Wednesday, January 7, 2015

This Was About the Teachers But For Our Kids

To the entire community of Terrebonne Parish, thank you! Through the successful passage of the ½ cent sales tax, you have taken a bold step forward in the support of education in our parish. With the revenues realized from this tax, needed resources will be generated that will bring teacher and employee salaries from some of the lowest in Louisiana to a level more in line with our neighboring parishes. It was an issue of great importance to our schools and to our parish and on behalf of Terrebonne’s 2,300 teachers and employees, and the more than 18,000 students under their care, we offer our most sincere thank you.

Going forward, we are committed to attracting and retaining the very best educators to our school system. This endeavor is a core component of our plan, not merely to hold our position as one of the top performing districts in the state, but also as the foundation of our plan to become the top performing district in the state. We know that the single most important factor in a student’s education is a qualified, certified teacher in the classroom; and while we have some of the best, most creative and most dedicated educators anywhere, we need more like them. Your vote to support the sales tax also supports our teachers in another way – they feel appreciated for the important work they do.Our pledge to the community is that we will do everything we can to recruit and attract qualified professionals to Terrebonne Parish. The future of any community relies on the strength and vitality of its public school system, and we believe that Terrebonne Parish can be the premier school district in Louisiana.

And finally, to all who gave so much of themselves in these recent months in dedication to this effort, we offer our most sincere thanks as well. Your commitment to education and to our kids has been inspiring.

Philip Martin

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Half Cent to Support Education

Terrebonne Parish consistently ranks as one of the top locations in the nation in which to live and work, and play.  We enjoy record levels of employment and businesses are moving in, it seems, every single day.  We are rated as one of the happiest metro areas in the USA and and are recognized as being the second most exciting city in Louisiana. In summary, it is a great time to be here in Terrebonne Parish.

But ask anyone what, in their opinion, is one of the most critical factors in sustaining this level of growth and prosperity, and to the person, you are likely to hear that having a top quality education system is at the center of it all.  We couldn't agree more.

But here is some sobering news.  Although Terrebonne Parish Public Schools ranks among the top third of all school districts in Louisiana in terms of student achievement, and is one of the largest school districts in the state, we pay our teachers in the bottom third - 49th out of 69 school districts to be exact.  Not only are we on the bottom of the state in compensation, we also significantly trail neighboring parishes that are an hour or less commute from Terrebonne.  Add to this the demand for quality personnel not only within education, but also within private industry that an economy like ours creates, and you can see how compensation rises to the top of the challenges within our school system.

To begin to address these issues, a sales tax issue has been placed on the ballot for the December 6 elections.  It is a one-half cent sales tax, of which, 100% will go to improving teacher and employee salaries.  The tax is based on extensive input from the citizens of Terrebonne Parish as well as from our chamber of commerce and others.  With this tax, we will begin to have the resources to retain the teachers and employees who daily make a difference in the lives of the 18,000 students who come to our schools each day. Without this tax, most would agree, Terrebonne Parish will face challenges in staffing our schools with the educators that you expect and that we demand.

There are questions, even concerns, about this issue.  We understand this and welcome any and all questions. Yet this is an issue that is of critical importance to our community.  Please carefully consider this issue on December 6.

Philip Martin

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Impact of Our Teachers

I ask you to take a moment to think about the persons in your life who have made a profound and lasting impact on you.  Chances are great that somewhere on that list will be a teacher.  Maybe it was the teacher that took you from “not being a numbers person” to successfully getting you into college thanks to a passing grade on the algebra section of the ACT. Maybe it was a coach who gave you the confidence to try a sport that ultimately became a something that meant so much to you in your youth, that you now happily share that sport with today’s kids. Or maybe it was a kind word or gentle encouragement that saw you through a tough day, when a kind word and gentle encouragement was what you needed the most. 

These are the acts of teachers that happen every single day in our schools. Teachers are the foundation of our schools, and are the single most important factor in the successes that we collectively have achieved as a school system. By a wide margin, teachers teach because it’s what they feel called to do.  It’s a job, and it’s a career, but mostly, it’s something where teachers tell us time and again, that making an impact is their greatest reward. 

