admin Thursday, April 11, 2024 Comments Off on Area Educational Systems MORE STUDENTS, MORE PROGRAMS, NEW BUILDING

Calcasieu Parish Schools

A Sign Of Recovery: Increasing Enrollment

For the second consecutive year, enrollment for Calcasieu Parish schools has increased.

Enrollment for August, 2023 (for the 2023-2024 school year), was 27,000 students, up from 25,400 in 2021 and up from 26,621 at the end of the 2022-2023 school year in May of ’23. 

Schools seeing the biggest growth in enrollment were Barbe High School, with an increase of 133 students; Sulphur High School, with an increase of 60; Nelson Elementary, with an increase of 54; Combre-Fondel Elementrary, with an increase of 51; St. John Elementary, with an increase of 49; and Westlake High School, with an increase of 48. 

According to parish school superintendent Shannon LaFargue, the increase is a good indication that families are moving back to the area after recovering from the 2020 hurricanes.

Test Scores Increasing

Performance scores for SWLA schools are finally rebounding after the difficulties of 2020-22. 

According to the Louisiana Dept. of Education, Beauregard and Calcasieu Parish saw the biggest growth in school performance scores in 2022-2023. 

Beauregard improved from 79.7 in 2021-22 to 83.2 in 2022-23. Calcasieu scores improved from 82.8 in 2021-22 to 86.1 in 2022-23.

Gillis Elementary ranked in the top 10 in growth in K-8 schools, improving by 13.2 points. Starks High School also made the top 10 list among high schools.  T.S. Cooley ranked as the seventh-highest performing K-8 school in the state. 

Nelson Elementary, Hathaway High, Jennings High, Lake Arthur High and Simpson High all improved from a B grade to an A. 

As for LEAP scores, several Calcasieu elementary and middle schools earned a top 10 spot in score growth. Vincent Settlement Elementary, Nelson Elementary and DeQuincy Elementary were all in the top 15 in one-year growth in LEAP scores.

T.S. Cooley was tied for fourth place in overall performance among elementary schools in the state.

Several schools were recognized by the Louisiana Dept. of Education as “comeback campuses” for their improvement. Nelson Elementary, DeQuincy Elementary and Oak Park Elementary were recognized for growth in English Language Arts (ELA) and math scores. Combre-Fondel Elementary, Dolby Elementary, Vincent Settlement Elementary and Molo Middle were recognized for improved ELA scores.

The 2022-2023 school year also saw nearly 900 Calcasieu high school students take a total of 1,274 Advanced Placement exams. Of those students, 57 percent earned a score of 3 or higher. The number of students earning a 5, the highest score possible, increased by 42 percent over the 2021-22 school year. 

STEM Center

Students in the parish’s STEM program took 16 field trips in 2022-2023. About 1,271 students participated in the trips, which involved coding, the NASA space program and more. 

The Region 5 STEM center supported 94 robotics teams from across the nation, including 50 elementary school teams, 27 middle school teams and 17 high school teams.

Over 470 students registered for one or more of the STEM Center’s six summer camps in 2022. 

Language Immersion Certification

Six Calcasieu schools received designation as Louisiana Certified World Language Immersion Schools. Henry Heights Elementary, Prien Lake Elementary and S.J. Welsh Middle were designated for French Immersion. Frasch Elementary, Oak Park Middle and W.W. Lewis Middle were designated as Spanish Immersion schools.

New Buses

From November 2022, to June, 2023, the parish received over 65 new buses. By the fall of 2023, 20 new activity buses had been put in use, along with 42 route buses and 12 lift buses.

The Calcasieu school system boosted its driver recruitment efforts to address the driver shortage of the last couple of years. The CPSB offered driver courses to gain the attention of potential new drivers. One “Learn to Drive the Bus” course saw 29 candidates enroll. 

McNeese State University

(From The McNeese Public Information Office)

Burckel To Step Down as McNeese President

Dr. Daryl Burckel, McNeese State University’s seventh president, is leaving his role after nearly seven years of service. Burckel will step down on June 30, at which time a new president will take the helm. 

