Responding to input from the community, Zachary Community School District officials have decided not to participate in the Louisiana Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program for the 2012-2013 school year. On April 26, the Zachary Community School Board voted in principle to allow schools to accept 30 scholarship students into the district with the intention of providing students in failing schools with an opportunity for a quality education while not impacting the district’s students and teachers.

Since the April 26 school board meeting, district officials and school board members have responded to calls of concern from the community, many expressing fears over the potential financial impact of the program. “We recognize the sacrifices many of our own families make to provide their students with a first-rate education and appreciate the community’s continued financial support of our district,” Zachary Schools Superintendent Warren Drake said.

“We are mindful that there are many potential changes on the horizon in education for our state including a new teacher evaluation system and a national standards based curriculum which will be implemented in the coming school year. These factors added to the challenges of managing an average growth of more than 150 students each school year make it difficult to add anything else on our teachers.” Drake continued.

At the time of the initial vote, the board, superintendent and staff reasoned that these students, 15 in Kindergarten and 15 in first grade, would have been only 10 percent of the 300 students the district took in following Hurricane Katrina at a time when the Zachary student population was much smaller.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, our teachers did not miss a beat. They provided outstanding instruction and our scores and school climate continued to reflect our commitment to excellence. Our goal in participating in the scholarship program was to spread our proven methods and best practices to impact students who may not otherwise have that opportunity. We believe our teachers are second to none and felt that as the number one district in the state we should lend a hand in even such a small way,” Superintendent Warren Drake explained.

District leaders have determined that the most appropriate course of action at this time is not to proceed with the applications to the Louisiana Department of Education. “We recognize that as public servants, our first mission is to serve the Zachary community and continue to ensure a quality education for our students. We will continue to explore ways to help students in academically unacceptable schools where possible, but at this time are responding to requests from the community not to participate in this program,” Drake said.

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