Teachers are also critical to our community. Terrebonne Parish consistently leads the nation in terms of business expansion and jobs growth.  We are regularly ranked as having one of the highest qualities of life in the country and predictions are that we are about to enter into one of the most dynamic periods of growth our area has ever seen. Central to it all is a quality educational system lead by the most highly qualified educators we can attract and retain. It’s an issue that impacts us all in a very profound and lasting way.

When you go to the polls on December 6, you will have an opportunity to support the very same teachers that have meant so much to so many.  A half-cent increase in sales tax will provide monies, 100% of which will go to raise our  teacher and support staff salaries from 47th in the state to a level in line with a parish as dynamic and growing as Terrebonne.
We are fortunate to have some of the best qualified, most motivated, and most innovative teachers in the state. They are trained, experienced, and certified to teach our kids. They are also most deserving of our support, and I encourage you to support this issue when you go to the polls this December 6.

Philip Martin

Monday, September 22, 2014

Certified Teachers. Yes, it is a challenge.

As the new school year begins, there is understandably a good deal of conversation on the matter of certified teachers in our classrooms.  It is on our minds as well, and we wanted to take a moment to share the details with the community.

Preliminary accountability data from our most recent test scores reflect that Terrebonne continues to improve and our students continue to out-perform their peers state-wide.  Teachers are a major reason for this.  Placing a trained, certified teacher in every classroom is a crucial factor in this achievement, and vitally important to our students’ continued success.

Still, of our current classroom teachers, approximately 80 are actively working towards obtaining the credentials necessary to become certified. All hold college degrees and all bring significant experience and education to our classrooms and our students.

Starting a school year with a shortage of certified teachers is something we, and many school systems, face each year.  There are many reasons, but everyone agrees that compensation is a core challenge in recruiting teachers and in attracting new teachers to the field of education. It's an issue that we work on daily through our recruiting efforts, our performance-based compensation plans, our benefits plans offered to educators, and our focus on finding additional funds to bring our salaries more in line with other parishes.

We appreciate the patience and support of the families, the students and the community as we work to reach our goal of all classes staffed by certified teachers.

Philip Martin

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Health and Saftey of Our Students is at the Center of Everything We Do

We are given the care of just over 19,000 students each school day. This is an awesome responsibility that we take very seriously and that occupies a great deal of our time, attention and resources. From managing the efficient and safe transportation of our students, to ensuring that our buildings are clean, to the food we serve at lunch, our minds are always on ensuring that we have created an environment that is safe and conducive to learning.

This summer we were especially focused on two areas that we felt could potentially occur in our schools: a seriously sick or injured student, and an intruder. Both are serious matters and both received our most serious focus this summer.

In the matter of a sick or injured student, Terrebonne General Medical Center made their staff and trainers available to 200 of our athletic coaches, teachers and school nurses to learn how to recognize the symptoms of a concussion, how to administer first aid, how to perform CPR, and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).  Concurrent with this training was a gift from the Chad Barcia family of thirteen AED’s that ensured the availability of these life-giving devices to each of our 36 schools. The Barcia family, who live in Metairie, have made it their mission to provide AEDs to schools based on their personal experience of the loss of a son who might have been saved had an AED been present at his school.  We appreciate this most heart-felt gift given to our students in his honor.  In addition to this gift, Terrebonne General Medical Center also donated six AEDs to our schools.  All Terrebonne schools will now be equipped with AEDs with personnel trained to use them.

In the matter of a possible intruder, there were four training sessions held this summer at Mulberry Elementary where the resources of the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Houma Police Department, the Terrebonne Parish District Attorney and Acadian Ambulance were utilized. With almost 300 teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and secretaries joining in, we worked through the details of how best to manage a situation of such grave importance.

While our focus is education, nothing is more important than the safety and welfare of our students and our team.  We thank everyone who contributed so much to these preparations and we hope above all, to keep these skills merely in reserve, knowing that our students are safe and ready to learn.

Philip Martin



Friday, August 8, 2014

It’s not a retention problem. It’s a recruiting problem.

