DONALDSONVILLE — The principals of the four public schools on the west bank of Ascension Parish hit the highlights of their academic programs to an audience of parents and other interested Donaldsonville residents at a town hall meeting Monday night organized by School Board member Robyn Penn Delaney.
The director of the federally-funded Head Start program for 3-year-olds also spoke at the event held at Donaldsonville City Hall. More than 50 people attended.
“I’m here because I wanted you to come out and listen to all the good things happening on the west side of the parish,” said Delaney, whose District 1 covers Donaldsonville, an area with a large number of impoverished residents.
West bank schools in the past have historically been struggling schools, but currently there are no failing schools in the Ascension Parish school system.
School scores recently released by the state for 2014-15 for high schools show Donaldsonville High moved up from a 70.5 C to a 75.9 C.
The school also showed an 82 percent graduation rate, which is remarkable for a school with 90 percent participation in the free- and reduced-lunch program, Principal Marvin Evans said.
“I’m not calling our students poor, but poverty is real,” Evans said.
Despite the poverty, Evans said, “there are so many positive things in Donaldsonville and our schools that you don’t know about.” School scores will be released at a later date for the state’s elementary and middle schools.
For the 2013-14 school year, Donaldsonville Primary School, Lowery Elementary School and Lowery Middle School were graded as D schools, with Lowery Elementary School bringing up a previous F grade.
Throughout the evening, parents asked more than once how they can get involved.
“I just feel like we need to combine more, instead of a (school) system and a community, it needs to become one entity,” parent Courtney Julien Sr. said after the meeting.
“We need to work together,” said Julien, who has two children in primary school and one child in middle school.
Principals said that, in addition to participating in regular programs for families at each school, getting involved can be as simple as calling the school office and offering volunteer services.
The audience on Monday heard that the Head Start program, directed by Pat Sanchez, serves 115 3-year-olds in seven classes.
Donaldsonville Primary, which serves children in pre-K through second grade, prepares its students for Lowery Elementary School, which serves third- through fifth-graders.
“Our school is a bridge from Head Start 3-year-olds into primary school,” said Mary McMahan, Donaldsonville Primary principal.
Dawn Love, principal of Lowery Elementary, said the school has family nights once a month and is piloting a program of home visits to help parents help their children at school.
At Lowery Middle School, Principal Nicole Grimes said that even at the middle-school level, students are being prepared for college and career readiness, with interest inventories and weekly “Tiger Academies” named after the school mascot to “help those students that might be falling behind. We’re catching them,” she said.