The Natchitoches Parish School Board approved modifying the current pay structure for Long Term Subs at its board meeting Thursday evening, Nov. 5. The modification is to eliminate the 30 day trial period after the first year.
The approving vote came after Superintendent Grant Eloi said there’s little the district can do to show how much it appreciates the amazing job its teachers and staff are doing, throughout any year, but especially the 2020-2021 school year as it’s been especially challenging so far.
“They are the backbone of this district,” he said. “It could not be run without the teachers. I can’t say enough about the job they’re doing.”
There was a noteworthy announcement made at the committee meeting. Eloi recently defended his dissertation successfully and will graduate with his doctoral degree in December. The board required that the person they hired as the new superintendent needed to have a doctoral degree and Eloi promised the board he would earn his.
This announcement was made on the same night that the board entered into an executive session to discuss the Superintendent’s six-month evaluation. According to President Billy Benefield, the evaluation went extremely well. Benefield said the board has been very pleased with Eloi’s progress and the progress of the school system since hiring him.
“He’s been able to change the culture of our school system in a relatively short period of time,” said Benefield, who added that Eloi has made some key hires that will benefit the system for many years to come. These include new Business Manager Lee Waskom and restructuring the Central Office staff with the additions of newly titled Director of Academics Ben LaGrone and newly titled Director of Operations Felicia Pinkney.
During his Superintendent’s Report, Eloi said he held a meeting earlier in the month with area doctors to address a disconnect between the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDH) and local clinicians. While the district is making decisions based on the large amount of information on what’s supposed to be done and what has to be done, this information isn’t trickling down to clinicians. Eloi said they were able to open a dialogue to continue expanding lines of communication so they can better understand where everyone is at.
Another recent meeting focused on what needs to happen to get the district to an A ranking. A strategic plan was formed, which consists of examining data, determining goals, and developing a plan. Eloi said the bulk of the plan is coming to fruition and he should have a draft completed in December with a final version ready the first of the year to present to the board.
Eloi also addressed ACT scores. According to a press release from the Louisiana Department of Education, Louisiana’s Class of 2020 earned an average ACT Composite score of 18.7. That’s based on the Louisiana Department of Education’s annual release of ACT data today for the 2020 high school graduating class. Louisiana’s score is at an all-time low since the state granted all students access to the test in 2013.
While Natchitoches’ score is a 17.3, Eloi said that’s not where anyone in the district wants it to be. It should be at an 18 at least and it really needs to be in the 20-21 range.
This is the third consecutive year Louisiana’s ACT Composite score has decreased. The state earned a 19.6 in 2016-2017 before seeing declines to 19.3 in 2017-2018 and 18.9 in 2018-2019.
Eloi said he’s also instituting three superintendent advisory councils: one for students (open to 7th graders and above), one for teachers and one for parents. Each school will have a representative to speak to Eloi on a quarterly basis. Eloi is looking for collaboration and input from each of these groups.
In other news, free meals for all students was extended for the rest of the school year. The district’s average lunch attendance for September of last school year was 6,300. This past September was 2,461. Attendance for breakfast last year was 2,758 in September of last year and only 1,579 this year. This is an obvious decrease in the number of students who are eating school meals, however 24% of students are learning from home. Virtual students are able to sign up to pick up meals from school but there hasn’t been heavy participation, which is a statewide issue.
Other agenda items included:
Recognize the Natchitoches Central High School Volleyball ladies who are the undefeated champs as they played their next game at the same time as the board meeting.
Deferred to December: Proclamation to the State of Louisiana to provide funding to repair the roads in Natchitoches Parish.
Approve Memorandum of Understanding between Career Compass of Louisiana and Natchitoches Parish School Board.
Approve grading policy section of the 2020-2021 Pupil Progression Plan.