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    TPSS will wait until late June, offer more traditional ceremonies for high school seniors

    Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Melissa Stilley announced Friday that the seven TPSS high schools will wait until late June to provide the Class of 2020 an opportunity for more traditional graduation ceremonies.

    Stilley said the public has been very vocal in their preference to see a more traditional graduation ceremony for this year’s high school seniors, and she said her office, the School Board, and the seven high schools will do everything they can to offer larger scale, in-person programs after the state enters Phase II of the COVID-19 recovery period.

    “I hope our seniors and their families know that we are listening, and we hear their wishes. While we don’t know exactly what a summer ceremony will look like, we are open and willing to meet their requests and do our best to provide our seniors an opportunity for a more traditional graduation ceremony later this summer,” Stilley said.

    As a result, the previously-scheduled “drive-thru” and “Graduation on the Geaux” ceremonies that were slated to begin next week have all been canceled. “There will be no TPSS high school graduation ceremonies until the last part of June,” Stilley said.

    Under the proposal agreed upon by the seven principals Friday, the district will plan to hold graduation ceremonies on the following schedule:

    —Amite High Magnet School: June 19
    —Hammond High Magnet School: June 23
    —Independence High Magnet School: June 25
    —Jewel M. Sumner High School: June 22
    —Kentwood High Magnet School: June 26
    —Loranger High School: June 24
    —Ponchatoula High School: June 27

    Specific details on those ceremonies will be released by the school closer to the date. Schools will have alternative plans ready for this date if there are any other governmental orders that prohibit more traditional ceremonies, Stilley said.

    Students who need to receive their diploma prior to their graduation date should contact their principal.

    “We know that there are seniors who are entering the military or going into a post-secondary program or the workforce who expected to receive their diplomas sooner than this June schedule. We are here to help them by making those arrangements before they transition to this new era in their lives,” Stilley said.

    The Superintendent offered her sincere thanks to the high schools for being so flexible in adjusting their plans to suit the needs of their students.

    “We are living in unprecedented times, and I am so grateful to our high schools for the countless hours they are putting into planning these ceremonies for our students,” Stilley said. “I am also appreciative of the community for working with us and offering us feedback on how we can make this experience better for our students. We as a district are committed to keeping our kids safe while keeping in focus our core value to be compassionate to the legitimate wants and needs of our students and their families. Everyone in our system is sensitive to the hard work that our graduating seniors have completed, and we share in their desire to celebrate this accomplishment publicly with family and friends before they pursue their future endeavors.”

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    Ponchatoula Student Outreach celebrates second year

    The City of Ponchatoula again participated in the national “Lights On Afterschool” event with its “Family & Friends Night” at the Ponchatoula Community Center for a time of celebrating the growth and positive results of its own after-school program.
    Called “Ponchatoula Student Outreach,” the program’s motto is “From Afterschool to Bright Futures” and according to reports on improvement in behavior and grades, the future is looking much brighter for some who have needed that extra encouraging nudge.
    It was more like Thanksgiving with all the appreciation expressed by each speaker from the microphone as well as family members around the tables.
    Program Director May Stilley and Mayor Bob Zabbia kicked off the evening with warm welcomes and thanks to students, parents, and guardians, City Council members, principals, teachers, volunteers and sponsors who have been generous in time and means to help the City make it all possible. School board members Mike Whitlow and Rose Dominguez were in attendance and acknowledged.
    Stilley also paid special tribute to the school bus drivers who do not charge extra to bring the students from their respective schools to the Community Center for their classes and to Transportation Coordinator, Tessa Hills. At one table, Key Club members from Ponchatoula High School were recognized for their volunteering to help give one-on-one help.
    After a meal, guest speaker Superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish School System, Melissa Stilley, continued in the same positive manner, offering her gratitude for the way the people of Ponchatoula have responded in so many ways to the student outreach. She said, “This is evidence of what partnership is all about,” adding her wish for every community to have an after-school program.
    Starting the program in time for the 2017 school year required a lot of preparatory work by Human Resources Director, Lisa Jones, and May Stilley, aiding Mayor Zabbia in realizing a dream come true and supported by him and the City Council.
    This school year, first and second grades were added bringing the total enrollment to 50 students and it is stressed this is not a babysitting program. Classroom teachers recommend the students that would profit most from the extra help. Ponchatoula Student Outreach teachers are available to meet with parents and guardians when picking up their children after classes.
    Staff for 2018-19 are 1st and 2nd grades: Daphne Griffin and Charlotte Gordon; 3rd and 4th: Kimberly James and Elisha Perry; and 7th and 8th: Windy Haist and Jennifer Daigle.
    Classroom assistants are Shirley Creel, Cathy Colkmire, Annette Tullier, Leigh Burnthorne, Jenea Magee, and Kacey Martin.
    The advisory board is comprised of members from each school participating. They are Amber Gardner, Tucker Elementary; Tamaria Whittington, D.C. Reeves; Rosalyn Heider and Melissa Ryan, Martha Vinyard; Mary Beth Crovetto, Ponchatoula Junior High; and Shelly Ernst and Danette Ragusa, St. Joseph School.
    The program uses community resources for youth to see and connect with positive role models.
    For those interested in being a sponsor, mentor or volunteer to invest in the long-term future success of the students and the community as a result, call her at 985-401-2210.

    By Kathryn J. Martin

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  • Free bus driver training offered in October

    Responding to a critical need for qualified school bus drivers, Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Melissa Stilley announced this week that the district will offer free classes to train new drivers.

    The TPSS will offer a 30-hour pre-service training course to help potential drivers gain the skills needed to become certified Louisiana School Bus Operators. The class is free and open to anyone age 21 and up who holds a Louisiana driver’s license.

    “If you’ve ever thought about driving a school bus, our team is ready to help you complete the prerequisite 30-hour classroom portion of the program in just eight short days, starting next week,” Stilley said.

    Applicants should bring paper and pen/pencil to take notes and must attend all sessions of the course, which will be offered nightly October 1-4, from 4-8 p.m., and October 8-11, from 4-8 p.m., at the TPSS Technology Center, which is located at 795 S. Morrison Boulevard in Hammond.

    Candidates who successfully complete the course must also obtain a Class A or B commercial driver’s license with the “S” and “P” endorsements and air brake certification.

    “Tangipahoa Parish School System bus drivers earn health insurance and retirement benefits, get summers and legal holidays off, work a five hour work day, and gain on-going training year-round. If you’re at least 21-years-old, have received your high school diploma or GED, in good health, and of good character, we have a place for you  here at the TPSS. Give us a call and learn how you can become part of our team,” Stilley said

    Registration for the free bus driver training course is preferred but not required. For additional information, call (985) 748-2423.

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