Fort Polk Progress conducts Strategic Planning Session for Education Initiative

January 10, 2014

For Immediate Release

Fort Polk Progress conducts Strategic Planning Session for Education Initiative

LEESVILLE, La.-Fort Polk Progress conducted a Strategic Planning Session Jan. 8, at Northwestern State University’s Leesville/Fort Polk campus.
The planning session included educational stakeholders from the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The goal of the planning session was to create a strategic plan that will ensure that our military partners are aware of our current achievements as well as our plans for continued success,” said Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese.

Those in attendance were:

Annette

Beuchler

Director of Programs and Communications

Rapides Foundation

Peggy

Bluitt

School Liaison

Fort Polk

Anne

Causey

Executive Director

Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce

Wilma

Delp

Technical Assistant

Rapides Foundation

John

Farris

Curriculum Director

Vernon Parish School Board

Jon

Grafton

England Airpark

Executive Director

Gen. William

Hickman

Commanding General

Fort Polk

Lorna

Hanes

Community Planner

Fort Polk

Gary

Jones

Assistant Superintendent

Louisiana Department of Education

Mike

Kay

Curriculum Director

Vernon Parish School Board

Ben

Martindale

Tech Assistant

Rapides Foundation

Thomas

Moore

Garrison Commander

Fort Polk

Jason

Parks

Executive Director

Northwestern State University-Cenla

Deborah

Randolph

President

Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce

Michael

Reese

Chairman

Fort Polk Progress

Richard

Reese

Administrator

Faith Training Christian Academy

Kimberly

Reischling

Public Affairs Officer

Fort Polk

Robert

Rose

Mayor

City of Leesville

Joe

Rosier

President

The Rapides Foundation

Stephanie

Sarver

Strategic Planner

Fort Polk

Paul

Sawyer

Director of Federal Programs

Louisiana Economic Development

Jackie

Self

Superintendent

Vernon Parish School District

Anne

Smith

Curriculum Director

Vernon Parish School Board

Scott

Stearns

PAO

Fort Polk

Ashley

Stewart

Evaluation Manager

Rapides Foundation

Anastasia

Stipe

Volunteer/Parent

Fort Polk

James

Williams

Director

Vernon Parish School Board

 

Representatives from the Rapides Foundation presented an analysis of local state and national data collected through the foundation’s own initiative, which revealed that the Vernon Parish School District is performing exceedingly well, even on a national level.

“You have a very, very powerful and positive situation going on here,” said Ben Martindale, an educational expert with the Rapides Foundation.

“We don’t see these kinds of relationships in most districts, except the highest performing,” said Wilma Delp, also with the Rapides Foundation, about the interest Fort Polk Progress has taken in not only promoting the successes of the Vernon Parish School District but also in helping the district achieve more.  

Most in attendance agreed that marketing the district’s successes, especially to military families considering relocating here, is a high priority.

In addition, school district representatives identified other challenges.

District Superintendent Jackie Self said that improved ACT scores and improved graduation rates are at the top of the district’s goals for improved performance, while budgetary challenges included finding funding for virtual schools and other technology as well as preschool.

“We need funding for every four-year-old student, as we do for kindergarten,” he said, acknowledging the connections between early education and continued student success.

The meeting came to a close with facilitators suggesting ways that the community can help the district meet their goals through a variety of strategies which include marketing present achievements as well as addressing future challenges.

Fort Polk Progress Chairman Mike Reese concluded the meeting with a summary of the group’s next steps, including creating committees, likely from many of those in attendance, to develop strategies for marketing.  In addition, an education symposium will be held in March on Fort Polk to educate military families about the initiative and to seek their input.

Reese also indicated that he will be presenting the data collected during this process to senior Army leaders in February.

Chief of Staff of the Army Odierno has recently called for performance evaluations of public schools near the Army’s installations.  

Recent Successes of the Vernon Parish School District

Louisiana, which requires every student to take the ACT, has an average score of 19.5, while the U.S. average score is 20.9. Vernon Parish students, including those who have no intention of attending college, have an average score of 19.4.

Two Vernon Parish schools logged ACT scores in the top twenty of the state in 2013. Anacoco High School has the 9th highest Act score (24.2) in the state, while Rosepine High School logged the 20th highest score (21.2).

Educating 10,000 students in 19 schools, the Vernon Parish School District is one of only nine districts (out of 71) in the state to receive an A letter grade. In addition, 82 percent of the district’s third through eighth graders performed at or above basic levels, significantly higher than the state average of 69 percent.

Since 2007, the Vernon Parish School District has been making steady improvements in its state scores, which assigns points and letter grades to schools and districts. In 2013, the district made the leap from a B district, to an A district, and continues to hold a spot in the top five districts in the state. The district is currently fourth in the state.

While the performance of Central Louisiana schools as a whole falls in line with the state’s performance, Vernon Parish Schools literally soar above the pack, with 10-or-more-point leads in English and Math scores on the LEAP tests at both fourth and eighth grade levels.  

Aside from its high academic standards, the Vernon Parish School District has demonstrated its commitment to its students, and especially the military child, in a very tangible way by securing more than $40 million for not just one, but two new schools: Leesville High School and South Polk Elementary, both of which serve the largest military populations in the parish.

Fort Polk Progress is a community organization that takes a proactive stance toward Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Fort Polk Progress maintains relationships and partners with decision makers in Congress, at the Pentagon and at the state level, ensuring that the most up to date information concerning Fort Polk and the surrounding communities is used in decisions concerning the base. In addition, Fort Polk Progress actively markets the base to the military as the most cost effective place to provide soldiers with the best training possible.  

For more information about this and other Fort Polk Progress projects, please call Tammy Sharp at 337-378-9329.

To stay up to date on our news please visit our website at www.fortpolkprogress.com and like us on Facebook. To join our mailing list or to opt out of future emails, reply to tammy@fortpolkprogress.com

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