Room for Optimism in St. Landry Education

Brandy Ledet Education

“There is still much work to be done,” Rodier said, “but it is encouraging that St. Landry citizens in all walks of life have come to realize how absolutely important it is to upgrade every aspect of education.”SLED Executive Director, Bill Rodier
Improving education at every level is important to the good health of the St. Landry economy and overall quality of life today, and is vital to its tomorrow. That’s why parish leaders are encouraged by good news for students from kindergarten through college.

The improving educational climate is due not only to the work of educators, but also to increasing involvement by parents, concerned citizens, parish and local governments, and members of the business community, the leaders say.

At the college level, LSU at Eunice continues to show one of the highest percentage increases in enrollment of any state university, due in good part to a growing reputation for excellence and through programs for dual enrollment students.

The U.S. Department of Education has selected LSUE as one of only 44 colleges and universities to participate in an experimental program to allow high school students to take courses for college credit. The program is designed to introduce students to college-level work, and also give them an incentive to continue their education after graduation from high school.

Creation of a skilled work force is a part of the college’s mission. In listing its goals, the school notes that “quality technical programs are crucial to economic development,” and pledges that “the institution will continue to expand its relationship with local business and industry to identify area workforce needs”

St. Landry economic development director Bill Rodier reported to his board of directors that, “We are continuing particularly to explore health-care related partnership opportunities that may make sense for LSU-E.”

The two-year college has also been recognized as a national leader in the number of students who go on to get degrees from four-year colleges and for providing one of the nation’s exemplary career counseling programs.

Rodier noted that the South Louisiana Community College and its T. H. Harris campus in Opelousas are also continuing to provide new opportunities for St. Landry students.

He said he and other parish leaders will meet “on a regular and recurring basis” with leaders from SLCC and the TH Harris Campus to help create a curriculum that meets the needs of students and provides training for careers that will help them stay in St. Landry Parish.

One of those opportunities now being developed is a two-year program in partnership with Opelousas General Hospital to train skilled health professionals.

Rodier also reported on a “new, very positive, look and feel” for St. Landry school board meetings under new superintendent Patrick Jenkins.

Since being chosen as St. Landry Parish superintendent last October, Jenkins has worked to improve relationships with community leaders and organizations, Rodier told the SLED board that parish government and economic leaders are working with. Jenkins “in multiple areas, including communication, consideration of a strategic plan for the district.”

Jenkins has said he wants to create a plan that can be largely implemented in three to five years.

Part of that plan is to build a greater “grass roots” awareness of the importance for parents and the community to be involved with education,” Rodier said.

That effort also includes enlisting private industry support for St. Landry education, he said. That has been a priority of a support organization of St. Landry business leaders called Vision St. Landry that seeks to establish priorities “that could have significant impacts for St. Landry Parish over the next five to twenty years.”

He said the group continues to make “significant strides” through focus groups on education, redevelopment of downtowns and growing the I-49 Corridor.”

“There is still much work to be done,” Rodier said, “but it is encouraging that St. Landry citizens in all walks of life have come to realize how absolutely important it is to upgrade every aspect of education here to make certain that every student—from the pre-K child to the adult in continuing education—has access to the best teachers, curriculum, and facilities that we can offer.”

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The mission of the St. Landry school system is to “prepare all students for life’s challenges by teaching them the skills necessary to acquire and apply knowledge to function effectively in a technological, multicultural, global society.