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Terrebonne schools chief Bubba Orgeron lists goals to accomplish – Houma Courier

Terrebonne public schools Superintendent Bubba Orgeron took office July 1 with plans to reshape education in the parish, including as creating a new magnet school.
Philip Martin, who retired June 30 after 15 years as superintendent, led the district through two unprecedented disasters: the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida.
Orgeron takes over in a time of rebuilding, something that will remain a top priority, he said. But he also has long-term goals to create new opportunities for specialized education in Terrebonne.
“You’ve got to find a balance between responding to problems and still keeping your vision moving,” Orgeron said. “We want to prepare kids for life beyond Terrebonne Parish public schools, … just give them skill sets that can just transcend any career or opportunity down the line.” 
Orgeron began his career 30 years ago as a special education teacher at Larose-Cut Off Middle School in Lafourche Parish. As superintendent, he is the top administrator of Louisiana’s 13th largest school system. It enrolls about 17,000 students and employs 1,700 teachers and support workers with a combined budget of nearly $200 million a year.
Previously: School system takes over Fletcher’s Houma building
Read this: Louisiana schools chief talks school shootings, teacher shortage, gender issues
Orgeron said he enjoys problem-solving, and he came to the conversation with a list of things he is ready to tackle as superintendent. Here are a few.
When high-schoolers sign up for classes each year, those lacks student interest are dropped, and the few kids who signed up have to take other courses.
Orgeron said that denies students a chance to learn something they are interested in and eliminates an opportunity for a teacher to educate those kids in something he or she might specialize in.
Orgeron wants to create a magnet school that would pool students from across all four of the parish’s high schools.
Classes could include subjects like physics, which doesn’t get to be taught in every high school, work skills or performing arts. The possibilities are limited only by which teachers are available and what interest can be found among students, Orgeron said.
“You might have like five kids, that’s not enough to make a class, so if you put all those kids together at one spot, centrally located, we can make a physics course or a computer-science course,” he said.
Orgeron already has a location in mind — the former Fletcher Technical Community College annex building, along St. Charles Street across from Houma Junior High, which the school district acquired in 2018.
A School Board committee has already signed off on the idea, which now heads to the full board for consideration. Orgeron said he hopes to create partnerships with the community college that could allow magnet school students to transfer class credits there.
Lafourche already offers something similar in its Career Magnet Center, which focuses on vocational skills such as carpentry, allied health and automotive tech.
Orgeron advocates universal pre-kindergarten, which would offer early care and education the year before children enter kindergarten.
Terrebonne already offers pre-K, but Orgeron said about 200 more children could be served. Those who receive the education free, through grants, are accounted for, but parents who have to pay for the program can be left out.
He would have to receive support from the School Board to accomplish the goal, which he estimates would cost about $1 million a year.
“We can probably manage that,” Orgeron said. “Kids that come as pre-K kids come so much much better prepared to begin learning in kindergarten and first grade.”
From last month:Terrebonne and Lafourche weather Louisiana teacher shortage. Here’s a look at the numbers.
Hurricane Ida damaged all of Terrebonne’s 30 public school buildings to varying degrees, with several destroyed or severely damaged.
The district is making repairs using money from a $200 million loan it received last year. Officials said they expect FEMA to reimburse 90% of the cost, with the district using local tax dollars they already collect or insurance money to pay the rest.
Exact costs remain uncertain. Officials said they face some of the same difficulties as many residents who are rebuilding their homes, including supply and labor shortages and rising materials costs.
Orgergon said the immediate plans call for repairing Ida’s damage, but many of the school buildings need longer-term upgrades, including security systems in an age when school shootings have become more commonplace nationwide.
Most parish schools are more than four decades old, and many need basics like air-conditioning, new windows or renovations to ceilings and floors, he said.
“If it’s going to be long term, we’ve got to invest in them,” he said.
Rebuilding: How repairs are progressing on Terrebonne and Lafourche schools damaged by Hurricane Ida
What if it happens here?: What if it happens here? Terrebonne teachers train to deal with school shootings
Orgeron is forming small groups of students, teachers and support workers that he will meet with once a month. He said he already meets with principals, but he’d like to expand so each group can discuss issues they face and provide input.
He also uses Google surveys to solicit ideas and feedback from teachers. In one survey, more than 90% of participants agreed to stay at school 10 minutes extra each day to bank five days of work over the semester. This would allow for wiggle room after a major storm so students can still receive their required educational hours without tacking on extra days.


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