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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Superintendent's Message: Louisiana Will Thrive Despite Gustav and Ike

While our state is only beginning to recover and rebuild after the impact of Hurricane Gustav, we must do so while simultaneous preparing for the approach of Hurricane Ike. As frustrating as this new development is for all of us, I am confident that the people of Louisiana will rise to the occasion, once again demonstrating our resiliency and determination not to just reclaim what existed, but to move beyond these types of events to advance our quality of life.

On Wednesday and Thursday, school districts in the southwest part of the state closely monitored the advancement of Hurricane Ike and were well prepared to respond to the threat and the evacuation efforts of their parish. Both Calcasieu Parish and Cameron Parish closed schools Thursday, September 11 and Friday, September 12. Vermilion Parish announced schools closed at noon on Thursday and will remain closed through Friday. Twelve other Louisiana parishes, Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vernon, have announced all schools will be closed on Friday. The Louisiana School for the Deaf (LSD), located in Baton Rouge, remains open. However LSD school officials indicated some residential students are being brought home this afternoon rather than waiting until Friday, which is the normal weekly routine for transporting students from school.

Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish have announced partial closures for Friday. Fisher Miller High School and Leo Koerner Elementary School in Jefferson Parish and Phoenix High School, Boothville-Venice High School, South Plaquemines High School and South Plaquemines Elementary School in Plaquemines Parish will be closed tomorrow.

All of the districts that announced closures due to Hurricane Ike had resumed operations prior to Wednesday, September 10th. In fact, all but six of the state’s 70 school districts had resumed full or partial operations as of yesterday. That means almost 85 percent of our state’s public school students were back in class before the latest closures were announced.

The fact that so many of our local school districts have resumed operations of their schools is a remarkable accomplishment when we consider the tough blow Hurricane Gustav dealt to almost every area of our state. Regardless of the challenges, there is a common recognition that children need a daily routine, and we congratulate and thank the superintendents, school boards, principals, teachers, staff, community leaders, parents, students and other volunteers who worked side by side to get their schools open again. As Hurricane Ike approaches, whatever comes our way, I am confident that we will again work together as a state to support our local districts, school communities, students and families.

Likewise, the Department, school districts and school communities are positioned to share resources under critical circumstances. During Gustav and even in its aftermath, there has been a need for the education community to loan out and in some cases coordinate buses, facilities, staff support, food services and volunteer support. The logistics and timing of these requests presented our staff and district leaders with some tough obstacles, and I’m extremely proud of the fact that they came through when our state was in a tight spot. We’re prepared to do what we can again if the need arises.

We encourage you to monitor our Web-site (, this blog and your local news for updated information. Also, please feel free to post information on this blog so that we can update our education community with the most current news. If there is anything that the Department of Education or I can do to help you, please let us know.


Sunday, September 7, 2008


Baton Rouge, Louisiana – Today Louisiana Department of Education officials released a new report outlining the progress of school districts across the state in their efforts to reopen.

Last week, 18 school districts, which account for about 19 percent of the state’s total public school student population, had resumed their 2008-2009 school year in full operation. When school bells ring tomorrow morning, Sept. 8, one week to the day after Hurricane Gustav made landfall on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, 73 percent of the state’s public school students will be back in school in 59 local school districts across the state. Education officials report by Friday, Sept. 12, those numbers will climb to 64 districts and 87 percent of the state’s public school student population. By Monday, Sept. 15, education leaders say they hope to see 100 percent of Louisiana’s public school children back in school and learning. However, if utility companies are unable to resolve electrical power failures at schools in six school districts, the Sept. 15 date will be compromised.

“BESE Board President Linda Johnson and I have spent the last few days on the ground visiting nine of the most heavily impacted parishes and we’ll continue to reach out to local school districts and their school communities to explore how the Department of Education can help them return to their way of life,” said State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek. “Our goal is to have everybody in class no later than September 15, and considering the determination and progress that superintendents have made all over this state, which we have seen and heard about over the last several days, we’re confident that we can make that happen provided we get power to those six parishes that were severely damaged. Power is a critical problem. We appreciate that power service providers are dealing with extensive damage especially in the six questionable districts, but delay deprives our children of an education.”

Department officials note the remarkable progress made by local Superintendents and School Boards, in spite of the lack or power. They say they will work in partnership with districts to offer additional support and resources.

“The Department’s experience and the experience of some of our school districts with these types of events have equipped us with the expertise to assist districts with issues related to FEMA reimbursements and facility solutions, and there are good examples of school communities that were able to overcome tremendous obstacles after Katrina and Rita. We will be relying on those models and people to help guide local districts and schools who need our support.”

State officials said the types of challenges districts face vary but there are some common issues.

