Chairman Roy Martin said at Thursday’s board meeting. “All the systems need to be mindful of that.”… Continue reading →

With renewal nearing, here's why East Baton Rouge Parish's library tax is under unusually close scrutiny

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING --  Baton Rouge's Mary Dommert, who with husband Roland Dommert 'raised four kids at the Goodwood Library,' puts a sign in her Oak Hills Park front yard Thursday, supporting renewal of the East Baton Rouge library tax. She and her husband still use the library often, she said, and one daughter became a public school librarian. Supporters of renewing the 11.1 mill library tax launched their campaign Thursday.

Yard signs, car magnets, stickers and bookmarks urging people to vote “Yes! Oct. 24” are popping up around East Baton Rouge Parish, as library supporters press their case to renew the property tax that underwrites the parish system and its 14 branches. The campaign to renew the tax was formally launched at an event at Theatre… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge area BESE candidates clash on voucher oversight, other key education issues

Carolyn Hill, who is seeking her second term on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, blasted the panel Wednesday night during a forum with challenger Jada Lewis. Hill, who often clashes with other BESE members, painted the 11-member board as out of touch. “Right now, the community does not trust BESE,” she said.… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge’s ‘Breakfast in the Classroom’ program paying off with better attendance, improved discipline, administrators say

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Arnessa Henry hands out breakfast bags as other students pick them up. For the past year, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, including Wildwood Elementary, has been experimenting with serving breakfast to students in their homeroom classrooms rather than in the cafeteria. Only a few schools in Baton Rouge are doing it now, but the U.S. Dept. of AgricultureÕs Food and Nutrition Service is pushing hard for school districts to adopt this program. In big cities such as Dallas and Houston the participation rate in eating breakfast has gone from round 40 to 100 percent. Also charter schools in New Orleans have already adopted this. Kids who are fed tend to do better in school, especially in the mornings. They also donÕt need to get to school as early to make sure they make breakfast, since breakfast will be served at the opening bell. Some schools have balked because they donÕt want to have food in every classroom and attract bugs, etc.. But the meals are largely prepackaged so the trash is easily tossed out after eating.

Children lined up at the entrance to Wildwood Elementary School on Thursday morning as waiting adults handed out brown bags filled with apple juice, slices of orange and a breakfast pizza. Bags in hand, the kids walked straight to their homerooms and ate at their tiny desks. The halls at this… Continue reading →

LSU extending F. King Alexander’s contract through 2020

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU System President and Chancellor F. King Alexander hugs LSU shortstop Alex Bregman as they celebrate the Tigers' 6-3 win over UL-Lafayette in the NCAA Division I Baton Rouge Super Regional, Sunday, June 7, 2015, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field. With this win, the Tigers advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Ne.

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander is getting a contract extension through 2020. “Dr. Alexander is leading the university in the right direction,” LSU board member Ann Duplessis said Friday. The contract extension is expected to be formally approved at next month’s LSU Board of Supervisors meeting, but Duplessis said the LSU board unanimously agreed… Continue reading →

Common Core test results will show 'we have a long way to go,' education chief John White says

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White

Results from Louisiana’s first round of Common Core tests will be sobering, state Superintendent of Education John White said Friday. “The fact is we have a long way to go to be competitive with other states,” White said. “I think it will be sobering, but it will show evidence of progress.” Results of the assessments are… Continue reading →

Lee High gets new admission standards; most East Baton Rouge magnet schools now require screening tests

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Lee Magnet High Schoolers pile off the bus for the first day of school. Kids return from summer break Thursday back to EBR public schools. EBR is one of many school districts that reopened Thursday. Many more are opening up next week.

With the application period starting in just three weeks, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday agreed to require that students in grades four to 11 take a special standardized test if they want to gain admittance to most of the district’s magnet schools. Lee High School, which has had a schoolwide magnet program… Continue reading →

Common Core test scores to be released in November, but there's already controversy

Advocate staff file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Bains Lower Elementary kindergarten teacher Tonya Aaron goes through a math exercise, teaching her students about the number 7.

Common Core test results will be released in November, and there already is controversy bubbling around the scores. The exams were given to nearly 320,000 students in the spring after months of arguments over the new benchmarks in reading, writing and math. The state typically issues annual school performance scores, including letter grades, in… Continue reading →

New Southern University leader cautious yet optimistic for future enrollment, funding

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Ray Belton addresses the Southern University System Board of Supervisors, after it named him Friday as the new system president and chancellor.

Ray Belton has been at the helm of the Southern University System for about 60 days, but already he says he recognizes the challenges he faces. Southern University has struggled with an image problem. Enrollment was slumping until this year. Reserve funds are dwindling after years of repeated cuts to state higher education funding. National discussions… Continue reading →

Court ruling a setback for Bobby Jindal's fight against Common Core

Gov. Bobby Jindal suffered a major blow in his fight against Common Core on Wednesday when a federal judge refused to block the U.S. Department of Education from withholding money if Louisiana were to dump the controversial teaching standards. U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick denied Jindal’s request for a preliminary injunction, saying the governor… Continue reading →

Inside look at East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake's 'Principal For A Day' plan, how it unfolded at Belaire High

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Baton Rouge's Gary Stewart, right, Vice President of ERS Building Maintenance, Inc., watches students pass in the hallway during a class changeover, as he shadows Belaire High School Principal Roy Walker Tuesday. The day was part of a program by new EBR Schools Supt. Warren Drake that will pair principals with community or business leaders. Stewart went to high school and played quarterback at Belaire years ago.

