"We Will" is the St. Tammany Parish Public Schools motto for the 2018-19 school year. The goal is to show the school community what students, teachers and administrators 'will do' to make local schools the best they can be. 

The St. Tammany Parish School Board had a light agenda for its Committee as a Whole meeting in Covington on Thursday, but that afforded extra time to laud nine high school students who recently were named National Merit Finalists.

The students are Christopher Le, of Fontainebleau High; Martha Clark, Madelyn Mendoza and Matt Richardson, of Mandeville High; and John Yu, Dalton Lovitt, Dustin MacLaughlin, Austin Thombs and Courtney Gasser, of Northshore High.

Most of the group attended Thursday’s meeting and received certificates of recognition for their achievement.

Approximately 1.5 million students take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test each year, and about 50,000 students with the highest scores qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Of that total, approximately 16,000 students earn National Merit Finalist recognition and receive a Merit Scholarship award.

The parish’s Career Technical Education programs also were spotlighted during the Human Resources and Education Committee portion of the meeting and students excelling in those classes were honored.

They included Devin Collins, of Salmen, who wrote the first-place essay entered in the Jobs for America’s Graduates state competition, as well as Salmen schoolmate Tajanee’ Burton who won the public speaking division at the state level.

The program is the largest high school dropout prevention and recovery program in the U.S.

Fontainebleau students, in particular, excelled in the St. Tammany welding and electrical programs, and they were among the honorees on Thursday.

Students receiving awards included Sean Sorensen and Connor Mascari (first in the team division of the FFA state welding competition;) William Bringol and Zachary Russell (fifth in team division state welding;) Zachary Pinion (first in the Associated Builders and Contractors beginner welding competition; and Cameron Russel (second in the beginner welding field.)

Mascari also placed second in the advanced welding division at the ABC competition.

AJ Muntz, of Pearl River, won the advanced welding division at the ABC event and schoolmate Josh Rogers placed fourth in the field. Pearl River’s Caleb Taylor placed fourth in the beginner welding competition.

Slidell High’s William Kells Brown was third in the advanced welding competition and Anthony Cabrera was first in the advanced electrical division.

CTE instructors at participating schools were thanked for their contributions to the programs, as well. They are Eric DuBuisson, JAG instructor, Salmen; John O’Bryan, welding, Fontainebleau; Billy Mayfield, welding, Pearl River; and Hunter King, welding and electrical instructor, Slidell.

Beamer Aston and Austin Hanger of Textron Marine and Land Systems, which has operations in Slidell, announced that Textron recently had hired several students from the parish's CTE programs, and were impressed with their skills sets. They said there is a continued need for skilled laborers in both the local and national workforce.

Maria Hernandez-McCloud won the Monteleone Technology Award which is presented by the school system annually to a teacher who empowers students to learn using technology tools and resources. Her proposal, titled the “Makey STEM Music Project” was written as an innovative way to bring science, technology, engineering and math skills into her music classes.

The award is named for former Parish Schools Superintendent Leonard P. Monteleone, who served in the capacity from 1995 until he died in 2003.

The school board also unanimously accepted as complete the infrastructure of a temporary modular classroom wing at Mandeville High. The project cost $861,729 and Steele-R Development the contractor. Satellite Shelters provided the modular buildings and Holly and Smith, APAC did the architectural work.

Mandeville High has experienced a spike in student population in recent years, and the school board recently funded a $14.6 million project there to build a three-story classroom building that will contain 38 permanent classrooms and do away with old modular buildings, among other improvements around campus.