As school ramps back up and into the new year, St. Charles Parish Public Schools received some very high praise recently.
St. Charles Parish’s school system was ranked Louisiana’s second best overall district while earning the No. 1 rank among school districts in the New Orleans area, the No. 1 place to teach in Louisiana and the state’s No. 1 school district for athletes by the national website Niche.
St. Charles Parish Public Schools Superintendent Ken Oertling cited his belief that a school district should be measured by more than test scores, and that the Niche ranking supplied some positive validation for the district’s efforts to mold well-rounded students.
“It’s certainly an honor to be recognized for the work we do outside of just testing,” Oertling said. “We’ve always taken the approach we want to educate the whole child and not only provide them an excellent education, but also to grow as students and people.”
Niche ranks school systems based on “a rigorous analysis of academic and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education along with test scores, college data, and ratings collected from millions of Niche users.”
St. Charles also earned high marks in other areas. It was named the third safest school district in the state; ranked as having the state’s third best group of teachers; and as the state’s fourth most diverse school district. Among New Orleans schools, it also ranked as the best place to teach, the best for athletes, as having the best teachers, as most diverse and as the safest, with No. 1 rankings in each area.
The St. Charles school district has perennially placed near the top of these rankings over the past several years. In 2018, it ranked as the top school district in Louisiana on the Niche list, while a year before that it placed third overall.
He said the recognition is possible through the hard work of many throughout the school system that has ultimately created an established, positive culture — as well as the work of those outside of it.
“It’s about the cooperation of so many different people, not just in the school system but outside of it as well. When you look at partnerships we have with business and industry, without their support, many of the things we’re known for wouldn’t be possible. And also when you think of government agencies, the judicial system and their support … together, we have a collective vision of where we are and where our priorities are focused.”
That cooperation has allowed for consistent success in the face of an always-changing education landscape.
“When you have that type of consensus, it’s that much less likely a barrier in front of you can derail you,” Oertling said.
The top ranking among districts to teach in is also not insignificant. Less college students are going into education these days, making for a highly competitive recruiting field.
“It’s pretty well known there’s a teaching shortage,” Oertling said. “So to be ranked as high as we are here speaks to the credibility of our school system and shows we prioritize our teachers being fully supported in the classroom, and compensated for that work as well.”
Oertling believes the news of the high rankings will serve as a bit of extra validation for employees throughout the system that see their work recognized among the very best.
“We’ve really focused on providing a positive climate in our school system and providing opportunities for our people to grow, and I think this provides validation for where the School Board directs its priorities and for the support we receive from the Board,” Oertling said.