First pre-GED grad honored in St. James

LUTCHER – The St. James School Board honored Ciarra Gardner, an 18-year-old from St. James High School in Vacherie, as the first student to receive her high school equivalency diploma under the Pre-GED Options program.

Gardner was able to complete the GED requirements while attending St. James High School.

Josephine Oubre, director of the program, said Gardner was a perfect example of how “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Oubre explained that the pre-GED program began in January 2015, as a way to keep students from dropping out of high school. Now that she has her GED, Gardner said she will be starting classes at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux later this month.

In other action, the School Board approved a tough truancy policy, designed to keep students off the streets and in the classrooms. The new policy was written by state District Judge Thomas Kliebert, along with Gaynell Albert, director of student services.

Albert told School Board members that the policy was a lot tougher than she originally wanted and said it would be difficult to manage with the system’s manpower, but she still urged board members to approve it.

“We have a serious problem with students being absent for no apparent reason,” said Albert. “I tip my hat to Judge Kliebert for wanting to take this type of tough action, because our kids need to be in school.”

The new policy calls for schools to notify parents by telephone and letter after a child has three unexcused absences. After five absences, the principal must send a referral to the child welfare office to initiate a home visit and a truancy panel. The truancy panel will be made up of representatives from the Sheriff’s Office, child welfare,

Families in need of services and the child and his or her parents or guardians.

Board member Charles Nailor said he the policy was the right move for the school system.

“It really does take a village to raise a child and to help educate and prepare them for the competitive world we live in,” he said. “I think that with the help of the sheriff and Judge Kliebert, we are heading in the right direction.”

Superintendent Ed Cancienne told board members that the U.S. Justice Department gave approval to the plan to consolidate St. James High School.

The board spent about $300,000 on renovations and additions at St. James High so seventh- and eighth-graders could attend the high school with the ninth- through 12th-grade students.