“In addition to power shortages, school districts are working to overcome multiple challenges,” continued Pastorek. “Some schools are working to replace food that spoiled in their cafeteria refrigerators, some have lost documents to water damage and most are trying to identify where they are going to get the financial resources to make repairs to their buildings. Trees are blocking a lot of the roads in some of the communities we visited, which creates a challenge for districts in their ability to transport students. Some parishes are still under a boil order, and the local districts don’t have enough bottled water on hand to fully operate their schools. Some offices and schools were severely damaged requiring the temporary or permanent relocation of facilities and some schools are still housing evacuees or emergency support personnel.

“But no matter what their situations are, the overwhelming message we’ve heard in communities across the state is that the best thing we can do for our children and families, especially those living in challenging circumstances at home due to the storm, is to get students back in school. When we put children back in school, for at least eight hours a day administrators and teachers can ensure our students have nutritious meals, are housed in a suitable facility, have access to counseling and other similar services, and experience success in school, which gives children a sense of stability and belonging, things that are crucial to their quality of life.”

The greatest challenges for school districts remain in the southeast, south central and central part of the state, and while most districts sustained only minimal damage to buildings, there are some areas that will require substantial support. Specifically, the schools in Iberville, Pointe Coupee, Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption and East Baton Rouge appear to have significant difficulties. But educational officials expressed their praise and gratitude for the competency, teamwork and dedication of community leaders, local education leaders, school leaders, teachers, parents and volunteers who have rallied around their schools.

“We saw and heard remarkable stories of citizens who began checking schools for damages within minutes of the storm’s passing, principals and teachers who have worked around the clock to relocate facilities and classrooms to other locations so that they could resume operations, volunteers who were removing debris, mopping up water damage, re-constructing school playgrounds and even students cleaning up their campuses,” said Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Linda Johnson. “Our prior experience with Katrina and Rita demonstrated that even in the most devastated communities, schools can actually serve as the catalyst for re-invigorating the life and spirit of a community.”

Pastorek reinforced Johnson’s appreciation for the progress that has been made.

“We want to thank school and community leaders and volunteers across the state for their overwhelming support of their school communities,” Pastorek said. “Louisiana has demonstrated that despite our current situation which is challenging and requires us to focus on sustaining our immediate needs for power, water, food and other quality of life resources, we are willing to stretch ourselves to focus on our future, which is our children and in large part their education. It’s inspiring to us as a Department to see that our state doesn’t just talk about education being one of our greatest priorities, we’ve managed to support it even during this difficult time.”

For information on school district closures, please visit the Department of Education Web site at or refer to the attached list of updated closures.


LDE Employees: Welcome back to work

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As you know, we are counting on you to return to work tomorrow. We need to begin to recover some sense of normalcy and work can provide that. 60 of 70 districts will be back in operation for Monday and they are going to be requiring support from you.

If there are any personal issues that you have and need more personal time, please contact you supervisor and discuss how to address those issues.

Have a nice weekend.

Paul Pastorek
Louisiana Department of Education

Friday, September 5, 2008


Baton Rouge, Louisiana - On Saturday, September 6, Superintendent Paul Pastorek, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Linda Johnson and other education and government officials will be visiting with school and community leaders across the state in areas suffering the greatest impact from Hurricane Gustav.

On Friday, these leaders visited with school and community leaders in Assumption, LaFourche, St. Landry and West Feliciana parishes. The Department is aggressively seeking information regarding the needs and challenges of these communities as they work to reopen schools.

This group will be arriving at the following sites to visit with leaders and tour impacted school facilities:

Avoyelles Parish – Avoyelles High School - 287 Main Street - 10:00 a.m. - (Moreauville, Louisiana)

Pointe Coupee Parish – New Roads Airport – 12:00 noon (New Roads, Louisiana)

St. Martin Parish – Breaux Bridge National Guard Armory, III Courville Street – 2:00 p.m.(Breaux Bridge, Louisiana)

Iberville Parish - Plaquemine High School – 59595 Belleview Road – 4:00 p.m. (Plaquemine, Louisiana)

Other sites/stops may be added.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Baton Rouge, Louisiana - On Friday, September 5, Superintendent Paul Pastorek, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Linda Johnson and other education and government officials will be visiting with school district leaders across the state in areas suffering the greatest impact from Hurricane Gustav.

With the assistance of the National Guard, this group will be visiting the following sites:

Assumption Parish – Napoleonville Middle School – 4847 Highway 1, Napoleonville, Louisiana – 10:00 a.m.

LaFourche Parish – Thibodaux Elementary School – 700 East Seventh Street, Thibodaux, Louisiana – 11:00 a.m.

St. Landry Parish – Opelousas High School – 1014 Judson Walsh Drive, Opelousas, Louisiana – 12:30 p.m.

Other sites/stops may be added.


Baton Rouge, Louisiana – Three days after Hurricane Gustav made landfall on Louisiana’s gulf coast, education officials are aggressively working with local school districts to support their attempts to resume operations. The greatest challenges remain in the southeast, south central and central part of the state, and while most districts sustained only minimal damage to buildings, there are some areas that will require substantial support. Overall, state education officials indicate there has been notable progress even in the areas where there was notable damage. State officials indicate most school districts are tentatively planning to reopen schools on Monday, September 8, although some reopened today and a few will reopen tomorrow.

