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|Webber: At-risk students on rise in parish schools|
Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber knows not every school teacher is prepared to help children living in poverty.
That's why he believes Tuesday's poverty seminar, which included 200 teachers from school systems in 11 parishes, will go a long way in teaching teachers how to help impoverished students.
"A lot of times, especially with new teachers fresh out of educational programs at the universities, they have not taught in at-risk schools, and maybe they didn't attend an at-risk school," Webber said. "So, it's a little bit of a surprise to them when they are placed in a school like that. This will help them identify potential problems and potential solutions to those problems."
In many cases, the new teachers are the ones who are placed in at-risk schools, Webber said.
"Our at-risk population in our school system is on the rise," Webber said. "We have almost 50 percent with free and reduced lunch now, which is usually the way at-risk is based. So, we think this is something that will help our new teachers and some of our experienced teachers, too."
The seminar included teachers and law enforcement officers who spent most of the day Tuesday at West Monroe Convention Center going over various issues related to poverty.
The seminar was part of a collaborative effort among the West Monroe Chamber of Commerce, Ouachita Parish Schools and the University of Louisiana-Monroe. The City of West Monroe sponsored the event, too.
The chamber, the university and the parish school system developed a plan to address the various issues impoverished children face daily. One of the goals of the seminar was to give teachers a better understanding of a child's life and to show them how to best help impoverished children.
"This is only something that will help and we're very thankful the West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber, ULM and the city of West Monroe and the other sponsors jumped in and decided to help us with this," Webber continued. "We're real pleased with it. We appreciate the help from those outside the school system who saw a need and felt this was a solution to answer some of the needs we have so we can better serve all of our students.
"At school we want them to have the same opportunities as other students have, and that's what this is all about. Just because they are poor doesn't mean they are not wonderful children who come from wonderful families. A lot of our kids who come from very poor backgrounds have great supportive parents. This is just an effort to make things even better for those kids. I think that shows a lot about what kind of community we live in, and because so many want to help, I think that's one of the reasons we're such a great school system."
Ouachita Parish's school teachers will continue in this effort by participating in online courses at ULM to help them with any issues that may arise in at-risk schools.