Burckel joined the McNeese faculty in 1992 and rose through the ranks to serve as the head of the McNeese Dept. of Accounting, Finance and Economics. He began his term as president on July 1, 2017, while continuing to teach classes as a professor of accounting in the College of Business. 

 “It has been a profound honor and privilege to lead McNeese State University over the past seven years as president. I am forever grateful for the support of our faculty, staff, students and the McNeese community who made my time in this position both rewarding and fulfilling,” said Burckel, who received both his bachelor’s and master’s from McNeese. “I believe this is the right time to welcome in new leadership to build on accomplishments we have achieved during my tenure, and I look forward to returning to the classroom to finish my career where I started — educating students.”

Burckel steered the university through the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic and a succession of natural disasters in 2020 and 2021, which encompassed two hurricanes, a winter storm and a flood, resulting in extensive devastation and over $220 million in facility damages to the McNeese campus. Throughout the campus recovery period that ensued, he pioneered collaboration with state and federal offices and multiple contractors, effectively restoring the campus to full operations by the beginning of the fall semester in 2021.

Under his leadership, the campus has undergone significant enhancements. These include the Richard Rhoden Bridge which connects the campus over Contraband Bayou and features new seating and beautification elements; renovated classrooms and laboratory spaces throughout campus; improved aesthetics and revitalized campus buildings to maximize space utilization; and the opening of the state-of-the-art Legacy Center. 

The Search For A New President

The Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System is charged with hiring university presidents. That process, which includes a national search, is conducted by a presidential search committee. The McNeese Presidential Search Committee is tasked with reviewing applications, interviewing candidates and recommending finalists for the presidency. UL System president and CEO Rick Gallot will chair the committee as a non-voting member. The committee includes select UL System board members and the McNeese Faculty Senate president as voting members, along with non-voting community members who will serve in an advisory capacity. The ultimate selection of the president will be made by the full Board of Supervisors at its April board meeting. The McNeese Presidential Search Committee members — and the search timeline — can be found on the UL System website at 

Current Projects And Renovations

Construction begins this year on McNeese’s new LNG Center of  Excellence. The $13 million, 24,000-square-foot complex will be located on Sale Road near Ryan Street and will provide space for training, research and education for the local and national liquified natural gas industry. 

McNeese was awarded a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Economic Development to create the center. Construction is expected to take 15 months to complete.

Renovations to the Shearman Fine Arts building begin this year and are expected to take 24 months to complete. Faculty offices for the Dept. of Visual Arts have located to the Shearman Fine Arts Annex and the Visual Arts Annex located behind Gayle Hall. The W.A. and Dorothy Hanna Department of Performing Arts office is located in SFAA Room 204. 

Renovation and construction are also underway to replace buildings lost during Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

The demolition of Farrar Hall and Memorial Gym is underway, and a new student union will be built within that footprint. The facility will house the cafeteria, meeting space and Student Government Assoc. offices. The new student union is expected to open in 2025. 

The McNeese Bookstore was also badly damaged by the hurricanes and has been in a temporary location on campus. Renovations are underway at its new location on the corner of Sale Road and Hodges Street, with plans to open in spring of 2025. Students and McNeese fans can expect a larger selection of merchandise.

A new state-of-the-art press box for Cowboy Stadium is also under construction because of the hurricane damage. The new facility boasts 25 suites, a 1,700-square-foot sky club and an open patio-type area. The top two levels extend goal line to goal line. Football operations will be on the second level. Completion of the press box is expected by the 2025 football season.

McNeese’s executive offices have moved from the Burton Business Center to the SEED Center. With the demolition of Farrar Hall, the Burton College of Education (BCOE) lost its central location. Many of the BCOE offices and classrooms have moved into the third and fourth floors of the Burton Business Center. 

