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Story Archives: Parish schools, WM chamber bring 'Louisiana's Promise' to Ouachita
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|Parish schools, WM chamber bring 'Louisiana's Promise' to Ouachita|
The public education system must be a pipeline that creates opportunities for all students regardless of socio-economic status, according to Shreveport's Dr. Phillip Rozeman.
Rozeman, founder of Shreveport's Alliance for Education, spoke with local officials late last week about an initiative called Louisiana's Promise.
Louisiana's Promise grew out of America's Promise Alliance, formed by Ret. Gen. Colin Powell and his wife, to focus on the well-being of young people.
The goal of both groups is to address the drop out rate among students and help struggling students.
According to Rozeman, the state's public education "pipeline" has many holes.
"Imagine a water hose … if you cut holes in that water hose, at the end, the pressure is going to be reduced," Rozeman explained. "It doesn't matter if the holes are at the start, the middle or the end of the hose. It's easy to think about graduation rates and then dive directly into high school. But the truth of the matter is the pipeline fails when there is links anywhere. The leaks in the education pipeline, and the places where we lose children, are at the beginning, the middle and at the end. There are leaks in Pre-K through five, and leaks in middle and high school."
In Louisiana, there are approximately 14,000 students who drop out of school annually.
"We have to look at this issue," Rozeman said. "Louisiana's Promise is about patching the leaks of the education pipeline so fewer children limit their future by dropping out of school."
Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber said the drop out rate is a problem all over the state, even in Ouachita Parish.
"We have a great school system, but we still have a problem with drop outs," Webber said. "Certainly, when one child drops out of school, it is a problem."
He commended the West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce for its efforts to tackle the drop-out issue, especially working with students who are dealing with poverty issues.
"We do have needy kids in Ouachita Parish, I promise you," Webber continued. "So, we appreciate them (chamber) and all they do for us. We do appreciate the chamber and its desire to help kids in poverty because that is a big part of our drop out problem."
The West Monroe chamber, Ouachita Parish Schools, the city of West Monroe, the University of Louisiana-Monroe and the local business community have been involved in several projects to address poverty and how it affects students in school.
The meeting with Rozeman last week was another part of the local group's initiative to find ways to help area at-risk students.
"We have to go so rapidly today in education that kids are being left behind," Webber explained. "That's the worst thing about moving and trying to stay up and work for the tests that we all must take.
"The problem is teachers are losing that closeness with students that they once had. That's why we need mentors because they change lives and sometimes they save lives."
School-based health clinics have been established at local schools to help children remain in school by providing them with healthcare needs, which many children's parents cannot afford.
One clinic is located at Riser Middle School. The other is located at West Monroe High School. The school board plans to add another clinic at Richwood High School in the near future.
Webber also commended West Ouachita High School's Agricultural Sciences Building as a way to help students remain in school since it offers them more options for their future.
"This is an attempt on our part to find something of interest for those students so they will not drop out of school," Webber said. "We've said many times that most of the students in our schools are not going on to college. So, they need skills."
Another similar facility is expected to open next year at Ouachita Parish High School, offering the same learning experiences.
"We understand that businesses need workers, and they need workers with skills," Webber said.
He said the additional truancy officers the Ouachita Sheriff's Office hired last year helped reduce the number of absences within the parish school system.
"They are really making a difference, especially at our middle schools, which are the students you would think would be in school," Webber said.