St. Charles Parish’s high schools have joined the elite schools in the state after a jump in performance scores led to an ‘A’ rating for both Hahnville and Destrehan.
In addition to the high schools going up a ranking, R.J. Vial also jumped from a C to a B. Most of the parish’s schools saw their performance scores increase without an increase in their grade ranking. New Sarpy Elementary and Norco Elementary experienced small declines in their performance scores.
The school system as a whole increased 11.6 points to 118.3, which is only 1.7 points short of an A grade for the entire school district. Also, St. Charles Parish went up four rankings to improve to the eighth best school district in the state out of 72 districts.
Felicia Gomez, assistant superintendent of secondary schools and quality assurance, said she expects the school district to keep on improving.
"We absolutely expect to be an A school district. It’s achievable," she said.
Concerning the district’s two high schools receiving the highest grade rating, Gomez said it is evidence that the school system as a whole is progressing.
"We are feeling excited and encouraged and feeling pretty good right now," she said. "We always say that high school is a culmination from Pre-K all the way through high school and I am pleased that the high school principals acknowledge and appreciate that. That shows that we operate as a school system rather than as a system of schools."
Ken Oertling, principal at Hahnville High School, said the A rating for his school is the culmination of many years of work on behalf of the community as a whole.
"It’s really a reflection of the students, the faculty and staff, the community and the parents," Oertling said. "We’ve really tried to focus on making our school the top school in the state through more rigorous courses and we’ve had the support of our district staff as a vital component of supporting us."
Oertling credits interventionists placed in his school’s ninth grade as a big reason behind the continuing upswing in graduation rates, which factor into school ratings.
"We’re pulling them aside for brief periods of time to provide them with additional instruction for students who are struggling - those at-risk students - and providing them support all day at every period to really target our struggling students and provide those extra interventions," he said.
Hahnville’s ACT score is also on the rise, which will be all the more important this year as all juniors in the school will be required to take the examination as part of the new school performance score evaluations.
"Our composite ACT score is 20.6," Oertling said. "This is the first time we’ve beat the state average of 20.1 or 20.2 and we are shooting to go above the national average."
Oertling said despite the rise in his school’s ranking, there is still more work to be done.
"We are extremely proud of the student body, the faculty and staff and couldn’t be prouder, but we know we have a ways to go," he said.
Stephen Weber, principal at Destrehan High School, said he believes the environment that has been developed in his school has contributed to Destrehan’s progress over the years.
"I always say just walk into the school and watch how the students communicate with each other. You get a good feel of the atmosphere of the school," Weber said. "I am really more happy about how our students get along and handle themselves every day. That is paramount."
He said the attitude his students have about their community naturally leads to better school performance.
"If the performance scores go up, I believe it is because of the attitude of the kids and the attitude of the teachers," Weber said. "The character shown by the kids…we are creating productive citizens. I’m not talking about everyone going to college – I’m talking about class and character. That means so much to me."
Weber summed up the progress the school system has made by applauding the parish as a whole.
"St. Charles Parish has been doing anything and everything possible to try and challenge students and to raise expectations. It’s not just Destrehan High School," Weber said. "From the kindergarten classes to the elementary schools specifically on the East Bank to Hahnville and the middle schools, I think it is a concerted effort on behalf of our parish to at least meet the expectations of what the state is now requiring."