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School Board appalled at condition of RSD schools, but questions who’s responsible for upkeep

Photo from -- Ceiling tiles damaged by water intrusion at Prescott Middle School.

Seven north Baton Rouge schools taken over by the state for chronic low academic performance have steadily fallen into disrepair. A long-simmering debate about who’s responsible for bringing them back into good repair broke out in public view at the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting on Thursday. School Board members saw recent pictures… Continue reading →

BESE approves emergency Ebola policies for public schools

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer.

Facing questions and worries about Ebola, the state’s top school board on Wednesday approved emergency rules that give local superintendents sweeping new authority to close public schools and send students home if they sense a threat. Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the panel took the action as… Continue reading →

St. James School Board seeks clarification on Aramark contract

St. James Parish School Board members on Tuesday sought clarification from two representatives from Aramark, the private company providing custodial services at parish schools, about who is actually performing the janitorial work and at what cost to the district. Board members also discussed a clerical error that led to them not receiving… Continue reading →

Baker School Board holds first meeting in new office, honors students

Photo provided by Emily Beck Cogburn -- The new Baker School Board buildling.

More than 120 people packed the new school district office building on Tuesday for the first meeting of the Baker School Board in its new office in the former Graves Chevrolet property at 14750 Plank Road. The school district purchased the 3.4-acre property for $1.1 million in March. The district has budgeted… Continue reading →

Senate candidates square off in Shreveport

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., right, Senate candidate, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, and Republican candidate Rob Maness participate in a debate at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Tuesday night’s debate among the three leading candidates in Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race featured few surprises, but gave each a chance to point out their differences and challenge each other face-to-face. Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy and Republican retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness squared off on… Continue reading →

Magnet schools participation in Blue Ribbon contest passes committee

A state education panel on Tuesday forwarded a proposal to reverse the state’s controversial exclusion of magnet schools from the chance to win a prestigious national award in favor of “nonselective” schools. With little discussion, a committee of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously approved new nominating criteria for determining which… Continue reading →

State reviewing criteria for Blue Ribbon school nominations

Louisiana is considering allowing magnet schools the chance once again to win a prestigious national award, backing away from a controversial decision this spring to exclude the magnet schools in favor of “nonselective” schools. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this week plans to take up new nominating criteria to determine which… Continue reading →

Bobby Jindal backs federal pre-K grant bid

Despite his concerns about Common Core, Gov. Bobby Jindal will back a state bid to land a $15 million federal prekindergarten grant. Jindal’s office made the announcement Monday after days of letter exchanges between the governor, who opposes Common Core, and state Superintendent of Education John White, who backs the classroom standards. Jindal repeatedly said… Continue reading →

Lane Grigsby leads in campaign donations for EBR School Board races

Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigbsy is once again pouring money into East Baton Rouge Parish School Board elections, far outpacing all other donors, according to campaign finance reports released last week. The total spending so far this election cycle by Grigsby, his family members and top executives at his company, Cajun Industries, is just shy of $160,000,… Continue reading →

‘Super Science Saturday’ draws young science enthusiasts to LSU

Advocate staff photo by John Oubre -- Nikki Edmonson and her 7yr. old son Noah, watch as Albemarle representative Julia Pence conducts an experiment with liquids on Saturday.

The Pete Maravich Assembly Center transformed from a sports arena to host for “Super Science Saturday” this weekend, as throngs of young science enthusiasts eager to learn gathered for colorful demonstrations and first-hand chemical reactions and experiments. The 27th annual event consisted of 19 stations encircling the upper level concourse of the PMAC, with… Continue reading →

State Board of Regents: Joseph Rallo selected new higher ed commissioner

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Board of Regents pick Joseph Rallo, right, who is congratulated by a line of people, as the new higher education commissioner.

Louisiana’s next higher education commissioner has served in the Navy and Air Force, speaks multiple languages, has studied European law and Russian history, and is seen as an expert on global policy. The state Board of Regents on Thursday hailed as a coup its decision to hire Texas Tech System administrator Joseph Rallo for the state higher… Continue reading →

LSU boasts most diverse student body ever, highest GPA, ACT scores

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU students walk by the Campanile on campus.

