Six Louisiana Schools Nominated for Blue Ribbon Award

Louisiana Believes website recently announced that several schools were in the running for The National Blue Ribbon Award.  The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is a federal program whose mission is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access” as stated on their website.  The award recognizes schools based on their overall academic excellence and progress with closing achievement gaps. Every year the U.S. Department of Education celebrates great American schools that have been successful in showing that all students can achieve at high levels. More than 8,500 schools across the country have been presented with this highly coveted and prestigious award. The award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students succeed.

Schools may be nominated for the award only once within a five-year period and are nominated by their Chief State School Officer.   The U.S. Department of Education determines the number of nominations per state based on the number of students and schools in each state.  One-third of the public schools nominated by each state must include student populations with at least 40% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This year, six Louisiana schools have been nominated to be recipients of the award which will be announced in September of 2019.  Four of the nominated schools are recognized as “Exemplary High Performing Schools” and two of the nominated schools are recognized as “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.”  They are among the state’s highest-performing schools as measured by state assessments.

The schools include:

Blue Ribbon Award

Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies, Jefferson Parish

Early College Academy, Lafayette Parish

Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy, Jefferson Parish

Thomas Jefferson High School for Advanced Studies, Jefferson Parish

Bayou Black Elementary School, Terrebonne Parish

St. Charles Elementary School, Lafourche Parish

School administrators were over the moon upon hearing of the recent nominations.  Karla H. Russo, Principal of Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies in Jefferson Parish: “We are honored to be nominated as a potential National Blue Ribbon School. Our faculty, staff, students, parents, and community work together to create an environment that fosters student achievement and success, and I am proud to see their dedication and commitment to learning recognized.”  Alexander Melton, Principal of Early College Academy in Lafayette Parish: “Early College Academy is honored and excited to be the recipient of a Blue Ribbon School nomination. To be mentioned in the same category as the other fine Louisiana schools who have been nominated is humbling for us. All of our stakeholders, especially our students, faculty, and staff, work hard to achieve the best results possible. We are both proud and excited to be recognized for that hard work.”

John White himself commented on the nominations and overall success of many Louisiana schools in a released statement: “These six schools stand out for their ability to either steadily improve student achievement over subsequent years or consistently remain one of the top performing schools in the state.  This is a commendable achievement worthy of this distinguished honor.”

The winning school will serve as a model of effective school practices for state and district educators as well as throughout the nation.  Staff at winning schools are often sought out as mentors to discuss key elements of their success, from individualized student supports, research-based instruction, collaboration, and targeted curricula. Representatives from schools will be invited to Washington DC to be honored at an annual awards ceremony. The school itself will receive an engraved plaque and flag with the official seal signifying its winning status and the year of the award.

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Nicholls Students to Compete in 16th Annual Bayou Sales Challenge

Nicholls released that it will be among several universities to participate in the 16th Bayou Sales Challenge of 2019 which is an amazing opportunity for students in the southern U.S. to show and fine-tune their professional sales skills.  Among the participating schools are Florida State University, Louisiana State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Southern University, University of Louisiana-Lafayette and Xavier University.  44 individual students will compete in high-pressure sales simulations in Nicholls’ state-of-the-art Sales and Interactive Training Lab built in 2003 with a generous donation from Northwestern Mutual.  That Fall, the very first Bayou Sales Challenge was held. ​

Once the top two students of the competition emerge, they will progress and face off head-to-head. There will also be a Team Selling challenge, a career expo and two discussion panels: one from professional salespeople and the other from judges and customers.  

Bayou Sales Challenge News at Nicholls

The Team Selling Challenge is a new addition to the event this year.  Two teammates will enter the room together to sell something to the customer. ​  This round of competition is only 15 minutes long but allows for a lot of creativity. ​​The team who scores the highest total combined points wins.

Some of the skills and attributes that will be evaluated are:

  1. Product Knowledge
  2. Strategic PRospecting Skills
  3. Rapport Building
  4. Buyer/Seller Agreement
  5. Active Listening
  6. Communication
  7. Qualification Questioning
  8. Time Management
  9. Objection Prevention
  10. Demo Skills

“The Bayou Sales Challenge provides students with an experience that instills in them the confidence that they can compete in the marketplace,” said Dr. Laura Valenti, director of the Bayou Sales Challenge and assistant professor of marketing. “The competition also gives students an opportunity to network with top businesses.”

The event is very Shark Tank-esque and is great practice and exposure for future business men and women.  As on the award-winning reality show Shark Tank, the sharks often find weaknesses and faults in an entrepreneur’s concept, product, or business model, yet some of the investors try to soften the impact of rejection.  Unlike the show though, this is a safe place to learn and grow as young business people without the fear of loss of investment or risking business assets.

The Director of the event, Laura Lott Valenti, released the following letter regarding the event:

Dear Students, Coaches, Sponsors, and Volunteers,

Over the last eleven years, I have had the honor of meeting most of the program’s supporters and participants, and I am excited to bring another great coopetition to you in February 2019.