New Student Center

McNeese has created the Student Success Center on the first floor of the Frazar Memorial Library as a one-stop shop for student support services. McNeese offers a student-centric college experience; that includes ensuring students have the support they need to help them graduate. The center houses the Office of Accessibility Services; the Write to Excellence Center, where students can receive assistance with writing assignments; and the Tutoring Center, part of the Academic Computing and Learning Center, that offers tutoring in math and sciences; and the Technology Advancement Student Committee computer lab, the largest general-access student computer lab on campus. 

Future plans include Freshman Advising, where first year students visit with advisers to plan their classes each semester; and Career and Professional Development Services, where students can get help exploring careers related to their majors, career guidance, writing resumes, interview preparation and job search strategies.

New Dean For College Of Nursing, Health Professions

Dr. Ann Warner was named dean of the McNeese College of Nursing and Health Professions on June 1, 2023. The college includes the Depts. of Undergraduate Nursing, Graduate Nursing, Psychology and Counseling (which includes the Kay Doré Counseling Center and McNeese Autism Program) and Radiologic and Medical Laboratory Sciences, as well as the Health Systems Management program. Warner, a McNeese nursing faculty member for both the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs since 1992, received her doctorate in nursing science from Texas Woman’s University in Houston. 

McNeese Celebrates First DNP Students

The 2023 fall commencement ceremony included the first McNeese graduates of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in advanced practice psychiatric mental health nursing offered by the College of Nursing and Health Professions. With high demand for mental health practitioners across Southwest Louisiana and throughout the state, McNeese’s DNP program is a practice-based approach to prepare current nurse practitioners to care for patients with psychiatric mental health needs. The DNP program at McNeese builds on the knowledge of a nurse practitioner and prepares students to deliver high-quality, evidence-informed and patient-centered care. McNeese’s DNP program is online with minimal campus visits. The continuous DNP program is geared towards current advanced practice nurses who are working full time. 

McNeese Rankings

For the 13th consecutive year, U.S. News and World Report ranked McNeese as one of the top universities in the South in its 2022-2023 Best Colleges list. The university ranks among the Top Public Schools (no. 42) in the southern region, as well — one of only six Louisiana institutions to make the Top 50. 

McNeese’s online master’s degree in criminal justice ranked among the Top 95 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice programs. 

McNeese’s bachelor’s degree in nursing, both the online and on-campus nursing programs, are at the top of the list for Louisiana by The site also ranks McNeese’s online nursing program as one of the top 40 in the nation.

McNeese is ranked third in Louisiana for Best Value Colleges by It compares a variety of financial factors including starting salary, tuition, student retention rate and scholarships awarded.

Delta Sigma Pi Honor

McNeese’s chapter of Delta Sigma Pi in the College of Business earned the Chapter of Excellence at its national conference in Houston, Texas.  Delta Sigma Pi is a coeducational professional business fraternity organized to foster the study of business in universities. The organization prepares business students for successful professional careers and also instills values of service and principled leadership. 

Engineering Graduate Receives First Place

A McNeese engineering graduate student earned first place for his research on the effect of corn husk fiber on the performance of concrete at the National Society of Black Engineers Fall Regional Conference. That student will now compete at the NSBE National Conference in March.

Faculty Member Selected For International Program

A McNeese assistant music professor was selected as one of 12 composers to participate in the Alba International Music Festival Composition Program May 25 to June 3 in Italy. The Alba International Music Festival celebrates music and brings together renowned artists, orchestras and chamber ensembles from around the world.

Engineering Essay Winners

Six McNeese students from the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics won the Leaders of Tomorrow essay contest at the Americas Energy Summit and Exhibition in New Orleans. The Leaders of Tomorrow essay contest was open to students from McNeese, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Tulane University and the University of Houston. The winners will have an internship opportunity.

LSUE Transfer Agreements

McNeese and Louisiana State University Eunice (LSUE) have signed multiple agreements that allow students to seamlessly transfer to McNeese after earning an associate’s in business administration, health sciences, nursing and radiologic technology. The new agreements will welcome students from LSUE to complete the coursework for a bachelor’s degree in McNeese’s College of Business and College of Nursing and Health Professions.

