Education in Tangipahoa Parish: Behind the Scenes By: Craig Jones
During the most recent leadership Tangipahoa class themed “Education,” I observed first-hand our parish’s commitment to teaching, learning and expanding our academic culture. As a registered nurse, education is and continues to be an especially significant theme in my life. Teaching and learning are primary to the structure of a well-formed society, and it is evident that the educators and students of Tangipahoa parish are clearly aware of the shared responsibility and benefits relative to a superior education system.
The day began with a welcome to the Tangipahoa Parish School Board Chambers by Chief Academic Officer Melissa Stilley. Parish wide, the education system is comprised of more than 20,000 students, 37 schools, 2,500 employees and 9 school board members. Melissa then introduced our class to the Superintendent of the school board, Mr. Mark Kolwe. During Mr. Kolwe’s time as Superintendent, there have been many impressive, positive changes to improve the quality of education for the students of Tangipahoa Parish. Some of these include Mr. Kolwe’s meeting with the principals of each school throughout the parish to develop and promote ways to improve student test scores and student achievement. Safety audits have been performed at each school, 10 counselors have been added to the education system, a positive behavior program and child recognition program has been instituted, and a parent command center has been established on-line where parents can review their child’s grades, upcoming tests, and progress in class. Following Mr. Kolwe’s address was a presentation given by the C.F.O. of the school board, Mr. Ron Caruse.
Our second stop was at Hammond Eastside Primary where we were greeted by Sue Courtney, Lead Teacher. There a video presentation was given titled Definition of Childhood, and we learned about the impressive magnet program available to the students. We were given a tour of the school, and we were also treated to a musical performance by some very talented students which incorporated song and sign language.
The third visit was to Hammond High School where we enjoyed a fabulous lunch prepared by the exceptional students of the culinary arts division.
Subsequently we traveled to the Louisiana Technical College Hammond Area Campus where a video presentation was given by Eddy Anne Uder, showcasing the various classes and educational opportunities available.
Next we arrived at the University Center at SLU where we were greeted by the Director of New Student Enrollment, Sam Domiano. A tour of the local Emmy award-winning and current Emmy nominated television broadcasting studio was presented by Mr. Rick Settoon, manager of the Southeastern Channel. Following the tour of the studio, a lecture was presented by the President of SLU Dr. Randy Moffett with topics including enrollment and funding of the college.
The finale of the day was a tour of Holy Ghost Catholic School in Hammond where a welcome and tour of the impressive facility was given by Principal and current Leadership Tangipahoa classmate Cathy LeBlanc. An informative presentation was conducted regarding the differences between public and Catholic schools. The math division at Holy Ghost is technologically advanced, and computerized teaching methods far surpass anything available when I was in school.
The dedication and perseverance of our local students, teachers and administrators to education in our community is inspiring to witness. Our parish’s education structure is comprised of some of the most talented, motivated individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. All of these personalities striving together toward the common goal of making ours a learned society of which to be proud are what make Tangipahoa Parish such a wonderful place to call home. For, in the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”