The Bayou Sales Challenge is known for its strong connection to the region because of its ties to supportive, well-regarded sponsors and volunteers.  While preparing students for success in sales or related careers, top-notch coaches bring their star students to compete in our two-day role-play competition.  Celebrating the talent we see each year is something I have always looked forward to because when these major pillars convene the students benefit greatly. I am honored to carry the torch for a wonderful program that enables such a unique opportunity of impact.

The 2019 competition marks the sixteenth annual Bayou Sales Challenge, and once again you will see some subtle changes that should enhance the overall competition.  Whether your role is a sponsor or coach, you can expect to experience a well-run competition with the same great southern charm and comradery.

Students, coaches, and volunteers are the most valuable component to the Bayou Sales Challenge’s success.  I thank each of you for the inherent commitment of making a career in sales one that it worthy of recognition.

Reach out to me should you have any questions, and cheers to this amazing opportunity to make an impact with our students.

Sincerely,

Laura Lott Valenti

Both students and event creators are looking forward to seeing the new young talent and their inspiring methodology and ideas.  


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Program Launches for Teacher to Advocate for Education Initiative

The Louisiana Department of Education has developed a new program that would allow one teacher to take a year off to go around the State advocating for the education initiative of their choosing.  The teacher that will be chosen will come from nominees for Louisiana Teacher of the Year from the previous year. The fellowship was announced at the 12th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Awards Gala, and was awarded to 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year Kimberly Eckert, who will continue her efforts to recruit and train the next generation of Louisiana educators.

Eckert, who is an English teacher at Brusly High School in West Baton Rouge Parish, spent some of her time as 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year recruiting new educators and elevating the teaching profession. She will continue this work by focusing her fellowship on pioneering the national “Educators Rising” program in Louisiana. The program identifies young people, starting with high school students, interested in teaching and provides them with the information, skills and hands-on experience to become successful educators.

The fellowship is supported by a $50,000 stipend of state funding that is paid directly to the recipient’s school system. It allows the teacher to take a year-long sabbatical and may be used to help pay for their substitute, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred during the advocation period by the recipient.

“Louisiana has taken the Teacher of the Year award and turned it into a true leadership opportunity. Our winners and finalists are scholars, spokespeople, mentors,” said State Superintendent John White. “We need to be doing more to nourish and support them in realizing their leadership potential.”

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Fletcher Tech Students Land Jobs

All 13 of Fletcher Tech Community College’s graduates in the cardiopulmonary program have landed jobs before they even officially finished the program.  They have finished their courses at this point but still have a pinning ceremony this week to commemorate the completion of the program and transition to the workforce.  The 2 year program has been located at Fletcher since 2010 and is very fast paced.  It prepares students to treat patients of every age that have been diagnosed with severe and chronic cardiopulmonary conditions.  These patients may have underdeveloped lungs and/or lung disease. Students learn to help patients on mechanical ventilation with oxygenation, ventilation and airway management to maintain life support.

Chancellor Kristine Strickland said, “A true testament to the achievements of these students and the quality of the program at Fletcher is indicated by the 100 percent placement rate of our students.  Fletcher recognizes that our work is aligned with the needs of our business and industry partners and we are pleased that so many organizations have recognized the quality of our graduates and offered them positions.  We wish our students the best of luck as they begin their new careers in healthcare.”  For more on this story, click here.

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Benny Cenac Towing Co. Sponsors TFAE Run

This article is also featured on cenac.com

The Benny Cenac Towing Company, Cenac Marine Services, was proud to provide a stage sponsorship for the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE) 5k Run for Excellence and Food Fest on Saturday, May 12. As stated in the Houma Times, by executive director, Katie Potier, “This popular race travels through historic downtown Houma, ending at the Houma Courthouse Square where you can then enjoy the best after party in town. With more than 1000 race participants and more than 3000 attendees, the TFAE Run for Excellence is one of the largest 5K and after parties in town. One thing that makes it unique is that once you pay your admission fee (or race fee) you don’t take out another penny while here. It’s all-you-can-eat-and all –you-can-drink and I think people appreciate that it is all inclusive.”

Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence (TFAE) began in 1991 as local leaders recognized the need to provide additional support to Terrebonne Parish public schools. TFAE, an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was created to assist in fundamentally improving education for our local students. They believe that our future is in the hands of our children. Their purpose is threefold: to create a partnership of responsibility between educators, business, community organizations and parents; to stimulate the learning of our children so that they may become responsible citizens capable of competing in the global economy and; to provide educators with resources that encourage creativity in the classroom.

Since the inception, TFAE has awarded more than $1,000,000 grant dollars to Terrebonne Parish public school teachers. In 2012, TFAE expanded their efforts in promoting education and literacy in the Terrebonne community by implementing the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This program provides one age-appropriate book per month to Terrebonne Parish children until their fifth birthday and is free to all participants.

TFAE continues to support education through grants, the Imagination Library, Lending Libraries, as well as recognizing and honoring Distinguished Scholars and Inspirational Educators at their annual TFAE Celebrates Excellence event.

