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Students in final preparations for Common Core exams; program to face many hurdles ahead

After months of battles in the Legislature, courts and school boards, Louisiana public school students are in final preparations for the initial round of tests on Common Core. About 300,000 students in grades three through eight are set to take the exams March 16-20, something of a watershed event after bitter arguments for the past… Continue reading →

Battle over Redemptorist High now focusing on what to do next with the campus

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Redemptorist High and Junior High are scheduled to close in May 2015.

Built in the late 1950s, Redemptorist High School’s north Baton Rouge campus has been just that — a school — for its entire existence. After the last students leave on the final day of classes May 21, it’s not clear what the campus will be used for next. Metro Councilwoman Ronnie Williams, who represents the area, said… Continue reading →

Jindal seeks option for students who plan to skip Common Core tests

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Friday urged Louisiana’s top school board to let students who plan to skip Common Core tests in March take alternate assessments. Jindal, in an unusual executive “order,” said such a move would be preferable to “penalizing students, teachers and schools and jeopardizing our statewide accountability system.” Chas Roemer, president… Continue reading →

Special BESE meeting sought on Common Core; discussion needed on how to handle students who opt out tests, member says

Advocate file photos -- Lottie Beebe, left, and Chas Roemer

A member of Louisiana’s top school board said she and three other panel members want a special meeting to discuss upcoming Common Core tests, including students who skip the exams. Lottie Beebe, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, made her comments in an email Wednesday to BESE President Chas Roemer.… Continue reading →

‘Beyond Bricks EBR’ participants call for more arts and music education, community schools with stable faculties

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Anna Fogle, left, gives statistical information to the attendees as Beyond Bricks EBR held the first of three listening sessions Wednesday at the BREC facility located at 6117 Cadillac Street. The initiative aims to get people in EBR to say what they want in public education.

In a cavernous gym on Cadillac Street, a few blocks from Glen Oaks High School, about 40 people sat down Wednesday afternoon to say their piece about public education in East Baton Rouge Parish and what they think could make it better. “We need to talk about the good things are happening in this district,” said… Continue reading →

Former grant manager of EBR school district’s Jobs for America’s Graduates arrested, accused in theft

Donald Taylor

Four months after resigning as coordinator of a career-training program for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, Donald Taylor found himself in jail, accused of stealing more than $9,100 worth of iPads and other equipment from the district. The 49-year-old resident of Clinton was booked on Oct. 28 into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on… Continue reading →

Report: La. teacher retirement system gets C-

The health of the teachers’ retirement system in Louisiana got a C minus in a report issued Tuesday by a national group. National Council on Teacher Quality, which calls itself a nonpartisan research and policy organization in Washington, D.C., did the review. The report says the state’s teacher retirement debt totals $11.3 billion, or $16,134 per public… Continue reading →

Louisiana charter school laws rated second in U.S.

Caroline Roemer Shirley

Louisiana has the second best charter school laws in the nation, a national advocacy group for the schools announced Tuesday. The ranking is up from third last year among the 43 states and District of Columbia that have such laws, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit group in Washington,… Continue reading →

EBR school thefts target of police probe

Baton Rouge police are investigating the theft of about $9,500 of equipment from the East Baton Rouge Parish School District, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said Monday. Projectors and iPads used in the district’s anti-dropout Jobs for America’s Graduates program were stolen, Purpera said in a prepared statement that accompanied the report. The review of a range… Continue reading →

Middle school kids imagine cities of future in competition at LSU

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- A city on the move, 'Aquacropolis' is taken to the judging room by Scotlandville Middle Magnet team members, left to right, Deylen Colligan, Dante Hicks, Juliet Walker, Danesha Caldwell, coach Ingrid Cruz and Craig Ferguson, inside LSU's Energy, Coast & Environment Building Saturday. Theirs was one of the teams of middle school students from Louisiana and Mississippi participating in the 2015 Future City Competition Regional Finals, vying for a chance to go to the competition's National Finals in Washington, D.C., February 15-18, 2015.

Using models built from bottles and broken toys, middle school students from Louisiana and Mississippi did their best on Saturday to convince judges of a concept still well in the future — creating a self-sustaining city that relies on renewable resources. Students presented their visions to a panel of judges at… Continue reading →

Save the best for last, Gaines Award-winning novelist tells Baton Rouge students

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Ernest Gaines Award winner Mitchell S. Jackson, left, who wrote ÒThe Residue Years,Ó speaks to 5th graders at Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School on College Drive.

