East Feliciana Parish schools Supervisor of Ancillary and Instructional Support Services DeShonda Coleman recently outlined the district’s fall achievements and visions for spring.

“In 2015, the goal of East Feliciana schools was to move from good to great by setting excellence as the standard, and through the hard work of our teachers, students and the community, we enter 2016 much closer to that goal,” Coleman said.

Achievements include the renewal of two 1-cent sales tax propositions and a 17-mill property tax vital to the funding of the school system, Coleman said.

“This was the greatest show of confidence in our school system in the history of our parish, as more than 4,000 people voted for these measures,” she said.

Despite more-challenging state standards that saw many districts decrease in academic performance, East Feliciana schools maintained an overall C grade from the Louisiana Department of Education in the release of 2014-15 accountability results, and East Feliciana High School increased its letter grade to a C.

Another highlight was Superintendent Carlos Sam’s listening tour in Clinton, Jackson and Slaughter to introduce himself to the community and solicit feedback.

A poll by the School Board’s Department of Human Resources and Business Services found that 82 percent of district employees preferred a semi-monthly payroll system as opposed to a monthly one. Benefits of the new pay structure included increased employee recruitment and retention, increased comparability and competitiveness with surrounding districts and improved employee morale and attendance, Coleman said.

The district’s Office of School Improvement and Instructional Services successfully implemented SMART school visits, which serve as an instructional measuring stick of a school’s goals and student performance.

Also, it was announced East Feliciana schools earned grant funding for educating special-needs students with specially designed instruction.

A $145,745 grant was awarded to provide to services for disabled students with extraordinarily high-cost needs in the areas of one-on-one paraprofessional support, assistive technology and related services.

In addition, East Feliciana Parish will be awarded $55,000 to increase access to courses that offer industry-based credentials such as hospitality, customer services, construction crafts, and animal and agricultural sciences. Coleman said the grant will generate meaningful and realistic options for ESS students to pursue post-secondary opportunities including two- and four-year college degrees and certificate programs.

The funding will provide formal employment training and increased field-based internship experiences with local businesses.

Lastly, Coleman said the district’s Office of Technology maximized federal funding without using local tax dollars to reconfigure, develop and install improved radio and Internet connections to all schools and within all schools, as well as implemented the Very Important Participating Stakeholders volunteer program.

“Looking ahead in 2016, we will continue to strive to build Louisiana’s premier rural district by achieving several goals,” Coleman said.

Those goals include continuing to build community partnerships that ensure all stakeholders have a voice; increasing opportunities for students, while being responsible stewards of local tax dollars by aggressively seeking additional funding sources from state, federal and private grants; meeting students’ individual academic needs by offering after-school tutoring for assessment preparation; increasing student achievement by improving teaching and learning at all schools with more school-level SMART visits; and continuing to implement feedback from Sam’s listening tour, as well as comments from and conversations with stakeholders.

“We will collaboratively develop and publicize a strategic plan that ensures all of our schools set excellence as the standard as we collectively move from good to great,” Coleman said.

In August, Sam introduced Coleman as a member of an executive leadership team tasked with helping schools meet the district’s standards of excellence vision.

Besides Coleman, the leadership team includes James Bell, operations supervisor; Kim Germany, executive director of school improvement and instructional services; Keisha Netterville, executive director of human resources and business services; Knight Roddy, director of federal programs; and Latrice Smith, director of exceptional student services.