Westbank administrators publically discuss academics

Brandie Richardson @B_Lifestyles

     DONALDSONVILLE – Principals from four Westbank schools, along with Donaldsonville Head Start director, attended a Town Hall meeting on Nov. 20 organized by District 1 School Board Member Robyn Delaney. Each administrator addressed their academic programs to the community and how they are improving academically.

     “I wanted to make sure all the residents had the opportunity to come out and listen to all the good things that are happening at the schools on the Westside of the Parish and I wanted to make sure parents saw all the administrators,” Delaney said.

     Ascension Parish Head Start Director Patricia Sanchez, who runs a school of 115 three-year-olds, said the students at her program work primarily on oral and social language development.

     “We are preparing our three year olds for the next level, pre-k 4 at Donadsonville, which then prepares them for kindergarden and beyond,” Sanchez said.

     Meanwhile, teachers at Donaldsonville Primary focus on oral language and social emotional skills with the four-year-olds. “Our primary job is to bridge from Head Start 3 into primary school,” said Principal Mary McMahan, who manages pre-k through second grade. She noted that her students are being prepared for the new Parcc assessment tests that start in third grade.

     Lowery Elementary Principal Dawn Love said her administration works to bridge the achievement gap between students.

     “There’s this new more rigorous assessment and we are seeing that we are pushing some of our kids up but we are still kind of loosing kids, so that gap is widening,” Love said.

     She said this year the school is conducting more home visits with the teachers and parents, as well as piloting academic teams that help parents so that they may be better equipped to help their children with things such as homework.

     Nicole Grimes, principal of Lowery Middle, said her school implements the term “every tiger” in academics and the social-emotional development of each student. One of the strengths of the students at Lowery Middle is writing, as each student goes through a writing “bootcamp” to help them prepare for future grades.

     “We have a number of collaborative structure on our campus,” Grimes said. “Our teachers are diligent about taking that time to really collaborate around the work, which is our students.”

     Donaldsonville High School Principal Marvin Evans said that while students may be declining in some areas such as end-of-course exams, the school overall has increased by five points in the last year for school performance scores, which calculates ACT scores of each student, end-of-course exams, percentage of students who graduated in four years and the percentage of students enrolled in college after graduation.

     Emotions were high as Evans spoke of the academic opportunities students could have despite their financial situations.

     “I'm not calling our students poor, I'm just saying poverty is real,” Evans said. “I don’t care where you come from, I don’t care what you have to overcome to get here. We are going to give you a quality education. We are going to make sure you graduate.”