Mitchell S. Jackson amazed a group of 10- and 11-year-olds with a simple fact. “What if I told you I’ve been working on this book as long as you’ve been alive?” Jackson asked, prompting gasps from the fifth-graders who crowded the classroom floor on Friday. “I’ve been working on this book,” he paused for effect,… Continue reading →

Scotlandville band director fired after accused of raping student, EBR schools official said

Robert Lewis ORG XMIT: BAT1501222223478426

Scotlandville Magnet High School’s band director was fired Friday, a day after he was accused of having sex with a student on at least two occasions — one of them consensual but illegal and the other a rape, authorities said. Keith Bromery, East Baton Rouge Parish school system spokesman, said staff at the north Baton Rouge… Continue reading →

Louisiana’s six nominees for national Blue Ribbon school honors announced; two from Baton Rouge

Louisiana has selected six public schools, including two in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans, to vie to be named Blue Ribbon schools of excellence, the nation’s top school honor. Three are among the highest-performing public schools in the state: Baton Rouge Magnet High School, LSU Lab School in Baton Rouge and Ben Franklin High… Continue reading →

West Baton Rouge school officials aiming for Top 10 status by 2020

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Paraprofessional Kandi West, second from right, works with students to help them create their 100th Day Trail Mix in teacher Jackie Spencer's Pre-K (4) class at Brusly Elementary School as they celebrate the 100th day of school. West Baton Rouge Superintendent Wesley Watts' Vision plan for the school district will be presented to the School Board Wednesday night. Watts' plan outlines his vision for the school district's future and include a strategic plan to build upon the school district's academic success (WBR is currently a B rated school district; they're close to A status). Watts' plan addresses the district's academics, personnel, budget, buildings and transportation needs.

At the urging of Superintendent Wesley Watts, West Baton Rouge Parish school administrators and School Board members are working in tandem on a five-year strategic plan aimed at getting the school district recognized as one of the top 10 in the state by 2020. Watts says the school system will do… Continue reading →

Mary Manhein, director of LSU FACES lab that helps ID human remains, set to retire

Advocate Staff Photograph by Travis Spradling.Picture shot on 3-16-99 LSU forensic anthopologist Mary Manhein sorts through small numerals made of lead, as she prepares a skull and mandible for an X-ray in the FACES lab. FACES stands for Forensic Anthopology and Computer Enhancement Services.       Keyword College Teacher

Mary Manhein liked to paint a scene for her LSU students. Imagine kicking up your feet on the sofa and relaxing after a long day, she would say. Then the phone rings. And so begins another case to crack, another set of bones to identify, another race to connect a family… Continue reading →

Career education overhaul summit draws 700

Andrew Zera was a student at Hahnville High School when he found welding more appealing than traditional classes. Now he is a welder making six figures a year, travels all over the nation and just put down $40,000 for a home. “The opportunities in welding are endless and they are plentiful right now,” the 2011 graduate… Continue reading →

Teaching lessons that go beyond classroom

Advocate staff photo by HOWARD ARCENEAUX -- Bains Elementary School eeacher Jean Woodside, right, and her students, from left, Dorian Booker, Madzy Leak, Emaline Kile, Loyalty Mitchell, Chandler Jones and DaNay Sullivan, recently learn about leadership thanks to the new 'Leader In Me' program.

Jean Woodside has noticed a difference in her fourth-graders at Bains Elementary School this school year. “When the kids come in each morning, they all have a job, they own the room,” said Woodside. “It makes a huge difference. When they come into the room, they know it’s their responsibility and they… Continue reading →

Tangipahoa School Board appoints interim board member and renews superintendent’s contract

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board appointed an interim representative Tuesday for a vacant Hammond-based seat, but it wasn’t the appointment some community members had requested. The board appointed Jim H. “Jay” Kelly to the District G seat vacated by Eric Dangerfield, who won election in November but was court-ordered… Continue reading →

Beyond Bricks EBR initiative seeks ideas from public on how to improve parish school system

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- EBRP School Supt. Dr. Bernard Taylor Jr., left, chats with EBRP School Board members Mark Bellue, center, and Barbara Freiberg, right, after the

Residents of East Baton Rouge Parish will be inundated with pleas to attend a series of 13 “listening sessions” over the next three weeks aimed at divining what they want to see happen in public education. But will they come? The Rev. Gerard Robinson Sr., pastor of McKowen Baptist Church, said he and… Continue reading →

U.S. Dept. of Education to Louisiana: Law might illegally lower bar to allow students with disabilities to get traditional high school diploma

Federal officials have renewed their warnings that a state law intended to aid special education students may run afoul of federal laws. In a letter dated Jan. 12, an official of the U.S. Department of Education said the chief issue is the possibility that Louisiana’s law will illegally lower the bar to allow students with… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School Board retains Tatman as president

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- East Baton Rouge School Superintendent Bernard Taylor, right, returns the gavel to board President David Tatman, re-elected Thursday in a special meeting before the regularly scheduled full Board meeting. Barbara Freiberg was elected as vice president replacing Tarvald Smith as vice president.

