MES receives certificate of achievement for French Immersion

Mamou Elementary School was celebrated for the historic achievements of its newly implemented French Immersion program during the Evangeline Parish School Board’s meeting on Wednesday.
“Mamou Elementary has accomplished something that I don’t know has ever been accomplished before,” said Evangeline Parish Superintendent of Schools Darwan Lazard. “As you probably remember, Mamou Elementary has just completed its first year of its French Immersion program, and they were one of only three schools in the state to be certified by the BESE Board (state school board).”
During the meeting, the instrumental figures who played a major role in bringing the program to Evangeline Parish and who made it successful shared with the board the steps that were taken to make the program one that MES Principal, Troy Fontenot, called “a model for French Immersion.”
Fontenot, whose school was recognized in Baton Rouge by the Louisiana Department of Education last Tuesday, shared, “The last three in-services I have attended in Baton Rouge, members of CODOFIL (Council for the Development of French in Louisiana) and world language with the state department tell other districts, ‘Get with Evangeline Parish. They know what they are doing there.’”
The MES principal went on to state, “We have already had Lincoln Parish and Vermilion Parish come and visit Mamou Elementary to see our French Immersion program.”
MES Curriculum Coach, Nina David, also took time to enlighten the board on what it took to reach their goal of becoming certified in one year a reality.
“Our first year with French Immersion, we were like, ‘Okay, we are going to do this and we are going to do it right, and it is going to be done the way it is suppose to be done,” said David. “So, we started involving the community and Ms. Wanda (Verrette) was instrumental in helping us with this because she is from Mamou.”
David then shared different aspects of the rubric that the school had to follow to have a shot at making its French Immersion program one of the first ever to become certified after just one year of existence.
Those steps included bringing the students to the nursing home where they sang to residents in French for Christmas, hosting a French night where CODOFIL representatives were present to witness how MES “celebrated French Immersion” at its school, purchasing French books for the school’s library (which was done by David writing a grant), and purchasing a program to collect data in French.
When World Language Immersion representatives with the state then visited the school, David said, “We had all of our ducks in a row and everything they asked for, we had it right there to give to them. On a scale of zero to four, we got fours in every area.”
When the school learned that it had been successful and would become a certified French Immersion program, David said, “We were very pleased. They told us our school is like a blue ribbon school for French Immersion.”
The last key figure in bringing French Immersion to MES to speak at Wednesday’s meeting was Louisiana State Representative Bernard LeBas, who thanked the board members for making the schools in Evangeline Parish “great.”
LeBas went on to state, “With the French Immersion program, Senator Eric LaFleur and I had been working on it for quite a while. People would say, ‘They have it in other parishes, so what’s wrong with y’all.’
“So, when I went and sat down with Mr. Lazard, he thought that was unbelievable and said, ‘Yes. That is great. What can we do to bring it here.’” And, thus this partnership was the beginning of what has now made MES stand out from other schools when it comes to French Immersion.
LeBas went on to express how this program is one that doesn’t just teach students a language that is a part of the heritage in Evangeline Parish - in Mamou especially, but also how it is beneficial in all aspects of academics.
LeBas said, “When you consider our heritage, we are maintaining it, but we are also now using it as a teaching tool that has not been used enough. All of the numbers and all of the facts show you that anybody who has been in the French Immersion program scores way above everybody else in all categories and not just in foreign languages. It makes the mind think different.”
The program currently goes up to the second grade, but the school will be adding another grade level each year until the French immersion program goes through eighth grade.
Another discussion during the meeting centered around replacement of the sewer plant at Bayou Chicot Elementary.
The sewer plant, which will cost approximately $337,000.00, will be paid for with a loan from the USDA, and will be replaced, if the school district’s application is approved, next summer.
According to Maintance Supervisor Jason Hazelton, BCE’s sewer plant needs to be changed because “it is very outdated and is something that is breaking down constantly.”
Hazelton said, “The sewer plant is a problem that needs to be addressed before it becomes a major issue. This issue is one that is a health hazard, of course. The sewer plant is constantly giving us trouble, and when school ramps up there is usually not a week that goes by that we don’t have to go over there and fix it.”
A public hearing on purchasing BCE a new sewer plant will take place on September 19, 2018.

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