BAKER — A week after voters ousted three of the five members of the Baker School Board, incoming and outgoing members addressed the latest state scores of Baker schools that show little improvement in the past year.
The district as a whole, which has 1,356 students, again received a D grade from the state, up 2.8 points from 2017 when measured by the old formula. It lost 2.8 points under the new state formula.
All of the Baker schools, with the exception of Park Ridge Academic Magnet, are on the state’s 2018 list of schools in need of intervention.
Bakerfield faced state takeover when Herman Brister became superintendent in 2015 and remains an F school for the seventh year in a row. Baker Middle also received an F in 2018, the same as its 2016 score. Baker High maintained its D for 2018, while Park Ridge Academic Magnet stayed steady with a C, the same as 2016. Baker Heights Elementary dropped from a C to a D for 2018.
“We are going to continue to work hard to improve student achievement,” Brister said when asked about the state scores after the School Board meeting Tuesday.
The Baker school district submitted an improvement plan to the state and will stay on the same path with implementing it, Brister said, adding that he is happy with the plan and confident the school system will “continue to grow.”
Among the measures school officials have taken in an attempt to improve the schools are agreements with Southern University, Louisiana Resource Center for Educators, and iTeach Louisiana to provide more training for teachers, and a contract signed in January with Mass Insight Education to develop plans for Baker Middle, Bakerfield Elementary and Baker High.
The reaction was mixed from some of the school board members, both incoming and outgoing for the new term beginning in January.
Joyce Burges, who won the District 3 seat from Rosatina Johnson on Nov. 6, said in a telephone interview that the school scores are “unacceptable.”
“The test scores are not a reflection on the children of Baker,” Burges said. “Each child deserves a first-class education and they are not getting it in Baker public schools.”
Burges pointed to improving the curriculum and attracting the best quality teachers as the main ways to raise the test scores.
The turnover in the board members shows that residents are fed up with the lack of improvement in the schools, Burges said.
Board member Dana Carpenter, who has served continuously since the board’s inaugural election in 1998, was edged out of the District 2 seat by newcomer Sharlous Booker, who secured 52 percent of the vote.
Unlike Burges, Carpenter said he believes the school district was moving in the right direction, but it would take time to get there.
“I thought this year’s scores would be better. We have put in a lot of programs to help student achievement and made an effort to get highly qualified teachers,” Carpenter said. “We have a superintendent who is committed to getting our scores up.”
The other board member losing a seat in January is Calvin Dees Sr., who lost to challenger Vanessa Park.
Only incumbent board members Elaine Davis and Shona Boxie will retain their seats. Davis, District 1, narrowly beat challenger Willie Williams Jr. with 51 percent of the vote. Boxie has served on the board since 2011 and ran unopposed for the District 4 seat.
Davis expressed bemusement with the election results.
“I don’t know what the problem was,” she said after the school board meeting.
Baker schools face competition from two charter schools that opened in the area in 2015; however, those charters didn’t fare well in the state scores either.
Advantage Charter, on Plank Road in Baker, received a D rating for 2018, down from a C in 2017. The school serves students from kindergarten to eighth grade and has about 665 students enrolled.
Impact Charter on Lavey Lane serves grades pre-kindergarten through 7th grade. The school earned a D in both 2018 and 2017.