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Warren Drake says at forum he's working to end north Baton Rouge 'educational desert'

Advocate staff photo by CHARLES LUSSIER -- East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Warren Drake on Thursday night fields question from a five-member panel as well as from an audience of more than 200 people who gathered at Star Hill Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. The event was organized by the group Our Schools...Our Excellence. Pictured in the background from left: Shebaka Gibson, Godis Jackson, LaToya Butler, Johnathan Hill and Anthony Dennis.

East Baton Rouge Parish schools Superintendent Warren Drake on Thursday promised a crowd of more than 200 people that he is working to end the “educational desert” that exists in much of north Baton Rouge and to reignite school pride and connection to local neighborhoods. High on that agenda is getting Istrouma High School back from… Continue reading →

TOPS to cost $19 million more than budgeted; deficit could mean cuts to higher ed funding

TOPS, Louisiana’s popular college scholarship program, is expected to cost about $19 million more this year than the state Legislature dedicated to spending on it. Leaders say they are working to resolve the issue — they promise students won’t be shortchanged on their individual awards — but the difference likely will translate into fewer dollars flowing… Continue reading →

School Board, Drake plan retreat to discuss progress in EBR system and plans for the future

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- East Baton Rouge Parish school superintendent Warren Drake

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, whose nine members took office in January, is holding its first retreat, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Louisiana Technology Park, 7117 Florida Blvd. The retreat also will be the board’s first one with new Superintendent Warren Drake, who took over the state’s… Continue reading →

Runnels Schools headmaster ‘no longer affiliated with school,’ officials say

Conchetta Foshee, new assistant head of school at Runnels

Barely a year after changing leaders for the first time in its half century of existence, Runnels Schools is changing leaders again. The Baton Rouge private school announced Wednesday afternoon that Greg Brandao, headmaster for the past 14 months, “is no longer affiliated with Runnels.” The school’s founder, Kelly Runnels, told The… Continue reading →

Louisiana improves ACT test scores, but still ranks below national average

Louisiana continues to rank below the national average — and near the bottom among all states — in average composite scores for students taking the ACT college readiness test. However, state officials note that the state did move up in the latest national ACT data. And the state education department said the state’s improvement from 19.2 to… Continue reading →

Popular Central school district looking to, again, tighten its residency requirements in a battle against ‘zone jumpers’

The Central School Board on Monday advanced a plan to tighten yet again the requirements for people trying to prove residency in the popular Central school district. The proposal would mean the school system would no longer accept a Louisiana ID card in lieu of a state driver’s license. And, the district would codify the school… Continue reading →

Pointe Coupee School Board starts process of turning Central High into STEM campus by 2016

Advocate staff photo by TERRY JONES -- A federal court judge recently approved a motion from the state's Recovery School District that will shut down Pointe Coupee Central High in Morganza forcing more than 180 students to attend Livonia High in the fall. The judge's decision has angered some community members who feel Central is the better option as the parish's lone high school because of its size and location.

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board has agreed to pay $1.2 million in renovations to transform Central High School’s campus into the district’s new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Academy by fall 2016. During a special meeting last week, the board hired Baton Rouge firm Mougeot Architecture to handle a laundry list of repairs at the… Continue reading →

Audit shows Louisiana colleges shortchanged $15 million in funding from gambling money

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Gray, addressed reporters Monday at the State Capitol to discuss a Legislative Audit finding that the Louisiana State Racing Commission has not made more than $15 million in required distributions to the Board of Regents, which oversees higher education in Louisiana.

Higher education has been shortchanged about $15 million in gambling money that it was supposed to receive over the past 28 years, according to an audit released Monday. According to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, the Louisiana State Racing Commission hasn’t been handing over the money it collects for higher education through… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School Board agrees to lower GPA requirement for sports, activities; vote a victory for new superintendent

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

As expected, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday voted unanimously to lower the minimum grade-point average students need to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities from 2.0 to 1.5. The change immediately will allow hundreds of previously excluded teenagers the chance to take part in an array of out-of-class activities. The… Continue reading →

Baton Rouge, NCAA not on same page when it comes to GPAs, but who's correct?

