In his first week as Pointe Coupee Parish’s new school superintendent, Kevin Lemoine has already toured all five of the district’s campuses, met with principals and key staff and started crunching numbers for the district’s next fiscal year budget.
And it looks like things won’t be slowing down any time soon for the 51-year-old educator. His agenda for his first year as superintendent includes reorganizing the district’s central office, shaving expenses to shrink an impending deficit in the district’s 2015-16 budget and establishing a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program at Pointe Coupee Central High.
“I’ve already looked at every school campus and made suggestions on changing some of the aesthetics,” Lemoine said Thursday, his second day on the job. “I’m telling everyone we want to make a different impression on the first day of school.”
Lemoine, who left his position as acting superintendent of the special school district with the state Department of Education, is walking into a school district that has been on a gradual climb toward academic success.
But there’s still a long way to go when compared to surrounding parishes.
Pointe Coupee’s overall district score sits at 78.8 percent, which is a C grade, according to the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2014 annual report.
School officials have previously said the district is losing children to surrounding parishes with higher grades like West Feliciana and West Baton Rouge, which received A and B grades, respectively, from the state last year.
Four of the district’s five schools are graded average or below average. The lone academic triumph is Valverda Elementary which has a B grade.
Lemoine’s $133,000 three-year contract with the Pointe Coupee Parish school system includes a number of performance targets concentrated on student achievement, the district’s graduation rates and student enrollment.
“Coming into a school system that’s already an ‘A,’ there’s little room for growth,” Lemoine said. “But here, there is more room for growth with fewer resources —— that’s the bigger challenge. The benefits can be tenfold if you’re successful though.”
Lemoine said he intends to present the School Board with a Central Office reorganization chart later this month that will eliminate several positions and streamline administrative services.
Last month, the School Board adopted a reduction in force notice for the 2015-16 school year but gave no indication layoffs were imminent.
Lemoine said he hopes to reduce enough positions through attrition to avoid layoffs.
Among his next orders of business, Lemoine plans to put together an accountability team he says will go into classrooms and work with faculty and staff on improving instructional practices.
“We want to spend the maximum amount of time we can in schools helping principals,” he said.
Lemoine also is open to carrying on the torch D’Amico lit when she proposed transforming Pointe Coupee Central into a STEM Academy after its closure last year.
Lemoine hopes to take things one step further by also implementing a virtual program tailored toward parents who are home schooling their children.
“We need to focus on offering parents more nontraditional ways to educate students,” he says. “I also want to enhance the dual enrollment opportunities we have with local colleges.”
Lemoine said he will also support ongoing efforts to increase the salaries of the district’s teachers, who have been pressing the School Board to find a way to increase their pay in spite of budget challenges.
“I’m aware the teacher attrition rate is high in the parish,” he said. “Increasing salaries will reduce it, but it won’t eliminate it.
“The challenges in rural districts like ours is that there must be a reason for a young person to want to come to our parish and stay,” he added.
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