June 19, 2012 06:00
Superintendent Pat Cooper is recommending that the Lafayette Parish School Board convert David Thibodaux Career and Technical High School into a magnet school with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum. Lafayette Parish School System's newest high school could undergo a major shift in academic focus following its first year in operation if the school board approves Superintendent Pat Cooper's recommendation to convert David Thibodaux Career and Technical High School into a science, technology, engineering and math magnet academy.

Housed at the now defunct N.P. Moss Middle School, Thibodaux Tech opened in the fall of last year as a ninth-12th grade high school with curricula centered around four career themes: advanced manufacturing, health and applied sciences, business information systems and human services. The school took in only ninth and 10th grade students during its first year, though plans that the board approved prior to Cooper coming on board called for an additional $47 million investment in improvements to Thibodaux Tech.

Cooper, however, is asking the board to designate Thibodaux Tech as a sixth-12th grade STEM magnet academy that will accept 300 middle schoolers and 900 high school students and include dual enrollment and/or dual credit options through South Louisiana Community College.

If the board approves Cooper's conversion plan at its Wednesday meeting, the $47 million originally slated for the high school would be pared down to $8 million. The remaining funds would be used to address critical overcrowding problems in Youngsville and other pressing matters, Cooper says, like "healthy bathrooms for our other 40-something schools."

Also on the board's meeting agenda is a lengthy list of personnel changes for the board to review, including the retirements and transfers of eight principals and assistant principals across the district:
Tina Barnaba - Evangeline Elementary School Assistant Principal, transferring to Curriculum Academic Officer
Catherine Fulcher - Ridge Elementary School Principal, transferring to Curriculum Academic Officer
Penny Gennuso - Thibodaux Tech High School Assistant Principal, transferring to Math/Science Specialist
Kelly Gonzalez - G.T. Lindon Elementary School Assistant Principal, transferring to ELA Specialist
Phyllis Ledet - Ernest Gallet Elementary School Assistant Principal
Suzanne Kebodeaux - Milton Elementary School Principal
Carlton Handy - Northside High School Principal
Keith Bartlett - Alice Boucher Elementary School Principal
"We had a few scheduled for retirement, and a couple of more that said they would retire," Cooper says. "All the principals have been given some pretty tall orders, and some may have decided they didn't want to, but we didn't force anybody to retire. We just laid out new guidelines. With all the changes, some people may have said I probably shouldn't do this anymore."

Cooper says the other four school administrators transferring to other school system positions are being promoted.

Among the new guidelines for school principals under Cooper's six-year district turnaround plan is a requirement that student grades and overall performance at each school improve within two years. If the school hasn't shown tangible gains, the principal's contract will not be renewed.

The school board will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday at central office for a public hearing on the 2012-2013 budget, followed by a 4:30 p.m. special meeting to formally adopt the budget. The regular meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.

Read more coverage from The Independent on Cooper's turnaround plan here and here.

Also from Heather Miller

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