LSU’s freshman class this fall has the highest average ACT score and highest average grade point average in the university’s history. The student body, as a whole, is also LSU’s most diverse ever — with 5.3 percent of its more than 30,000 students identifying as Hispanic, 11.2 percent as African-American, 3.5 percent as Asian and 2.2 percent… Continue reading →

Louisiana community colleges approve 6-year plan

Louisiana’s community and technical colleges are embarking on an aggressive, six-year plan that includes doubling the number of graduates and their total earnings, quadrupling the number of students they send to the state’s four-year schools and significantly increasing private dollars and partnerships with businesses. “I don’t think it’s any secret to anyone that the biggest… Continue reading →

Jindal says Common Core critics need legal protection

Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit in Washington, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Gov. Bobby Jindal took the unusual step of issuing an executive order Wednesday against what he called unfair efforts by school leaders to hush teachers who oppose Common Core. Jindal, who opposes the academic standards, said he was prompted to act by an account in The Alexandria Town Talk newspaper. The story quoted… Continue reading →

Copper Mill school closed because of water main break

ZACHARY -- Copper Mill Elementary School is closed Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, because of a water main break, according to the Zachary Community School Board. Parents have until 10 a.m. if they wish to collect their children. Otherwise, fifth-graders will be sent to Zachary Middle School, and sixth-graders will be sent to Zachary High School for the day.… Continue reading →

FuturePAC makes endorsements, contributions in East Baton Rouge School Board races

A political action committee affiliated with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber is giving money to candidates in four of the six East Baton Rouge Parish School Board races, including newcomers Mark Bellue and Chris Bailey. FuturePAC also announced Tuesday its endorsement of incumbents Evelyn Ware-Jackson for District 5 and Barbara Freiberg for District… Continue reading →

U.S. education secretary plans New Orleans speech

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has ignited controversy in Louisiana previously, will be the featured speaker at a meeting in New Orleans on Dec. 11. Duncan will appear at the annual luncheon of the Bureau of Governmental Research, a nonprofit group that analyzes public policies. In 2010, Duncan said Hurricane Katrina was the “best thing”… Continue reading →

LSU Alumni head: No wrongdoing found in audits

LSU Alumni Association President and CEO Cliff Vannoy says two separate audits that were ordered following a sex scandal involving the group’s former leader have found no wrongdoing or misused money. The independent reports are expected to formally be released this week, Vannoy told the LSU Faculty Senate on Tuesday. Former association head Charlie Roberts Continue reading →

Southern Lab rebounds with help from online enrollment

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Southern University Law Center students Carroll Atkins, far left, and McKinley James work with Southern University Laboratory School students, from left, Kaylie Richardson, 9; Sandy Pitts, 9; Donecia Young, 9; and Harold Baudy, 12, as they make a presentation in a class that is a partnership between the Lab School, Law Center and Baton Rouge Bar Association. The school has achieved a turnaround in its finances. Two years ago, it was running big deficits and had to be underwritten heavily by Southern University. Now it's in the black, with almost 500 students, about double the number from two years ago, in its brick-and-mortar school, and another 500 or so in its new online school.

Four years ago, Southern University Lab School was in trouble, deep in the red and losing students. But a shift to online education has restored the school’s financial health and prospects, perhaps even helping attract local students to the physical campus next to the historically black university in Baton Rouge. Southern Lab’s Virtual School, barely… Continue reading →

Three candidates for Louisiana Commissioner Higher Education to be interviewed this week

Louisiana’s next commissioner of higher education likely will be named this week, after the state Board of Regents and other higher education leaders get a chance to vet three finalists for the job. None of the three has emerged as a clear frontrunner for the nearly $350,000-a-year position. Their backgrounds are diverse: a community college president… Continue reading →

TOPS students to get text message reminders

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Aerial of the new State Capitol building and grounds.