With little discussion, the leadership of the past four years quickly returned to power Thursday night as the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board re-elected David Tatman as its president and named former President Barbara Freiberg as vice president. In both cases, the board spurned Tarvald Smith, who sought Thursday to be president and then again to… Continue reading →

LSU to host video game developing event

LSU will again will serve as a host-site for an international video game design weekend later this month. Global Game Jam first came to LSU last year. The 48-hour event gives participants a chance to work around the clock on collaborating and competing in programming, designing and writing video games. The event will… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School District votes to extend three charter schools; future of fourth uncertain

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday voted unanimously to extend the lives of three charter schools in Baton Rouge, two of which have struggled academically. The board, however, has yet to look at a fourth charter school, Career Academy. This career-focused high school has earned a solid F grade throughout its existence. It is… Continue reading →

Baker school audit cites record keeping issues

Failure to follow proper record keeping procedures was partly responsible for the alleged theft of a tree trimmer by a maintenance supervisor in December, auditors advised the School Board in a report Wednesday. School district staff did not follow internal control procedures for credit card purchases during… Continue reading →

Six of the nine East Baton Rouge School Board members vie for the top two spots on the board

At least four of the nine members of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board have expressed interest in serving as its president when the newly elected board holds its first meeting Thursday. David Tatman, elected president two years ago, says he would stay on. Tarvald Smith, who has served as vice president for more than… Continue reading →

BESE panel approves study that'll probe Louisiana's nearly $12 billion teachers’ retirement debt

Despite protests from teacher unions and others, a committee of Louisiana’s top school board Tuesday approved a contract of nearly $143,000 for LSU to study the state’s nearly $12 billion teachers’ retirement debt. The full board is expected to approve the plan on Wednesday. The yearlong study is supposed to be overseen by Continue reading →

New Iberville School Board deadlocks on officer elections

Ed Cancienne

Iberville Parish Schools Superintendent Ed Cancienne now has to add another job duty to his workload: presiding over the School Board’s monthly meetings. That’s because the newly revamped nine-member School Board on Monday failed to elect board officers — namely a board president — after three attempts resulting in the same sharply… Continue reading →

North Baton Rouge parents searching for high schools face limited choices in changing environment

Advocate staff photo by  APRIL BUFFINGTON --  Allison Courville Gravois, right, class of 2008 alumni prays with the group outside of the St. John Newman gym to save Redemptorist from closing at the end of the school year on Thursday, January 8.

The announcement three weeks ago that Redemptorist High will close when the school year ends in May is the latest in a series of changes that have left north Baton Rouge parents shopping for high schools but with fewer and fewer options. In the past few years, three other high schools, two public and… Continue reading →

John Kennedy wants to direct some contracts to colleges and universities

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- State Treasure John Kennedy.

Legislation likely to come up in the legislative session this year would direct some contracts for state services to colleges and universities. As Louisiana colleges and universities brace for future funding cuts, state Treasurer John Kennedy is proposing the measure, which he says would address concerns about a lack of oversight of non-government organizations, or… Continue reading →

Federal education overhaul may have big impact in Louisiana

Predictions that the GOP-controlled Congress will overhaul a landmark federal education law this year could foreshadow either problems or relief for public schools in Louisiana. One of the key issues is whether Congress will drop the requirement that students in grades three to eight undergo annual testing in math and reading, state Superintendent of Education John… Continue reading →

LSU recognizes 14 university medalists

Photo provided by the LSU Office of Communications & University Relations -- Fourteen graduating LSU seniors received University Medals for graduating with the highest undergraduate grade-point averages as part of LSU’s 285th commencement exercises. They include, from left: (front) Medalists Bethany Martinez, Michelle McElroy, Caroline Lieux, Alexandra Thrower, Hailey Hensgens, Christine Lawson, Simone Begeneaud and Anna Marsden and LSU Executive Vice President & Chancellor Stuart Bell; (back) Medalists Terry Campbell III, Lane Arcana, Nicholas Varisco, Hussain Alquattan and James Li. Not pictured is Tyler Hood.

Fourteen graduating LSU seniors received University Medals for graduating with the highest undergraduate grade-point averages as part of LSU’s 285th commencement exercises. The medalists were honored at a special ceremony Dec. 18 in the LSU School of Music Recital Hall. The medalists, listed by hometown and state, are LOUISIANA… Continue reading →

Louisiana leaders skeptical of Obama’s free community college proposal

A diverse group of Louisiana leaders on Friday came out against or at least raised questions about President Barack Obama’s plan to provide two years of free community college to most Americans. The Obama administration formally unveiled details about the America’s College Promise proposal on Friday, touting it as a way to build a better workforce.… Continue reading →

Southern board plans to discuss leadership in February

Aerial view of the Southern University campus in Baton Rouge.

The Southern University System board plans to discuss next month how to proceed with its search for a new leader, including whether to merge its system president and Baton Rouge chancellor positions. Southern leaders had started and abruptly stopped a search for a new president late last year. This week, Gov. Bobby Jindal named five… Continue reading →

Politics blog: Some Southern University leaders skeptical of President Obama’s free community college proposal

President Barack Obama speaks at Central High School, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, in Phoenix, about the recovering housing sector. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Barack Obama wants publicly funded community college available to all Americans, a sweeping proposal he argues would strengthen the U.S. workforce. Some Southern University leaders are concerned that the plan would have a negative impact on historically black colleges and universities. See the full story here.… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee board to seek Bond Commission approval to borrow $1 million to repair Pointe Coupee Central High

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board on Thursday agreed to seek State Bond Commission authority to borrow up to $1 million to pay for repairs at Pointe Coupee Central High School. Meanwhile, board members expressed concerns about being able to open the now-closed campus by this fall as the district’s Continue reading →