McNeese Student Receives

The BHCOE is an international accrediting body that provides agencies meeting specific rigorous standards of quality with a certification. Through this new partnership, McNeese and BHCOE will work together to ensure that students’ supervised fieldwork aligns with academic learning and national standards for quality.

SOWELA technical community college

(From the SOWELA public relations office)

85th Anniversary

SOWELA celebrated its 85th anniversary with a series of events the week of Oct. 30, 2023. The event included the unveiling of a history wall located in the Arts and Humanities Building. Established in 1938, SOWELA is the oldest higher educational institution in Southwest Louisiana.

“From its inception in 1938 as Southwest Louisiana Trade School to its status today as a growing and vibrant comprehensive community college, SOWELA Technical Community College has been providing a skilled, trained and qualified workforce for the SW Louisiana region for 85 years,” said SOWELA Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall. “The institution is well known throughout the region as a workforce development engine that has helped build and sustain a strong economy from the 1940’s to today.

A Few Historical Facts

During World War II, SOWELA operated on a 24-hour basis at the request of the U.S. government, training more than 6,000 war workers. It also offered National Defense classes in auto mechanics, machinist training, electricity and welding.

In 1952, the school worked closely with local industry to bring the first petroleum training classes to the region, including drilling, drafting and blueprint reading. In the ‘60s, it launched an aerospace center to train aircraft mechanics. Later, Boeing, the largest airplane company in the world, would move one of its facilities to Lake Charles and had its entire Lake Charles workforce trained at SOWELA.

More recently, in 2016, SOWELA achieved national recognition and ranked 30th in the U.S. out of 821 colleges for cost and financing, education and career outcomes and was named a “Great College to Work For” in 2021. For the past five years, SOWELA has been named the no. 1 community college in Louisiana by WalletHub and Niche. It offers more than 30 programs in healthcare, industry, business, hospitality and transportation with locations in Lake Charles, Jennings, Leesville and Oakdale.

Accolades & Awards

In 2023, SOWELA’s HVAC students earned a 100-percent pass rate on the EPA 

Regional Award

A McNeese senior is a finalist among students from across the country for the National Student of the Year Award after receiving the Assoc. for the Promotion of Campus Activities (APCA) South Central Regional Student of the Year Award. The APCA promotes campus engagement through quality educational experiences, affordable entertainment and community service initiatives. The student moves on as a finalist for the National Student of the Year award which will be given out at the APCA National Conference in the spring.

Rhodes Scholar Finalist

A McNeese student was tapped as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, one of 216 students from around the world to compete for the program. The Rhodes Scholarship program first started in 1902. It funds two years of graduate studies for its scholars at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom. 

SHRM Award

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) awarded a 2022-2023 Superior Merit Award designation to the McNeese’s SHRM student chapter for providing superior growth and development opportunities to its student members. The SHRM Student Chapter Merit Award program encourages the development of more effective student chapters that provide outstanding activities and projects.

$1 Million Pledge

Tellurian made a $1 million pledge in support of the LNG Center of Excellence at McNeese. A portion of these funds will be used to provide students with scholarships for the new McNeese LNG Business Certificate, an 18-credit hour certificate. It is a collaboration between the College of Business and the Department of Engineering and Computer Science. 

Both the LNG Certificate and the LNG Center of Excellence align with McNeese’s mission to serve the employers of the region by providing distinctive programs integrated with business and industry.

New Student Health Services Facility Opens 

McNeese’s new student health services facility, located on the corner of Ryan Street and Sale Road, opened last summer. The facility — Ochsner CHRISTUS Urgent Care — serves McNeese students, faculty and staff as well as the public.

The new facility allows McNeese to offer health services and counseling services in one accessible space on campus as well as an urgent care facility staffed by CHRISTUS Ochsner Health. 

The new center and the expanded partnership with Ochsner allow the university to ensure McNeese students have access to high-quality acute medical care.