By the end of this semester, first-year college students who receive money from Louisiana’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Students will start receiving text messages that will remind them what they need to do to keep their scholarships. Among those messages, they’re likely to see unexpected warnings to keep their grade-point averages above 2.3 and to take at… Continue reading →

Board member concerned about how new developments affect Livingston schools

From emergency preparedness to athletic eligibility, second chances for failed coursework and school resource officers, the Livingston Parish School Board on Thursday discussed a bevy of issues that affect students and educators. But the top of the list involves asking parish government to gauge how future developments would affect the… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School Board to seek proposals for dropout program

Rather than hiring Dallas-based Grade Results, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system plans to seek proposals from a variety of online education services to see which is best to offer Internet-based coursework for students who have dropped out or who are in danger of dropping out of school. Superintendent Bernard Taylor asked the School Board for… Continue reading →

TOPS students to get text message reminders

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Aerial of the new State Capitol building and grounds.

By the end of this semester, first-year college students who receive money from Louisiana’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Students will start receiving text messages that will remind them what they need to do to keep their scholarships. Among those messages, they’re likely to see unexpected warnings to keep their grade-point averages above 2.3 and to take at… Continue reading →

La. charter schools rated 2nd nationally

A charter school advocacy group said Thursday that charter schools in Louisiana rank second nationally in growth, performance and innovation. The review was done by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. It used 11 measures to rate the “health” of the charter school movement in 26 states.… Continue reading →

Current, former DOTD chiefs disagree on La. highway conditions

Sheri H. LeBas, La. Department of Transportation and Development Secretary

Former state Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Kam Movassaghi and current DOTD chief Sherri LeBas bluntly disagreed Tuesday on state road and bridge conditions and how to fix them. Movassaghi said state highways are in a “deplorable state,” that political interference from the Governor’s Office is part of the problem and that politics sometimes… Continue reading →

Local superintendents troubled by overhaul

A Legislature-ordered overhaul of Louisiana’s special education system is sparking questions, concerns and angst among superintendents. “We are proceeding cautiously,” said John Watson, superintendent of the Livingston Parish school system. “It is a big undertaking.” Other school district chiefs made similar comments about the sweeping new law, which won approval earlier this year,… Continue reading →

EBR schools struggling to serve non-English speaking students

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Miguel Ruiz, 14, right, who came recently to the United States from Mexico, talks with ESL Coordinator Alina Miron, center,  in her class at Broadmoor High School recently. At left is Kleiner Garcia, 16. She came to the U.S. from Honduras.

Nearly 300 unaccompanied children from Central America have at least temporarily settled in Baton Rouge since the summer and find themselves in a school system ill prepared for the sudden influx of non-English speaking students. East Baton Rouge Parish public school officials spent the opening weeks of the school year filling English as a second language… Continue reading →

Judge enforces pay rate in Tangipahoa School Board desegregation case

A federal judge has ordered the Tangipahoa Parish School Board to pay opposing attorneys in its desegregation lawsuit an hourly rate the board claims it never agreed to pay — despite a written agreement the board’s attorney signed. Attorneys representing the parish’s black community are seeking payment for recent work in the 49-year-old case under a… Continue reading →

New PAC gears up for School Board races, ads on radio, TV start rolling

A new political action committee formed by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby is running ads on local TV and radio programs, asking voters on Nov. 4 to press for change in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, including expanding school choice and giving school leaders more autonomy and budget control. Better Schools for Better Futures, the… Continue reading →

Leaders discuss future of La. college systems’ budgets

Three of Louisiana’s college and university systems are just hoping the state Legislature won’t cut higher education funding next year. Meanwhile, the Southern University System is facing significant funding issues next year, as officials suspect the Baton Rouge campus will fail to meet state benchmarks necessary to raise tuition for a second year. Higher education leaders gave… Continue reading →

Special education overhaul subject of webinar series

Controversy continued to churn Wednesday on a new state law that offers multiple ways for some special education students to earn a high school diploma. Officials of the state Department of Education told a key advisory panel that the agency will hold a series of webinars for school districts on how to implement the overhaul.… Continue reading →

National scholarship program announces 1,600 semifinalists

Ill More than1,600 black high school seniors were named Tuesday as semifinalists in the 51st annual National Achievement Scholarship Program. These students will compete for approximately 800 Achievement Scholarship awards worth about $2.5 million. The National Achievement Scholarship Program, a privately financed academic competition, was… Continue reading →

St. James parents, teachers concerned about Common Core lessons