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Glen Oaks High School football team members take the field for warmups Thursday. Glen Oaks is one of many schools that could have more students eligible to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities, if the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board approves lowering the minimum GPA, from 2.0 to 1.5, that students need to be eligible for such activities.

Seniors in high school who want to play sports at one of the country’s 350 Division I colleges next year will need better grades than ever, namely a minimum grade-point average of 2.3, equivalent to a high C. In Louisiana, those same students, with few exceptions, can and will continue to be able to play high… Continue reading →

LSU president, volunteers helped underclassmen settle into their dorms for fall semester

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU president F. King Alexander, right, gets some steadying handcart assistance from Colleen Murphy, a senior in microbiology from New Orleans, left, and Lexie Breaux, a chemical engineering senior, center, at Laville Hall while helping students move into their dorms.

Carrying a coed’s refrigerator into student dorms on a stormy Wednesday, the LSU president quipped that he’s always wet on move-in day — last year it was from sweat, this year from rain. F. King Alexander was among the 626 volunteers helping about 2,700 underclassmen settle into their new homes for the fall semester. Athletes would be… Continue reading →

Livingston School Board members battle to keep local funds rather than help support the food services department

When introduced last month, the financial plans for Livingston Parish schools drew little discussion from elected leaders, except on one issue — whether local districts should pitch in to help pay for the school food services program. Thursday, the board is expected to approve this year’s budgets with… Continue reading →

80 percent of online comments collected by state support leaving Common Core unchanged

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Louisiana Association of Educators President Debbie Meaux speaks at a press conference in this August 2013 Advocate file photo.

Louisiana launched its review of Common Core on Wednesday amid chatter about opinion surveys on the academic standards and whether educators have enough time to judge the hotly debated benchmarks. “The opportunity to make our standards work is here,” Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, told the key committee in charge of the review.… Continue reading →

Tangipahoa school officials deep into planning student assignment plan that begins next year

Tangipahoa Parish school officials have begun the detailed planning necessary to implement a new student assignment plan starting next year. The plan, which takes a school-choice approach to integrating the parish’s schools, received approval in June from the federal judge overseeing the parish’s 50-year-old desegregation case. Maureen Terese, the… Continue reading →

Leader of review says her opinion of Common Core irrelevant, promises fair hearings

The educator leading Louisiana’s review of Common Core said her views on the highly charged academic standards are irrelevant. “My opinion, one way or another, is of no value to the work that we are going to do,” said Regina Sanford, chairwoman of the 26-member Standards Committee that will lead the hearings. “It truly needs to… Continue reading →

Lake Pontchartrain Elementary in LaPlace set to resume classes Thursday after fire at adjacent school

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Crews clean up a classroom at East St. John Elementary in LaPlace, La. Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015 after a fire early Friday morning.

Students at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School in LaPlace will return to classes Thursday, less than a week after a serious fire forced the school to close. Meanwhile, officials hope students at the adjacent East St. John Elementary, where the fire actually started, will be back in class no later than Aug. 31 at the vacant… Continue reading →

Drake’s proposal to lower GPA required to participate in school sports causing stir; research limited on impact of imposing higher standards

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Glen Oaks High School football team members take the field for warmups Thursday. Glen Oaks is one of many schools that could have more students eligible to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities, if the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board approves lowering the minimum GPA, from 2.0 to 1.5, that students need to be eligible for such activities.