Rice Research

The McNeese farm, the LSU Agricultural Center and Jefferson Davis Rice Growers have joined forces to research varieties of rice that grow well in Southwest Louisiana. They are looking into fertility, disease management and insect control. The McNeese farm is part of the Harold and Pearl Dripps School of Agricultural Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Jefferson Davis Rice Growers gave $1,000 to help the small rice field get started and have pledged up to $5,000 over the next few years.

ABA Program Connects

McNeese’s online program for a master’s in psychology with a concentration in applied behavior analysis (ABA) in the Dept. of Psychology and Counseling has joined the Behavioral Health Centers of Excellence (BHCOE) as an Academic Program Partner.

Supervised experiential learning is an important part of the ABA program, and the collaboration will expand the access for online students who live more than 50 miles from the McNeese campus. Universal 608 Exam. The exam consists of four sections — Core, Small Appliances, High Pressure and Low Pressure — and certifies students in refrigerants, oils and installation.

In November of 2023, seven Digital Arts and Communication students from SOWELA competed at the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Houston Student Conference, with five students winning awards. SOWELA students Chance DeCuir and Cameryn Schexnider claimed first place, Severina Estes earned second place, and Braylon Jack and Kourtlen Thomas placed third.

During the competition, student teams of eight to nine members from over 20 Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas universities collaborated on a creative solution for two distinct products. In addition, students crafted a comprehensive marketing and media plan and delivered a compelling presentation.

SOWELA students participated in the SkillsUSA National Championships in Atlanta, Ga. More than 6,000 students attended, and nine SOWELA students competed in eight competitions, placing in two of those contests. Digital Arts and Communication students Connor Couvillion and Matthew Dye won gold in the television production team competition. Digital Arts and Communications student Madeleine Guillory won silver in advertising design.

Practical Nursing classes at SOWELA’s Lake Charles and Jennings locations, as well as the LPN to RN class, achieved a 100-percent pass rate on the NCLEX exams. SOWELA nursing students outperformed the national and state NCLEX averages for both Practical Nursing (PN) and Registered Nurse (RN) exams, exceeding the national average of 79.90 percent and the statewide average of 85.58 percent for the NCLEX-RN exam, and the national average of 79.9 percent and the statewide average of 83 percent for the NCLEX-PN exam.

SOWELA Digital Arts and Communication instructor Darrell Buck received the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence at the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) conference. Buck is the first SOWELA faculty member to receive the award since its inception. He was chosen from numerous Louisiana community and technical college applicants to take home the award and the $5,000 cash prize.

SOWELA’s Digital Arts and Communication students recently earned second place in the American Assoc. of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) video competition held in Atlanta, Ga. ATMAE’s 800 undergraduate members received invitations to submit a one- to three-minute video about why employers should hire current students and graduates of ATMAE-accredited programs. SOWELA’s video team included Connor Couvillion, Chande DeCuir, Matt Dye and Noah Guidry. The team received a $1,000 scholarship award to be distributed evenly between the students.

SOWELA student Joshua Casey placed 10th at the national Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Collegiate Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Ga. Casey competed in the Computer Concepts category and was one of two community college students in the U.S. to place. He is a spring 2023 Information Systems Technology graduate.

SOWELA’s 2023 Surgical Technology class recently earned a 100-percent pass rate on their Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam. The 175-question test from the accredited National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) assesses individuals’ mastery of a broad range of skills related to surgical procedures, aseptic technique and patient care. SOWELA graduates surpassed the national pass rate average of 73.7 percent and are now certified Surgical Technologists.

SOWELA was the first college in Louisiana to award an Online Culinary Arts Associate of Applied Science degree. Julio Santana of Ossining, N.Y., will graduate with distinction from the four-semester program, accredited through SACSCOC and the American Culinary Federation.

New Programs

SOWELA received approval from the Louisiana State Board of Nursing and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) to add a Spring Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN-RN) cohort and an LPN to RN program at the SOWELA Leesville location starting this summer. The expansion doubles SOWELA’s RN-track cohorts, giving prospective students four start date options. Expanding the capacity of SOWELA’s Registered Nurse (RN) programs helps address the nationwide nursing shortage.