“Let’s go, let’s go! Looking good, looking good, looking good!” urged the bullhorn-toting Belaire High School Principal Roy Walker as students streamed by in a school hallway. It was less than three minutes from the start of second period at the Baton Rouge public high school, and the football-coach-turned-principal was determined to have every single… Continue reading →

Parlez-vous Français? Artist finds way to learn French at elementary school

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Christina Pellicero, 10, right, draws a Mayan glyph on the board under the watch of professional artist Jill Hackney, left, as Hackney speaks French as she interacts with fifth graders in teacher Bruno Paquat's class Thursday at Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet (BR FLAIM), where Hackney is artist in residence. In background, from left, are Emyly Leatherman, 10, and Caroline Smith, 10.

About two years ago, Baton Rouge-based visual artist Jill Hackney began learning French in earnest. Despite some improvement, progress was slower than she’d hoped. She lacked the chance to converse regularly with fluent speakers. The solution to her problem emerged in the form of a public elementary school, Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet,… Continue reading →

'If anybody knows how to party, it's New Orleans': Tulane University makes Playboy’s ‘top party schools’ list again

Tulane University has made Playboy magazine’s annual list of the nation’s top party schools, again. “If anybody knows how to party, it’s the city of New Orlans,” the magazine writes of its No. 4 ranking for Tulane. “When most colleges are cracking down, Tulane continues to rise above the rest.” LSU, which has received the dubious… Continue reading →

Candidates in BESE races have much different views on Common Core

The eight races on the Oct. 24 primary ballot for Louisiana’s top school board feature candidates with sharply contrasting views on Common Core, state Superintendent of Education John White and other topics. A total of 21 contenders filed for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education during the three-day qualifying period that ended Thursday.… Continue reading →

Warren Drake wants good principals who can do the job, but doesn’t want them burdened with new responsibilities

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The ascension of Warren Drake to EBR School Superintendent has raised hopes anew that he can do what others have failed to, to heal the breach in this city over public education that led to the St. George incorporation movement. Unlike past superintendents, Drake is a local son, a respected educator, a former principal of BR high school and former supt. of the top-rated Zachary school district.

Finding good principals and letting them do their job is a big part of Warren Drake’s prescription for educational success, but the East Baton Rouge Parish school superintendent stops short of endorsing the level of school autonomy typical downriver in New Orleans. Contrary to state Superintendent of Education John White and other education reformers, Drake said… Continue reading →

North Baton Rouge needs a high school, could get Istrouma back from state, superintendent Warren Drake says

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- East Baton Rouge School Superintendent Warren Drake

East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake on Thursday said he’s pleased with the progress so far in his negotiations with state leaders to return the closed Istrouma High School in Baton Rouge to local control. “We’re very close to reaching a deal where we get Istrouma High School back,” Drake told a small luncheon audience at… Continue reading →

U.S. News ranks LSU at No. 129 among top universities for 2016, second best in state, tied for 10th in SEC

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Aerial view of LSU campus in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU was ranked No. 129 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 rankings of the nation’s top universities, an annual list that was released Wednesday. LSU had an identical ranking of No. 129 for 2015, which was an improvement from its No. 135 ranking for 2014. “LSU has consistently been ranked in the top… Continue reading →

SAE fraternity returns to LSU after hazing, harassment allegations suspended them from campus in 2012

Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity has returned to LSU’s campus, lifting a 2012 suspension that was handed down amid allegations of hazing and harassment. The group, which was also suspended in the 1990s, had been barred from seeking reinstatement until earlier this year. SAE doesn’t face a probationary period with its latest return, LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard… Continue reading →

See the list: Louisiana students announced as semifinalists for prestigious National Merit Scholarships

Officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the names of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 61st annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,400 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be… Continue reading →

LSU student says Daughters of Confederacy meeting on campus 'a slap in the face'; protest to feature Confederate flag-burning 'barbecue'

A meeting of the United Daughters of the Confederacy on LSU’s campus this week has prompted pushback from some students, who say they are planning a demonstration in response. Cimajie Best, president of LSU’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the Lod Cook Hotel and Conference Center’s role as host… Continue reading →

LSU administrators requested to be kept in the loop on ongoing Reveille discussions, records show

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander requested a briefing on student media strategy last month after leaders met with Reveille alumni and other interested parties about the future of the campus newspaper, records show.

The Advocate filed a public records request on Aug. 12 for communication between Manship School of Mass Communications Dean Jerry Ceppos and administrators regarding… Continue reading →

At least two years behind their peers, 70 ‘overage’ students to transfer to East Baton Rouge superintendent’s academies

Dozens of children, almost all in middle school and all at least two years behind their peers, are transferring to three alternative schools in Baton Rouge, schools that were created for students just like them but that they’ve been ineligible to attend until now. The transfers, which began in late August, involve as many as 70… Continue reading →

New bridge, tax hikes, HOV lanes among residents' suggestions to improve traffic jams on I-10

In the third of three public meetings, Baton Rouge area residents said Thursday night that far more than widening Interstate 10 is needed to relieve daily traffic jams. Building a new bridge across the Mississippi River, boosting the state sales or gasoline taxes and offering motorists faster travel lanes, if they haul multiple passengers, were among the… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School Board to consider new tests for magnet school admissions and tougher admission requirements for Lee High

Children in grades four to 11 will likely have to take a special standardized test this fall if they want to gain admittance to magnet schools in Baton Rouge. The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday voted 6-1 to recommend buying a new magnet screening test. That would mean no more relying… Continue reading →