TPSD says excitement surrounds new year

Even as the region’s sluggish economy portends reduced revenue, the Terrebonne Parish School District has big goals for this school year.

Terrebonne students’ summer break ended on Monday when they returned to the classrooms. Schools superintendent Philip Martin said the new year brings a refreshed energy to all those across the parish schools.

“The beginning of a school year is exciting for students and for teachers, and the whole school system has a sense of excitement and anticipation of a school year. We hope to encourage and maintain that excitement throughout the school year,” Martin said.

Martin said the school district has set a goal of improving its district performance score from the Louisiana Department of Education by five points over this school year. The most recent figures, from last December, were based on the 2014-15 school year, with Terrebonne Parish receiving a 90.5, a drop off from 91.3 the previous year. However, although the district has not received its score from the past school year yet, Martin said he hopes the TPSD receives a five-point hike. If it does, and the district follows up with another five-point increase this year, Terrebonne would top a score of 100 and earn an “A” performance grade.

“Those are very lofty goals, but if you’re going to set a goal, set one that is going to be very significant,” Martin said. “And that’s what we’re trying to do as a district, and that takes a lot of support from parents, work from students, dedication and hard work from teachers. There’s a whole lot of moving parts to accomplish that, but that’s our goal.”

The district will also continue the work of building a new Southdown Elementary School, which is currently being demolished. Students from Southdown are now learning at the old Dularge Elementary and Greenwood Middle schools. Martin said the district hopes to put the construction of the new school out to bid sometime in the early fall, with a two-year timeline on construction.

The district is striving forward as a slumping economy is driving sales tax revenue backward. Martin said the TPSD has some cushion to rely on due to its conservative budgeting, but the hope is for the oilfield to bounce back soon to provide some financial relief to all government entities.

“Right now, it’s just tighten the belt and hold on. We’re not in any financial crisis; I do not want anyone to perceive that. But you can stay in a downward trend for only so long before bad things start to happen.”

According to Martin, the most vital factor in the district earning that five-point increase in the state’s score is student achievement. He said the TPSD is stressing to all teachers at all schools to get their lessons aligned with the state standards to better prepare students for their state exams. Martin acknowledged ensuring alignment is a complex task but one that is essential to school performance.

“It’s hard to say we want our teachers to work harder, because I really think they’re working as hard as they can. We’re trying to make it where everybody’s working smarter, and delivering the instruction that’s going to be most significant and in line with what the state has adopted as the standards,” Martin said. •

Terrebonne schoolsKARL GOMMEL | THE TIMES