For the first time, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Electrical Technology at the Allen Parish site, which began in the fall of 2023. The program was added to help meet local job market demands and in response to student feedback. SOWELA’s Industrial Electrical program prepares individuals to install, troubleshoot and repair wiring, electrical equipment and other electrical devices used in the industrial environment, such as motors, transformers, control systems, industrial instruments and lighting systems.

Food Pantry

SOWELA hosted its inaugural food drive for the college’s Tiger Love Food Pantry. In 2023, SOWELA received the Hunger-free Campus designation from the Louisiana Board of Regents and, as part of the designation, committed to hosting a food drive annually. 

SOWELA’s food pantry opened in 2019 and has been able to distribute 10,000 pounds of food so far this year. The pantry is located at the college’s main campus in Lake Charles and is free to all SOWELA students, faculty and staff. Students must complete a request form to receive a monthly food bag and show a current SOWELA ID at pick up. Food bag delivery is available for students at the College’s Jennings, Leesville and Oakdale sites.

Facility Expansion & Enhancements

SOWELA officially opened its new Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center in 2023 on its main campus in Lake Charles. Construction for the new $10.8 million state-of-the-art building began in 2021. The building, the first of its kind in the state, will greatly expand SOWELA’s hospitality programs and educate hospitality workers throughout the state. 

The new 28,000-square-foot building features a top-of-the-line culinary kitchen, model hotel rooms and an event space.

The center provides high-demand education and training for students seeking a job in Louisiana’s booming hospitality industry, which in 2022 was estimated to have more than 222,000 employees statewide according to Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser’s office. 

That sector is expected to increase in Louisiana by 14.9 percent by 2026, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

The center’s primary focus is to provide hands-on training for culinary arts, business administration and information systems technology fields of study along with a dealer school and custom training opportunities.

SOWELA’s Morgan Smith site in Jennings announced the expansion of its Industrial Instrumentation program and a new, state-of-the-art lab that helps support hands-on training at the college. The lab includes pressure and thermal process control trainers.

Prior to the facility expansion, students had to finish the latter portion of the Indusrial Instrumentation program at the main campus in Lake Charles. Thanks to the new lab space, they can complete the full program in Jennings.

SOWELA Oakdale announced the addition of two new state-of-the-art labs that help support hands-on training at the college. 

The Industrial Electrical Lab includes an electrical wiring learning system and trainers, and the Industrial Instrumentation Lab offers pressure and thermal process control trainers. The $665,000 lab expansion, which included remodeling, equipment, technology and furniture, was funded through an anonymous donation and Rapid Response grant funds.

SOWELA received one of its largest donations to date from the U.S. Air Force with an E-8A Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft valued at $35 million. The jet was flown in and signed over to SOWELA from the Air Force during a special ceremony in September at Chennault International Airport.

The Joint STARS is a modified Boeing 707-300 series aircraft. According to the Air Force, Joint STARS evolved from Army and Air Force programs to develop, detect, locate and attack enemy armor at ranges beyond the forward area of troops. 

The first two development aircraft deployed in 1991 to Operation Desert Storm and supported Operation Joint Endeavor in 1995. 

Team Joint STARS men and women have flown over 137,000 combat hours supporting Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector. The chief of staff of the Air Force decided in December 2021 to retire the E-8 fleet, paving the way for the USAF to donate the aircraft to SOWELA.

SOWELA added three vehicles to its growing training fleet for the Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Technology program. 

The new cars include an F-150, Jeep Cherokee and Toyota Camry, bringing the program’s total fleet to six. There are plans to add a hybrid vehicle.

According to Car and Driver, electronics account for 40 percent of the cost of a new car. “It’s why we now call individuals who work on cars technicians instead of mechanics,” said Richard. “While our students learn basic mechanics, such as oil changes and tire rotation, much of their training is focused on electronic systems because computers in vehicles are getting more and more advanced.”

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