LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School System should discontinue labeling schools with letter grades that damage a school’s image, Lafayette city-parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux proposed during a meeting Wednesday with an education advocacy group.
Boudreaux also said the parish school system should consider a new supervisory position to work directly with low-performing schools like Northside High and J.W. Faulk Elementary.
“At the end of the day, Faulk kids become Northside kids,” Boudreaux said. “I want someone who will be specifically responsible to track those kids to make sure that they don’t fall behind or short of their educational goals.”
Both schools are located in District 4, the area Boudreaux represents on the city-parish council. He said his role at the meeting with the advocacy group Power of Public Education Lafayette was as the father of twins — a son and daughter who are juniors at Northside High and who participate in the school’s legal studies academy and its broadcast academy.
“Kenneth Boudreaux, councilman, just got access to the building,” he joked with the group.
The meeting was a chance to learn more about the needs of the school, said Kathleen Schott Espinoza, a member of PPEL’s executive board.
The meeting focused primarily on Northside, though the discussion also centered on the negative impact of letter grades given to struggling schools.
High school “report card” scores are based on students’ performance on tests such as the ACT and Advanced Placement exams, and on graduation rates.
Northside’s performance score for 2013-14 was a 48.8 or an F, a drop from 51.6 or a D in 2012-13.
The school enrolled 803 students in 2013-14 and 64 percent of them were below grade level. And at least 82 percent of the high school’s students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty. Two-thirds of those students are below grade level.
The F label for Northside has a negative impact on the community, said Boudreaux, who is also on PPEL’s advisory council.
“When this last grade came out, it really just floored me,” Boudreaux said. “We’ve been rebranded and re-this and re-that and it seemed like the results weren’t there.”
In early 2012, the Lafayette Parish School Board approved a turnaround plan for Northside High, appointing a new principal and funding additional staff such as an extra counselor, a dean of students and a graduation coach. The graduation coach position is unfilled, which is a disappointment, Boudreaux said.
The school’s turnaround plan was among the first initiatives pushed by then-superintendent Pat Cooper, who was fired last week. In summer 2012, the school board supported another change for the school — reconstitution, or fresh start for the school, that enabled the principal to hand-pick her faculty and staff.
When the state released school and district performance scores last month, Cooper said he believed the plan for Northside High was still working and that the school’s score was negatively impacted by a high number of overage students who were moved to the campus. In the 2013-14 school year, the district moved overage students who were behind academically to their age-appropriate campuses. At Northside, that decision meant the school had about 50 overage students who struggled with math and literacy skills, Cooper said.
“Northside High is not failing every child at that school,” Espinoza said Wednesday. “To me, as a community when we start saying Northside High is a failure, you’re going to lose community support for that school. That’s what we worry about.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.