Warren Drake, the new superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish public schools, caused a stir earlier this month when he proposed lowering the minimum grade-point average students need to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities from 2.0 to 1.5. The proposal is set for final approval when the School Board meets Thursday, but Continue reading →

State revokes Baker child care center's license after woman reportedly posed as director

The state has revoked the license of a child care center in Baker, officials said Friday. State Department of Education officials said they took the action because during a state inspection on July 15, a woman posing as the director of the facility, Mini Miracles Child Care and Learning Center, 3615 Groom Road, used a fraudulent… Continue reading →

BESE revokes teaching license of ex-Destrehan teacher who admitted to having sex with student

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- Shelley Dufresne, seen leaving the courthouse after she pled guilty in St. Charles Parish on Thursday, April 9, 2015.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted Wednesday to revoke the teaching certificate of former Destrehan High School teacher Shelley Dufresne. The full board took the action without comment, as a committee had on Tuesday. Dufresne has admitted to having sex with a 16-year-old student. She pleaded guilty in April to one count… Continue reading →

Critics question Coca-Cola-funded obesity research at Pennington

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been caught in the cross-hairs in an ongoing debate over ethics in research funding. In a front-page story on Sunday, The New York Times raised questions about the relationship between Coca-Cola and obesity research it has funded — including a recent study at Pennington in Baton Rouge.… Continue reading →

BESE backs plan to boost day care aid

About 15,000 children from low-income families will have better access to quality day care under a plan endorsed Tuesday by Louisiana’s top school board. The key is tapping into $10 million in federal aid, state Superintendent of Education John White said. “I think it is a common sense proposal,” White said. The program is called… Continue reading →

Destrehan woman who admitted having sex with student has teaching certificate revoked by BESE

Shelley Dufresne

Without discussion, a committee of Louisiana’s top school board Tuesday approved the revocation of the teaching certificate of a former Destrehan High School teacher who admitted having sex with a 16-year-old student. The full state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to do the same when it meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The action… Continue reading →

More East Baton Rouge schools having air conditioning problems after days of triple-digit temperatures

Public schools in Baton Rouge continued to have intermittent air conditioning outages Tuesday and one school, Progress Elementary, closed for repairs and sent kids to an alternate location. Northdale Superintendent’s Academy, 10755 Cletus Drive, was about to close when the air conditioning failed there, but it was restored late Tuesday morning and classes resumed, said Adonica… Continue reading →

LSU Law Center names interim co-deans

LSU has named two people to serve as interim “co-deans” of its Law Center. Former Vice Chancellor for Student and Academic Affairs William “Bill” Corbett and current Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Cheney Joseph Jr. will take the reins, effective next week. Outgoing Chancellor Jack Weiss, who has led the Law Center for the… Continue reading →

Compliance officer in Tangipahoa schools desegregation case seeks court-ordered raise

Less than a year after taking the job, the court compliance officer in Tangipahoa Parish’s desegregation case is seeking a court-imposed raise after the School Board emphatically refused his request to double his salary. Donald Massey said he accepted the part-time job’s $48,000 annual salary when he was appointed in late August 2014 “to preserve the status… Continue reading →

LSU holds summer graduation ceremonies for 672 students, from ages 20 to 64

Advocate staff photo by CHARLES CHAMPAGNE     LSU President F. King Alexander begins the assembly inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Friday, August 7, 2015 for the Summer 2015 Commencement ceremony.

LSU alumna Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, delivered the keynote address during LSU’s 287th commencement ceremony on Friday. Of the 672 graduates in the summer commencement, 332 earned bachelor’s degrees, 212 earned master’s degrees, six received a certificate of education specialist, seven received post-bachelorette certificates and 115 received… Continue reading →

Former Destrehan teacher accused of sex with student faces loss of teaching certificate

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- Shelley Dufresne is seen leaving the courthouse after she pled guilty in St. Charles Parish on Thursday, April 9, 2015.

Despite some confusion, Louisiana’s top school board is scheduled to consider next week whether to revoke the teaching certificate of a former Destrehan educator accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student. A committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is set to review the topic at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Any decision it… Continue reading →

At Warren Drake’s urging, East Baton Rouge school board recommends lower GPA to participate in sports, activities

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Warren Drake speaks before the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board after they unanimously voted the former Zachary Superintendent to the position of superintendent within the parish school system, Thursday, Apr. 2, 2015, at their offices on S. Foster Drive.

