St. Helena 
 School board holds legislative forum _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Stephanie Warren -- St. Helena Parish School District held its first legislative forum March 27 at St. Helena College and Career Academy. Board members and guests got the opportunity to speak to State Rep. Jon Bel Edwards and Sen. Bodi White along with other special guests.

Members of the St. Helena Parish School Board got a chance to speak to lawmakers that will represent District 72 in the legislative session during the school district’s first legislative forum March 27 at St. Helena College and Career Academy.

Superintendent Kelly Joseph told lawmakers that much has been accomplished toward improving educational services, promoting the district vision and supporting initiatives that enhance the quality of education for the students while maintaining transparency.

Joseph said, the school system earned national recognition in 2012 for becoming accredited through AdvancEd.

“This nationally recognized honor is an indication of best practices implemented in the district. It also shows that St. Helena has a commitment to continuous improvement,” Joseph said.

Most recently, St. Helena Arts and Technology Academy was selected as a George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts and the President’s Council for Arts and Humanities Turnaround School, Joseph said.

Despite the numerous reforms with accountability, testing and standards, St. Helena continues to improve the academic performance of its students, Joseph said.

Lawmakers were shown how the district has continued to keep expenses comparable to revenue by careful budgeting in recent years.

“It has been hard to reach this point, but me and my team have listened to the community and come to understand its values and concerns,” Joseph said.

Above all, St. Helena Parish has embraced the transformative power of a great board to improve public education, said Louisiana School Boards Association President Scott Richard. “Local control of education through elected school boards is a deeply held American political tradition,” Richard said. “School boards may be small and local, but they represent perhaps the most important daily civic commitment a citizen must make to their communities, their children and their future.”

The superintendent said students at St. Helena College and Career Academy are now exposed to Advanced Placement courses such as human geography, biology, chemistry and American history. If students earn a 3 or more on the end-of-year AP exam, they will receive college credit, she said.

In 2012, residents approved a 25.8-mill proposition that supported an increase in employee pay and funded new facilities and renovations.

In 2013, the St. Helena Parish school system regained control over the middle school from the state Recovery School District.

The following year, it converted its elementary and high schools into academies that refocused the curricula.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, who is running for governor, said people everywhere are passionate about their children and schools and passionate about their tax dollars. “I have an idea of what it’s like to have to sit at a board and vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on different measures and ask the public for support, and I want to thank you for the job that you do,” Edwards said. “Because quite often, it’s thankless when you make progress; it goes unnoticed. I want to thank you for what you do for each and every child in St. Helena Parish.”

State Sen. Bodi White said after the meeting that the district must be commended for managing its funding resources, while offering the best education for local children.

“I’ve only been on the educational board four years and nobody wants to see us do worse. Everybody wants to see us to get better and our children more educated,” White said.