Donaldsonville Primary School not left out


Mary McMahan, principal of Donaldsonville Primary School, believes that despite the challenges faced at the school it is still a wonderful and great environment for kids to learn in. A few weeks ago, her school received an “F” grade from the Louisiana Department of Education for school performance but McMahan, who is in her first year with the school, knows that Donaldsonville Primary School is improving in all aspects.

“Our students come to school with a lot of things to overcome from the very beginning,” McMahan said at the Rotary Luncheon last Thursday.

At Donaldsonville Primary, which has pre-kindergarten to second grades, about 99 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, according to McMahan, which basically means those children are living in homes where the income levels are below the poverty lines.

“Children that live in poverty generally have a smaller vocabulary than children who live in middle class families,” McMahan said.

McMahan said the goal is to enroll children at three years old who qualify for free or reduced lunch into school, and all children to enroll at four years old so that when they get to kindergarten they are ready to learn what the average child learns in kindergarten. Donaldsonville Primary has 149 four year olds enrolled in school, which is quite a lot.

With these challenges, Donaldsonville Primary received an “F” for the second consecutive year, which puts them in the category called, “School Improvement.” If the school doesn’t improve there is a chance the state department would try to take the school. Then the school will become part of what is called a, “Recovery School District.”

Marydine K. Emery believes the students need help with expressing themselves more with talking. She said the language needs to be built and the tools the school already has work, just needs to be enhanced.

“We have to instill in them high expectations,” Emery said, who retired in May as the principle of DPS. “Let them know you will graduate from high school, you will graduate from college. You have to say that to them.”

McMahan served as principal at Dutchtown Primary School for five years and last year, her final year there, the school grew more than any other school in Ascension Parish in the Primary School range. Emery said she knows McMahan is capable to get the job done at DPS and that she fully supports her.

McMahan said when she was asked to leave Dutchtown and come to lead Donaldsonville; she said she agreed without a doubt or hesitation.

“I believe it is very important to our community that we have a strong school system,” McMahan said. “And that strong school system includes every school in our district, not just those on the east side that serve our middle class children.”

Since McMahan has been in Donaldsonville and has learned about the history and culture she believes it is a wonderful place. She said this community has a lot offer.

“To strengthen our school system would only add to that,” McMahan said. “People live where there are good schools.”

Donaldsonville Primary does have good data to show that stacks up better than the parish average. The data shows a benchmark test the students take in the first month of school to measure where they are. Another test will be taken in December and McMahan anticipates much improvement. The test is on what the students are expected to learn by December. Her school scored a 23 percent on the benchmark test, which is higher than the parish average of 21 percent.

“What this tells me is that going to head start has definitely improved what they come to school with from the first day of school,” McMahan said. “This is something that we are actually vey proud of.”

McMahan is working to change the culture and reputation of Donaldsonville Primary. She can’t do it alone and is asking for help. She said failure is not an option.

She added, “The thing that our students need most is adult interaction.”

If you are interested in coming to Donaldsonville Primary School and helping/volunteering contact Mary McMahan via email at or via phone at 225-391-7602 or her secretary at 225-391-7600.