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NEW FRENCH IMMERSION TEACHERS - From left to right are Evangeline Parish Assistant Superintendant of Schools Michael Lombas; Ali Sarr from the country of Senegal on the African continent; Alice Renard from Paris, France; and Evangeline Parish Superintendant of Schools Darwan Lazard. (Gazette photo by Gary LeLeux)

EPSB hears about cyber attacks and recognizes personnel

Wednesday evening the school board was updated about a ransom ware attack on system computers. The board also recognized JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) specialists, Teacher of the Year, and two new French Immersion teachers.
Regarding the ransom ware attack, Technology Coordinator John Deranger said, “For the past week-and-a-half, all local school boards across the state have been under the threat of a ransom ware attack. They implement a network that attaches to your data and locks it up. Literally, they ransom it. They ask for a ransom in return to unlock it. If you don’t, the data becomes unreadable. You can’t access it. You can’t utilize it. Districts across the state were hit. One was hit pretty significantly; it wiped out all their data, including their backups. It’s paralyzing. You have to start all your records from scratch. The state jumped into a proactive mode along with some cyber terrorism experts from the National Guard and implemented six phases of steps for us to take to protect our data.
“First, we shut down the internet to ever site in the Evangeline Parish School Board. Step two, we had to bring the internet back up to selected services we needed. Third phase we had to implement all our necessary servers and programs to being backed up and protected properly. We followed all six steps and completed them. I have not brought the internet back up to the schools yet. Central office and the media center have been brought back up. I am working with the state to see a feasible time frame to bring the schools back up. We will continue to monitor all of our network traffic and our servers and make sure there are no compromises. If we do detect a threat, we will go back and be proactive in threat prevention mode to protect all our data and the data of our students and our financial data for the school board. We did alert all the principals and supervisors on all of the steps we have take up to this point and what is going to happen from this point moving forward. We will assure that each teacher and student has the necessary tools and internet access they need to learn and teach on a daily basis.”
Also at the meeting, Kelli Lafleur, Special Education Director, recognized two JAG specialists. Lafleur said, “We are pleased to announce two of our district employees were recognized for their passion and commitment for the young people they serve and the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. Both JAG specialists successfully completed an on-site compliance monitoring of the JAG-LA programs from the national accreditation team during their year of transition. On July 7 and 12 in Orlando, FL, for the 36th annual national seminar, both specialists gathered to celebrate, as an organization and as individuals, proving that the people who carry out the work for the Jobs Corps America are truly second to none.”
Recognized were Jaselyn Griffith, a first year JAG specialist implementing the accelerated interventions from middle to high school at Bayou Chicot Elementary. She serves 30 participants with 69 percent identified as one or more grades behind their peers. Some of them have IEPs (Individual Education Plan) and some of them have behavior issues. She has exceeded the state’s metric performance outcome with a promotion rate of 50 percent promoted to the ninth grade and 50 percent of behavior issues were reduced.”
Lafleur added, “Celebrating the results of our veteran JAG specialists, Diana F. Johnson, implementing the JAG-LA multi-year school model program for the first time at Ville Platte high school, who has achieved the five-for-five performance award for multi-year school, currently serving 45-50 participants with 40 percent identified as one or more grades behind their peers and providing follow up services for an additional 20 participants and achieving an extraordinary 95.8 percent graduation rate. She has exceeded the national performance metrics as well as the state metrics.”
Also recognized at the meeting was Teacher of the Year, Lisa Celestine Jack. Grace Sibley, Teacher of the Year Coordinator, congratulated Jack on her achievement. “We did it again. For the sixth or seventh consecutive year we have had someone to become either a regional or state finalist. This time, we have managed to have for the third time within the last six years someone who made it to the state and became a winner. We have a middle school state teacher of the year winner,” said Sibley. She added, “We’re very, very proud to say that Miss Lisa did very well. We had three persons picked to represent Evangeline Parish, and all three were impressive in the eyes of the state department. They remembered all three.” Sibley said Jack spent about 100 hours putting together her teacher of the year package. The package consists of essays and video. “Miss Lisa worked extremely hard. She represented us well.”
Two new French Immersion teachers were welcomed by Assistant Superintendent Mike Lombas. The teachers are Ali Sarr from Senegal and Alice Renard from Paris, France. Lombas said, “This year we’ll be adding third grade to our French Immersion program at Mamou Elementary and Ville Platte Elementary.” He introduced Renard, who will be teaching French Immersion at Mamou, third grade, and Sarr, who will be teaching French Immersion at Ville Platte Elementary, third grade.
Lombas also said, “We treat our French teachers very well. We arrange housing for them. We furnish those apartments for them. We have been able to do that through donations.” He said they asked Rotary and KVPI for help in getting donations. “The community in Evangeline Parish has been incredibly generous and supportive of these efforts. Mr. Ali and Miss Alice did not have to buy one piece of furniture for their unfurnished apartments. When we talk to other French teachers in other parishes, that is usually not the case. We do try to take care of them. Through donations we are able to take them shopping. We give each French teacher $500 to set up their apartment so they don’t have to do that out of pocket, either. Just the moving expense to move to our country is a lot. When they come through CODIFIL, they are on a two-year contract, so there’s a rotation, but at the end of the second year, they have the option to come back for a third year. Every one of our French teachers has asked to come back for a third year. We are a very blessed community, and we know how to treat people well.”
Lombas read an e-mail he received from Richard Foss, a journalist from the New York Times’ southern office, based in Atlanta. He is a native of Louisiana who has covered the state regularly for the Times. Lombas said Foss would like to write about a newly-arrived French Immersion teacher outside of the usual locations of New Orleans, Baton Rouge or Lafayette. Foss requested permission to follow Renard on the first days of school. Lombas said he discussed it with Renard, and she agreed to let Foss shadow her. “We look forward to the publicity of our French Immersion Program in the New York Times,” said Lombas.
Lombas also announced Superintendent Lazard received the Man With Heart award, presented by Women United of United Way of St. Landry/Evangeline. It was presented to him at the Opelousas Civic Center on Saturday, July 27. “I don’t think they could have bestowed the honor on a better candidate for the position. The Man With Heart: Mr. Darwin Lazard.”
In other action, school board member Dr. Bobby Deshotel asked about a parking lot with a turn-around along Hwy. 190. He said the busses are supposed to turn around on 190 after dropping off children. He said the fence has been cut, and the gate is there, but turn-arounds are not there. Superintendent Darwin Lazard said he would get with Jason Hazelton, Maintenance Director, and get back with Dr. Deshotel with an update.
In other business the board approved the ratification of the low price quote of $6,119.00 to Demourelle’s AC & Heating for a central A/C system for James Stephens Montessori cafeteria and the ratification of Bertrand’s Office Supply for $27,216.00 for letter size copy machine paper.

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