Peterman sets forth goals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 1999

VIDALIA, La. – For the next several weeks, improving instruction and rallying the public to renew a 1-cent sales tax for public schools will be Lester &uot;Pete&uot; Peterman’s first priorities as Concordia Parish’s school superintendent.

Voting for the tax, which has been in place for six years, on Oct. 23 will insure that the district keeps getting about $1.4 million for such things as salaries, facilities and teaching materials.

And getting teams of educators into schools to help fine-tune teaching skills will boost the parish’s sagging test scores and give students the skills they need to succeed, Peterman said.

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The school board voted Tuesday to hire Peterman as superintendent, and he admits that taking the reins is &uot;an awesome responsibility.&uot; But he has had three months to plan how he will attack those problems.

That is how long he served as interim superintendent, ever since former superintendent James Lee’s contract expired June 30 and the board voted not to offer Lee a new contract.

Earlier this year, the district learned its students scored below the state average on the LEAP test and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Next year, fourth- and eighth-grade students will need to pass LEAP to go to the next grades.

Eventually, schools that do not measure up on tests could see students transfer to other schools and could lose state funding. &uot;But this is about getting the students to learn more – we don’t want to just raise test scores,&uot;&160;Peterman said Wednesday.

Some efforts to help raise scores have already started during Peterman’s time as interim superintendent. The principals of individual schools are writing &uot;school improvement plans&uot; for boosting scores.

Assistance teams have already begun working at some schools to suggest strategies for reaching those goals. They will schedule times to work with principals and teachers and do classroom observation.

In addition, a educational facilitator paid with federal grant money is already working at Ferriday Upper Elementary and Ferriday Junior High. And teachers will be given more staff development opportunities this year.

&uot;But student achievement is more than test scores,&uot;&160;Peterman said. &uot;It’s about children learning and valuing their education. Parents and students need to buy into it.&uot;

To help parents have a more active role in their children’s education, schools are having more parent-teacher organization meetings to keep them informed.

&uot;Parents are concerned about accountability and what it will mean for their children,&uot;&160;Peterman said. &uot;That’s evident by the turnout we’re having at these meetings.&uot;

In addition, schools will be teaching parents how to enforce their children’s classroom learning at home. And more workshops, including sessions at the district’s annual Parentfest on Oct. 14, will also help parents learn how to help their children learn better.

For the next two weeks, Peterman will also be working to raise public support for the sales tax. Sixty percent of the 1-cent tax goes to help fund school operations; 40 percent goes to salary supplements for teachers and support personnel.

Peterman wants to meet with other school officials in the next few days to brainstorm the best ways to solicit support for the tax from educators, parents, businesses and the public at large.

&uot;We need to decide how best to show the public the different ways in which this money is used,&uot;&160;Peterman said.

Even after the tax’s fate is decided, Peterman wants to keep rallying all parts of the community to continue to support and take pride in their school system.

&uot;I&160;want everybody working together as a family for the good of the schools,&uot;&160;Peterman said.

&uot;We need to have a positive attitude and a willingness to do better. It’s really about improving the quality of life, because the quality of your schools impacts that.&uot;