Monday, January 21, 2019

Stilley: Enrollment up 496 students; first day was "GREAT"

Stilley: Enrollment up 496 students; first day was "GREAT"
Posted: Aug 9, 2018
Categories: Front Page, Headlines
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AMITE—With an unofficial first day enrollment that was up nearly 500 students over the same time last year, Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Melissa Stilley said classes kicked off Thursday with great energy and a "very smooth start" to the 2018-19 school year.

Although the numbers will remain unofficial for these first few weeks, enrollment on Thursday stood at 19,617 for the first day of classes, an increase of 496 students parish wide over the same time last year.

The biggest growth appears to be at Ponchatoula High School, where enrollment is up 150 students opening day. Champ Cooper was a close second, as that school saw an increase of 118 students over this time last year. Hammond High Magnet, Hammond Eastside Magnet, and Tucker Elementary rounded out the five schools that saw the most growth in opening day enrollment this year.

The freshman superintendent started her trek on the first day of school by sharing a quick breakfast with several members of Loranger High School's senior class of 2019 before traveling to Tickfaw where she helped Lucille Nesom faculty with carpool duty in the rising August sun.

From Nesom, Stilley ventured north on US 51, making stops at the three Independence schools before heading up to Amite for visits at Amite Elementary, Amite High, and Amite West Side Middle. Then it was on to Roseland Montessori where she worked through lunch and visited with Principal Rhonda Vaccaro, a finalist for Louisiana's Principal of the Year, and a number of friends and family, like her daughter Missy, a teacher at the school, and her grandsons Hayes and Hyatt, 5th and 4th grade RMS students.

Stilley spent the rest of the afternoon on the road in the northern portion of the parish, visiting Spring Creek, Sumner, Kentwood and Chesbrough, where she had a chance to talk to students at their afternoon assembly. A quick trip back down I-55, and Stilley returned to the Central Office for a recap of the day's events with her team.

“We had a GREAT first day,” Stilley said, sharing that Central Office personnel went to many of the schools to serve as “buddies” to help out on the first day of classes. Stilley said that across the parish, community members came out to welcome students and school employees back and wish them well as the new year begins.

“From our friends at Tickfaw Police who personally came on campus and welcomed students back to Nesom to the Loranger Volunteer Fire Department who helped usher students from their parents cars and into their classrooms at Loranger Elementary and even Mayor Wanda McCoy, who along with members of the community, lined the route to Roseland Montessori and brought balloons and homemade signs to welcome our students back, everyone has been so encouraging and supportive as we begin our new school year,” Stilley said.

The new superintendent has talked about the excitement that’s been building leading up to the new school year, and Thursday did not disappoint. In a review of the first day late Thursday afternoon, Assistant Superintendent Ron Genco said one of his high points of the day was visiting at the reconstituted Greenville Park and Woodland Park Magnet Schools in Hammond.

“It was amazing,” Stilley said, and Genco added that the transformation on those campuses was tremendous. “It’s been a whole attitude change,” Genco said, noting that parents, teachers, and students alike were excited to be back at school.

Kendra Reed, the district’s Child Nutrition director, said participation in the parish’s free healthy breakfast and lunch program was slower today but she expects those numbers to increase as students get settled in at their schools. Thursday’s lunch menu was pizza, and district officials said there were lots of happy diners in school cafeterias across the parish. Tomorrow’s menu calls for hamburgers, and Reed said her cafeteria managers are gearing up for increased participation.

Across the parish, maintenance issues were few and far between on Thursday, said district maintenance director Kevin Crovetto. He noted that there are a few summer repair projects that are still ongoing, such as the new roof at Roseland Montessori; however, workers are coming in several hours before school to keep the work moving when classes are not in session.

“Big picture, we really had a great day,” Stilley said, noting that she will continue visiting schools tomorrow and into next week to make sure classes begin parish wide on a successful note.