East Baton Rouge Parish School Board members voted unanimously Thursday to recommend lowering the minimum grade-point average needed to play sports or participate in extracurricular activities from 2.0 to 1.5. Several board members previously opposed the idea, but the strong 9-0 vote means the board is almost certain to give this policy change final… Continue reading →

Photos: Amid sweltering heat, first-day jitters, thousands of East Baton Rouge students return to school

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- At Jefferson Terrace Elementary, EBR Supt. Warren Drake, left, chats with first grade teacher Ashley Foy, right, as students return on 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.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system welcomed back from summer break 42,405 children for the first day of school Thursday, slightly more than enrolled on the first days of the previous two years and a reversal of years of small but steady enrollment declines. The increase for the start of the 2015-16… Continue reading →

LSU student media leaders plan meeting for students, alumni to discuss future of Reveille, other offerings

LSU’s Office of Student Media will host a strategy meeting this month for students and alumni who want to join the discussion about the future of the university’s student media offerings, including The Daily Reveille newspaper. Student media director Steve Buttry, in an email to interested parties, stressed that no decisions will be made at the meeting… Continue reading →

Warren Drake leads pep rally for East Baton Rouge school employees: ‘I feel God called me to this position’

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Teachers from Sharon Hills Elementary pile off the busses and walk to the venue. EBR Supt. Warren Drake is having all teachers in the system converge on Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker to hear him lay out his vision for the school system for the 2015-16 school year and beyond. Students return Thursday. Drake took over school system June 1, after teachers left for summer vacation. All teachers are taking busses to the convocation, including Drake.

Warren Drake did something Wednesday that he had asked the 6,000 employees of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system to do: board an un-air-conditioned bus in the middle of a summer heat wave to attend his first address. “I know it was hot riding the bus,” Drake said, prompting groans from the audience of… Continue reading →

Louisiana shows big jump in students earning Advance Placement college credits, still among lowest in nation

Louisiana high school students showed a 20 percent hike in the number of tests that produce college credit through an exam called Advanced Placement, state officials announced Wednesday morning. While still among the lowest in the nation, qualifying scores rose to 7,703 this year compared with 6,410 last year. The number has risen by 89 percent… Continue reading →

Number of Baton Rouge charter schools doubles in 3 years; four new ones open this week

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Shelby Godfrey, sixth-grade math teacher at Democracy Prep Baton Rouge, shows sixth-graders how to count using their fingers correctly during orientation on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at the old Prescott Middle School.

Four new charter schools are opening their doors this week in Baton Rouge, joining an increasingly crowded local education marketplace. They bring the total number of charter schools in East Baton Rouge Parish to 25, double the total just three years ago. Charter schools are public schools run by private organizations via charters, or contracts.… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge schools chief: Lower grade-point requirement for sports, clubs means more opportunities to learn

Advocate staff file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Superintendent Warren Drake.

East Baton Rouge Parish middle and high school students will likely need just a 1.5 grade-point average if they want to take part in sports and other extracurricular activities this school year, rather than the 2.0 gpa they’ve had to achieve for the past decade. New Superintendent Warren Drake is urging the School Board to make… Continue reading →

Milton: State mishandled rollout of Common Core

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Hollis Milton, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and superintendents of the West Feliciana Parish school system, addresses the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

The new president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents praised Common Core but said Monday that state education leaders bungled the rollout of the new academic standards. “The implementation was not done well,” said Hollis Milton, who heads the superintendents’ group. “We have to admit that to the public.” State Superintendent of Education… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge teachers to start school year with an assembly — for the entire district

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

A day before their students return, roughly 3,000 East Baton Rouge Parish public school teachers will board buses Wednesday morning to see and hear for the first time from their new superintendent, Warren Drake. Drake is holding this back-to-school convocation at Bethany World Prayer Center, 13709 Oak Bend Drive, Baker. Drake took over Louisiana’s second-largest… Continue reading →