Dear Parents and Community Members:

The month of January is often a time of reflection upon accomplishments from the previous year, and a time of looking forward to challenges in the year ahead. Such self-examination and preparation is not limited to just individuals, but is integral to any organization committed to maintaining excellence. I am proud to say that Ascension Parish Schools continues to be one of the state's elite "A"-rated school districts for academic performance, and that the district's excellence continues to be recognized through a variety of awards.

Most recently, State Superintendent of Education John White made a special visit to the district to announce that 16 of the parish's schools were labeled Top Gains schools for exceeding the state's academic standards. Those schools include Central Primary, Donaldsonville High, Dutchtown High, Dutchtown Middle, Dutchtown Primary, East Ascension High, Galvez Middle, Galvez Primary, Lake Elementary, Pecan Grove Primary, Prairieville Middle, Prairieville Primary, Spanish Lake Primary, St. Amant High, St. Amant Middle, and St. Amant Primary. Each school will each receive reward money in the amount of $8,453 to be spent on curriculum materials.

At that same visit, the state superintendent also shared the good news that three Ascension Parish Schools – Pecan Grove Primary, G.W. Carver Primary and Gonzales Primary – have been selected for the state department's Believe and Include Grant Initiative. The three schools will share $150,000 to fund their Power Up initiative, which is aimed at increasing academic performance in English Language Arts and math among students with disabilities. The schools will be able to purchase iPads for each student based on an identified need, and the iPads will be loaded with educational applications that reinforce skills taught in a regular education classroom with engaging visual, audio and kinesthetic exercises.

I want to applaud our teachers and school administrators who put in the extra hours and effort to advancing knowledge and to pursuing new learning opportunities for their students. Excellence starts in the classroom with dedicated educators, and it is enhanced through strong community support. The successes of Ascension Parish Schools clearly sit on the shoulders of our supportive community.

In the coming months, there will be opportunities for our community members to advance our district's efforts through their continued show of support. First, next month, the Rotary Club of Gonzales will host a fundraiser to benefit the Ascension Fund that provides grants to our schools and teachers to pursue worthwhile educational activities. Since 1992, the fund has given more than 1,000 grants worth $1.2 million. Tickets for a Feb. 21 steak dinner benefit are $100 and can be purchased from a member of the Rotary Club or by calling 225-644-8688. Second, voters will be asked to renew three important school millages on the May 4 ballot. These are not new taxes, but rather ongoing millages vital to our current services. The millages are dedicated to teacher salaries, maintenance and facilities, and technology, and they provide fundamental funding for our district's operations.

Finally, I want to update our community on the safety and security of our schools in light of recent tragedies. Since that time, we have reviewed and made modifications to our district and school crisis plans and are working diligently to improve safety across the entire school district.

In addition to our internal changes, school leaders and administrators have met with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Department, the Gonzales Police Department, the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and other such agencies from around our parish to review current programs, plans and procedures for effectiveness and relevancy. The outcome of those evaluations has led to some modifications and enhancements. We, in conjunction with our partnering law enforcement and emergency agencies, will soon announce the results of those improvements to our community. Until that time, please note that the safety and wellbeing of every student is our highest priority.

I am excited about the accomplishments we have enjoyed in Ascension Parish Schools, and I look forward to results of our continued investments in academic excellence. Please feel free to contact the superintendent's office if you have any questions about our continued progress.

Sincerely,

Patrice Pujol,

Superintendent