As an avid supporter and advocate for education, the Benny Cenac Towing Company has been a longtime supporter of TFAE and was thrilled to partner alongside other main sponsors for this event.  Other sponsors included TGMC Community Sports Institute, The Times, and Blue Cross Blue Shield- especially when it came to supporting such a noble cause. The Run for Excellence is the primary fundraiser for TFAE. The funds are used to help local educators fund their programs through grants. TFAE has become a valuable source for Terrebonne’s public schools– funding various projects including classrooms with Google Chromebooks.

There are several ways to get involved and to support the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence. Be on the lookout throughout the year for ways to help this phenomenal group including next year’s 5k run and food fest slated for May 11, 2019. Benny Cenac Towing is always on the lookout to be a part of these great community events that are also for a wonderful, charitable cause and they continue to be involved in or donate resources towards local education efforts.

For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the Terrebonne Foundation for Academic Excellence website.

 

 

 

Benny Cenac, Houma Philanthropist, Provides Donation

Benny Cenac, Houma Philanthropist and CEO of Cenac Marine Services, has always been dedicated in his endeavor to providing the absolute best for children and young adults when it comes to education. It has become a natural part of his practice to donate time and funds to several different schools, charities and programs. When he came across the opportunity to assist the Stella Learning Center in Houma, Louisiana, this was no different.

Stella Learning Center (SLC) is made up of highly skilled teachers in a positive teaching environment prepared with scientifically tested tactics that are used for instructional decision-making. SLC’s highly qualified staff works with individuals with Autism and related disorders.  This school provides a program that Benny Cenac, Houma Philanthropist, feels is important to the Houma area.

When describing the growth and changes of Stella Learning Center over the years, Lead Teacher, Daisy Alviar says, “When we originally opened the center, it was the first Autism and Related Disorders Learning Center in the tri-parish area. We started out by accepting children ages 10 years and older.  Our goal was to reach a population that so easily got lost in the public school system once they entered their Junior High School years.  As time went on, we expanded by adding two daycare classrooms that we could use as a way of mainstreaming children and doing our best to get them ready for their elementary school years.  All the while, we continued to work with young teenagers. Since, our young teenagers are now young men and women.  They have begun transitioning into group homes, high school, and adult programs. We continue to offer services for families of children with Autism and Related Disorders as a public service. However, the demographics have changed from older children to a younger population.  Yet, the mission remains the same:  To improve the lives of individuals with autism and related disabilities through the provision of high quality, accessible educational programs designed to enhance the individuals’ opportunities to achieve their full potential.”

Some of the many donations Mr. Cenac made to Stella Learning center included two scholarships for older students, the purchase of a curriculum for Stella Learning Center’s Pre-School classroom, much needed mulch in their playground, 2 computers that will be used both for book keeping and classroom lessons as well as assistance with operational costs that help SLC continue to stay open.

Schools like SLC are few and far between although the need is great.  The current protocol in most school districts is to integrate children with disabilities into mainstream classrooms. Separating kids based on ability—the old model of the special-ed classroom—is now seen as discriminatory and stigmatizing. Advocates for integration say it helps children with special needs build social skills and it develops compassion among non-disabled ones. But like so many ideas that are terrific in theory, integration is often disastrous in practice.  Because of this, many children with special needs fall between the cracks once they hit junior high.

Here’s the problem: Teachers in mainstream classrooms rarely have the education or expertise to work with complex disabilities that include difficulties with behaviour. Rates of diagnoses of autism, for instance, are growing exponentially, and kids with conditions like this require very particular accommodation, including high teacher-to-student ratios, educators with extensive and specialized training, additional therapists and mental health workers, and environments designed to reduce stress.

Typically, though, integration involves simply sticking children with special needs in a regular classroom and providing them with limited and inconsistent support. Managing a busy classroom with ever-dwindling resources is demanding, and teachers are already overextended. Now imagine adding a child (or several children) who are hyper-sensitive to sound and touch, or who require one-on-one attention to decode a paragraph of text, or who are prone to explosive fits.

What’s more, research indicates that a teacher’s attitude toward integration is a huge factor in whether it will succeed or fail. Not surprisingly, a lot of teachers begrudge being assigned children with special needs—especially when they know they won’t get the resources to support those kids properly. All of this results in the exact opposite of what integration is supposed to achieve. Instead of making children with special needs feel included, they wind up feeling unwelcome and resented by both their teachers and their classmates. And instead of non-disabled children learning compassion, they end up afraid or disdainful of disabled kids.

The overuse of suspensions, expulsions and exclusions suggests that schools don’t have the funding or proficiency to meet their obligations to children with special needs. Integration—however noble the original intent—is failing both children with disabilities and their non-disabled classmates.

SLC is highly trained and knowledgeable and they know exactly what accommodations students need to succeed so that they don’t fall through the cracks.  Daisy Alviar replied to the donation with gratitude by stating, “Mr. Cenac has provided us with the funds needed to continue working toward our mission.” Mr. Benny Cenac and the Cenac Team are so happy and proud to assist this amazing educational organization that has the best vision in mind for our local youth. We look forward to seeing the growth of Stella Learning Center over the years to come.

To learn more about Benny Cenac, Houma Philanthropist, and his community efforts please visit us here.