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David Alexander, superintendent of the Ascension Parish school system

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO FROM JACKIE TISDELL

DONALDSONVILLE — School Superintendent David Alexander is applauding the hard work of the school district's students who "came in and worked" this school year, despite the havoc of the 2016 flood, with the results showing in the 2016-17 state school report cards.

For the sixth year in a row, the Ascension public school system earned a grade of A, with an overall score of 110.4, up from 109.3 last school year, keeping it at No. 4 among public schools in the state. The highest possible score is 150 points.

Data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education show that seven Ascension Parish schools grew an entire letter grade, four schools grew more than 10 points, and 22 schools earned more progress points this year than last, meaning their struggling students made academic gains.

More information on the scores can be found online at louisianabelieves.com.

"Our students stayed the course," Alexander said at Tuesday's School Board meeting. 

The superintendent also praised school district employees "for an amazing year." 

He added, however, "We're a lot more than just a letter grade. Let's not forget that."

Beginning next school year, a new, tougher scoring system approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be in place. That's expected to result in a drop in the number of A-rated schools and a rise in F-rated schools.  

Also on Tuesday, Chad Lynch, director of planning and construction for the school district, presented a plan to the board's Transportation Committee that he believes would help the district keep its bus drivers, with the creation of new positions to be filled from the bus driver ranks.

About 20 years ago, the school district went from a contractor system, with drivers owning their own buses, to one in which drivers are employees and the school system purchases the buses, Lynch said.

"Retirements are about to hit us," he said. 

Under Lynch's plan, four bus-driver coordinators would be hired in the spring of 2018 who would assist principals in solving daily problems that arise on bus routes. The coordinators would be bus drivers who would receive an annual $5,000 stipend, in addition to their pay, Lynch said.

In the fall of 2018, a driver team leader would be hired for each of the 28 school sites. The team leaders, all bus drivers, would receive an annual $1,000 stipend, in addition to their pay, Lynch said.

The Transportation Committee voted to send Lynch's proposal to the full board for a vote at a later meeting. 

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.