Superintendent: Reminders for the start of school Aug. 7

On Tuesday, Morgan City High School Tiger Band members were practicing on campus. Stephanie Leblanc and Austin Duval are playing the instruments up front and the other members of the band are marching behind.
(The Daily Review Photo by Crystal Thielepape)

Students in St. Mary Parish public schools report to school Aug. 7.
Students will be marked absent if they are not present on the opening day of school, St. Mary Parish Superintendent Donald Aguillard reminded parents in a news release.
According to Louisiana policy, elementary and junior high students are allowed only 11 absences during the school year. High school students must be present 94 percent of the required instructional time to receive Carnegie credit. This means students in grades 9 to 12 are allowed only six absences per semester.
Students also are expected to arrive on the first day of school in full uniform. School uniform guidelines may be found on the parish website at www.stmary.k12.la.us.
In advance of opening day, teachers, administrators and other school personnel will be meeting to discuss policy updates and newly-adopted legislation that will guide educator practices for the new school year. Groups of teachers have worked throughout the summer to review newly-purchased textbook materials and attend content area workshops designed to improve daily instructional delivery. For 2014-15, resources available to teachers have widely expanded and will offer students a more direct, Common Core State Standards-aligned approach, Aguillard said in the news release.
Parish leadership changes for the 2014-15 school year included the appointment of Teresa Bagwell as the new assistant superintendent following the retirement of long-time assistant superintendent Keith Thibodeaux.
Several additional changes in administrative staff throughout the parish were necessary due to retirements, transfers or promotions including Charles Foulcard, Hernandez Elementary principal; Tim Hymel, Berwick Junior High principal; Dennis McDill, Morgan City High assistant principal; Lane Larive, Berwick Junior High assistant principal; Sheryl Gibbons, Hattie Watts assistant principal; Gidget Everitt, at-risk interventionist; Amber Monceaux, social studies program manager; and Amy Vaccarella, technology facilitator.
During the annual budget session, school board members voted to renew an annual allotment for school supplies and science materials for the seventh year in a row. The board allocates $22.50 per student to each school as a means of offsetting the cost of supplies, fees and science materials.
“The annual disbursement defrays a portion of the typical back-to-school expenses while ensuring that all students have needed materials on the first day of school,” Aguillard said.
Other reminders prior to the start of school include:
—State law does not permit students to use or operate any electronic telecommunications device without direct authorization from the school principal. The parish cellular phone policy for students has been in place since 2011. The district recognizes that cellphones can serve as an essential line of communication between parents and children, especially in dealing with after school practices and activities, Aguillard said.
St. Mary Parish allows students in grades 6 to 12 to bring cellphones on school premises with the strict understanding that phones must be turned off, completely powered down and kept in a car or school locker during regular school hours.
Because cellphone-related issues of class disruption as well as cheating, bullying and inappropriate photography or video recording can be a legitimate concern, there are stern consequences for violations of this policy that include 15 to 45 day confiscation periods, school suspensions and district hearings. Students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grades are not permitted to have cellphones on school grounds during school hours for any reason, the superintendent said.
—The health and welfare of students directly impacts their ability to learn in the classroom. Documented proof of up-to-date immunizations is mandated by state law. Immunizations required of students entering pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, daycare and Head Start programs include: two doses MMR, three doses HBV, two doses varicella, four doses Hib and boosters for both DTaP and Polio.
State law also requires that any student who is age 11 in any grade, or as a condition of entry into sixth grade, must provide evidence of current immunization against meningococcal disease (MCV-4) along with any other age-appropriate vaccine.
Immunizations may be obtained from local healthcare providers or at the St. Mary Parish Public Health Unit in Morgan City. Immunizations as well as health services such as sports physicals, patient education, preventative care and health counseling are also provided at the West St. Mary High School-Based Health Center, a satellite clinic of Teche Action Board. Services offered at West St. Mary’s Health Center are available for students parish-wide.
—All students receive the St. Mary Parish Newsletter on the first day of school, which outlines important school policies and procedures. Parents and guardians are strongly encouraged to read the newsletter carefully and save it for future reference, Aguillard said. Local newspapers also publish the district’s bus transportation routes at the start of school. Bus routes can additionally be found on the Parents/Students page of the parish website and individual school websites.
—School lunch prices for the 2014-15 school year will reflect an increase due to Section 205 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that mandates a gradual increase per year until the average paid lunch price equals the difference between the federal reimbursement received for free and paid meals. Therefore, lunch costs for students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grades will be $1.60, and students in grades six through 12 will pay $1.85.
All breakfast prices will remain at the current level of 75 cents. Students may pay for meals daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Methods of payment include cash, checks and money orders. The district also employs an online payment system allowing parents to make payments using debit/credit cards at (www.myschoolbucks.com). All students will receive free and reduced meal applications, but parents are reminded that only one application should be completed for all children in the household. Applications should be returned to one of the schools attended by the children in the household, or they may be hand-delivered or mailed to the St. Mary Parish School Board office in Centerville. All applications must be received and processed by Sept. 18.
“The 2014-15 St. Mary Parish motto of ‘Embracing the Challenge’ is designed to emphasize both the sense of challenge inherent in the evolution of education in Louisiana and the passionate embracement by our educators as we remain steadfast on the parish’s over-arching focus of student success,” Aguillard said.
“It is our firm conviction that emphasis on the educational foundation of strong core content blended with technological advancements will continue to provide St. Mary students with an education that prepares them for both college and career readiness,” he added.

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