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Livingston Parish Schools assistant superintendent Jody Purvis works on backing up his bus during a driving lesson, Tuesday, September 20, 2022, at the Livingston Parish School Board Offices in Livingston, La.

Although Livingston Parish public schools’ academic performance remained the same compared to the district’s pre-COVID scores, the district slipped from the state’s top-ten ranking in Louisiana, according to a new state accountability report.

The district received a performance score of 88.5 — out of a possible 150 — which equaled the score awarded in 2019, the Louisiana Department of Education’s 2022 report shows.

The score previously earned the district a top-ten ranking in 2019. Now, the district is ranked 11th-best in the state.

“First, let me say that for our district to hold student performance steady for the past two years through the pandemic and major storms, like Hurricane Ida, is a testament to all our employees and their dedication to our children," said Superintendent Joe Murphy. "But the fact that we have not grown our overall score, and we are seeing a fall in our assessment scores, is evidence of the crisis we are facing." 

Murphy said the ranking reflects acute challenges the district has been facing, including staffing recruitment and retention issues. He plans to meet with district leaders and school principals in the coming days to address improvement.

The district is also working with a newly appointed board of directors to review funding options for the district that specifically addresses recruitment, retention and competitive pay issues.

“Livingston Parish Schools has historically done more with less: a fact that we take pride in across our district. When you consider that we rank 38th in the state in pay for our people, it’s amazing to think we rank as high as we do in performance," he said. "But the gap is growing and maintaining excellence is becoming a greater challenge."

While the data indicates that students showed individual progress over the past two years, that growth was not always at the rate that the state had set as an expectation, Murphy said.

“Our classrooms are larger because of student growth, and we are unable to provide additional instructional support leaders today to help our teachers,” said Supervisor of Instruction Kelly LaBauve. “We had begun seeing this trend some time ago, but COVID fast-tracked everything, and now we’re seeing the direct impacts of these changes.”

More experienced teachers have also retired or transferred out, making it difficult to replace them, she said.

“And even if we do find a good young teacher, that person needs support to do the job right, and not go through a trial-and-error learning curve that impacts student growth and performance along the way,” LaBauve added.


Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com