The nine members of the Zachary Community School Board began their four-year terms after being sworn in by attorney Ricky McDavid at a Jan. 6 ceremony during the first board meeting of the year.
Five new members — Gwen Fuselier, Donna Grice, Marty Hughes, Heidi Vessel and Ann Watkins — took the oath for the first time.
Former board member Beth Kimmel and returning board members David Dayton, Hubie Owen and Gaynell Young welcomed their new colleagues and began the meeting.
Owen was named board president, and Kimmel was nominated to serve as vice president. The board positions are one-year appointments.
During the work session held prior to the meeting, several Zachary residents attended with hopes of voicing their concerns about the 1-cent sales tax the school district is asking the community to consider in March.
The 1-cent proposition was an agenda item at the Dec. 3 meeting, when a roll call vote on three actions was taken: a motion to put the sales tax on the ballot; a motion on the amount of the sales tax; and a motion to adopt a resolution supporting the sales tax proposition.
Board members voted unanimously on all three motions.
No one from the community attended that meeting to speak in opposition of the measure; however, in recent weeks, several residents have discussed the topic at length on a social media website.
Zachary resident Jessica Soileau, who has children in Zachary schools, attended the Jan. 6 work session and said she feels community members should be included on board committees.
“I’ve run several cancer centers, and I know about making cuts,” Soileau said. “It’s a part of what businesses do every day.”
After listing several of her qualifications, Soileau said she would like to be part of the School Board’s financial committee.
Superintendent Scott Devillier said he was aware of some residents weighing in on social media, but for as many people who commented online, he’s had the same number of people call him to announce their support for the measure.
“We’ve had seven town hall meetings, many of which were unattended, and held many, many discussions. We’ve cut, and we’ve cut, and we’ve cut, and now we’re here,” Devillier said. “I just want the public to know the facts. It’s my job, this board’s job to inform the community and to arm everyone with the correct information, and in turn, the community will make the final decision on the school district.”
Devillier said the Zachary school district and School Board always have encouraged community involvement, and if anyone is interested in being on a board committee or would like to speak with him directly, they should contact him at the School Board office soon.
Devillier said board committees will consist of four board members, two district staff members and two community members.
The committee groups soon will be posted on the district’s website, www.zacharyschools.org.
In other school district news,:
JUMP START: Members discussed the school system’s inclusion in a Jump Start grant program.
The Zachary school system was included in the North Capital Region team that includes the Zachary, East and West Feliciana and Pointe Coupee school districts. The team is one of eight teams to receive a Jump Start grant.
In October, the Louisiana Department of Education recommended to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education grant eight awards to the Jump Start regional teams from across the state totaling $645,000, state Superintendent John White said.
White said the grants will help expand career counseling activities with a focus on engaging students in college and career planning earlier in middle and high school.
The grants also will create a statewide network of regional workplace experience exchanges, including coordinators who will maximize the number of guest speakers, day-on-the-job opportunities, job fairs and internships for students, as well as externships for teachers, according to the Education Department.
Devillier said West Feliciana Parish took the lead as the grant’s fiscal agent, and the $50,000 — split four ways — will fund the implementation of career and technical counseling in the high schools.
“The money will be used to train counselors and some teachers to help get kids ready for the workplace and workforce opportunities,” Devillier said.
As defined by the LDOE, Jump Start is the state’s new initiative to provide students with basic and advanced career credentials that allow students to continue their education after high school. To achieve the Jump Start credential, students complete graduation pathways of courses and workplace-based experiences developed by Jump Start regional teams made up of industry, colleges and school districts.
The next Zachary School Board meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 3.