I’d like to begin with a most sincere thank you to the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce and to its leadership for the words of support offered at the August 5th school board meeting for the upcoming ½ cent sales tax proposal that will be voted on this December 6.  All who spoke reaffirmed what we already know, that the future of our community, our economy and the wonderful way of life we enjoy in Terrebonne Parish is tied directly to our children and to our public education system. The chamber also affirmed the critical need to attract and retain the very best teachers we can by offering a competitive pay scale. Currently our teacher salaries rank 49th out of 69 school districts in Louisiana, placing our teacher salaries in the bottom third of all school districts.  The proposed sales tax would be wholly dedicated to improving the salaries of teachers and support staff and again, we thank the Chamber leadership for their support.

With our relative pay being where it is, it is easy to assume that Terrebonne mostly has to “make do” with whomever we can get, or that teachers are fleeing to neighboring parishes to take advantage of stronger compensation.  While some have and will leave our parish due to compensation, the vast majority of our teachers are vested in our school system and genuinely want to be here. Our teachers are excited about the new year and many were in their classrooms weeks before school started.  They didn’t show up early because they had to.  They showed up because they wanted to. This is the character of our teachers and this is the strength of our faculty that has done what it takes to push achievement scores higher each year, has inspired a record number of students to take the Advanced Placement Test to earn college credit while still in High School and have pushed our graduation rate to over 80% in – one of the strongest graduation rates in the state.

Our problem is not a retention problem, it’s a recruitment problem. Most of our employees are long-term if not career employees.  Take for example the 105 recent retirees – teachers, bus drivers, custodians and others – who spent their entire careers with Terrebonne Parish. That’s the equivalent of 2,493 years dedicated to our kids. And this is typical. Our staff teach here and work here because they want to be here. And once they are here, they want to stay here. And they do it knowing that their salaries are not as competitive as they could be and that some of their schools are not as new as they should be.  Our challenge lies in getting the next generation of teachers to come here and for those teachers, salary will be a primary consideration, as it should be for any professional career.

Our future looks bright in Terrebonne Parish Public Schools and with the support of the community, things can only get better. Once again, our thanks go out to the Chamber and more importantly, to our teachers and staff who make Terrebonne Parish Public Schools a place where professionals want to come, and to stay.

Philip Martin

Friday, July 25, 2014

Grand Caillou Middle - What a great way to bring in a new school year!

There is no better way to bring in a new school year than with a brand new, state-of-the art school! Even before the first bell rings, tremendous excitement surrounds the Terrebonne Parish School District’s newest school, Grand Caillou Middle.  Teeming with innovations, the new school is the answer to the many challenges of the historic Grand Caillou Middle School, a school constructed in 1934 when Terrebonne Parish geographically, demographically and economically was a different place.

With the opening of the new school, no longer will the principal’s severe weather plan have to include how many bricks to put under the desks and filing cabinets to keep them out of flood waters or what to do with students for three months while the school dries out, since her new school sits 10 feet above sea level and all classes and educational materials are safely located on the second floor.  Neither will she have to worry about wind damage knowing that the new school is rated to withstand winds of 150 miles per hour.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that the school sports a striking blue exterior, has covered bus lanes and was built in a manner that will save taxpayers $10 million in interest!

No instead the principal can focus on learning modalities that leverage interconnected Promethean boards and the fully-equipped computer lab. She can focus on extracurricular activities that utilize the flexibility of the new Cafetorium with its modern commercial kitchen and its theater-style stage. Or she can share the good news with her faculty that rainy days no longer mean keeping energetic teens inside all day since she has 15,000 square feet of covered outside space to turn the kids loose in.

Yes.  There is just nothing like starting a new year with the opening of a brand new school. It’s going to be a great year for Terrebonne Parish Schools. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Terrebonne Schools – A Point of Pride

It’s mid-July and summer is in full swing.  While the mind of most of the community is focused on days at the beach, picnics in the park and fun on the water, at Terrebonne Parish School District, our minds are focused on an upcoming school year that is now just weeks away. We are excited about what the New Year will bring and look forward to the return of our teachers, students and our staff.
Part of our anticipation of the upcoming year, is based on how well we ended the last year. It was a great year for Terrebonne schools with accomplishments and accolades that any school system would be proud of.  Here are some of the highlights.

Terrebonne’s Schools were ranked by the Louisiana Department of Education as “B” rated schools.  We actually are a high B school system ranking a strong 5 percentage points above what’s required to achieve this designation. We are sitting within striking distance of being ranked an “A” school district, with four of our schools having already achieved an“A” ranking.