“We’ve been able to touch base with all but a handful of school districts,” said State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek. “Remarkably even school districts that are in the hardest hit areas are already securing the services of contractors and their facilities staff is working to repair damage and clean up after the storm. Some of the greatest concerns continue to be around shortages of fuel, electrical power, food, water, and sewer – the same issues that are affecting our general population. Our Superintendents are working with other local officials and are making decisions based on current information, such as projections for restoring power, fuel supply and other factors that are required to operate their schools. Also, some of our schools are currently housing evacuees, and of course this limits their ability to reopen. ”

Approximately 20 local school districts resumed classes today, mostly those located in the north and mid-western areas of the state. The majority of school districts plan to reopen by Monday, September 8th. Operations of almost all schools have been halted since Friday, August 29 when the state braced for as Hurricane Gustav.

On Friday, Superintendent Pastorek and other education officials will travel to designated areas of the state to meet with local education leaders to gain a better understanding of their needs. “In some cases, we will need to provide additional resources or adjust school sites, and in other cases, we will be asking schools districts to absorb displaced students,” Pastorek continued. “Our responsibility is to provide a first-class education experience for these students regardless of where they are housed in the state. At the same time we are sensitive to the realities of families and the state at large. One thing we know from our experiences is that schools, teachers and administrators are really good at giving children and families a sense of belonging and stability during unsettling times like these. I am confident that we will find a way to do that.”

For information on school district closures, please visit the Department of Education website at or refer to the attached list of updated closures.


LDE Employees: Plan to report to work on Monday, September 8, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For almost four days now you and your families have endured the after effects of Hurricane Gustav. You have demonstrated your ability to adjust to difficult circumstances and your willingness to help our local school districts reopen their schools. All of your efforts are appreciated.

At this time, the Claiborne Building remains without power; it may get up tomorrow, but for now I would like to advise you that it is not necessary to report to work tomorrow.

I fully expect that the building will be able to receive us on Monday. Therefore, please be prepared to RETURN TO WORK ON MONDAY and please be ready to assist our districts as they go back to their normal school activities. Many of our districts are struggling and are in great need of our help. I know that you look forward to supporting their efforts.

If you have any issue which would hinder your ability to report to work on Monday, please let your supervisor know. If you cannot contact your supervisor, please email Mary Gloston.

All the best…

Paul Pastorek
Louisiana Department of Education

Personal Electricity Status

Ladies and Gentlemen:

At the statewide briefing tonight, Entergy advised the Governor that any customer would be able to go online tomorrow and determine when their home would be powered up. I can’t assure you that it will happen or how good it may be, but you may wish to look for it.

Paul Pastorek
Louisiana Department of Education

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Message from Superintendent Pastorek

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The last few days have undoubtedly presented challenges for us as individuals, families and a state. But once again, the people of Louisiana have demonstrated their extraordinary resiliency and charity towards one another.

State leaders have announced this evening (Wednesday) that state offices will again be closed and that only essential employees should report to work. Also, the Claiborne Building is still without electrical power so any attempt to return to work would not only be almost unbearable but ineffective. So please do not report to work tomorrow (Thursday).

I hope that you and your families are fairing well and that over the next few days you will make progress toward your recovery if you have not already done so. We encourage those who are in the position to volunteer in one of the many shelters around our state to consider doing so.

We look forward to reuniting our Department of Education family. In the meantime, please stay tuned for updates on work schedules. We remind you that the state has set up a toll free number, (800) 360-9660 or visit our web-site at


Paul Pastorek
Louisiana Department of Education

All State Government Offices Closed Thursday

News Desk #: (225) 358-5361
FEMA News Desk #: 225.376.5000


September 3, 2008

Division of Administration News Update

All state government offices closed Thursday

Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis has announced the closure of all state government offices on Thursday, September 4, 2008, due to Hurricane Gustav.

Essential personnel, including employees that are required to work due to Hurricane Gustav, should report to work as directed by their supervisors.

All agency heads are responsible for determining those essential personnel who should remain on duty.

If additional closures are to be announced, updates will be issued periodically. State employees should monitor media regarding office closures as well as announcements of when offices are scheduled to reopen. Those announcements will be made by the Commissioner of Administration. In addition, employees should be aware of the 800 number and the local phone number, which will be updated with information regarding office closures. The numbers to call: 1-800-360-9660 or 225-342-0498.

For the latest on Hurricane Gustav, you can visit or call the state's emergency hotline at 1-866-288-2484 to listen to a recorded message with the most up-to-date information.


Today the Louisiana Department of Education issued a report on the status of school districts across the state. (PLEASE NOTE: The report is subject to change. The local school district may make adjustments.) In summary, those school districts located in parishes hit hardest by Hurricane Gustav, primarily in the south central, southeast and central part of the state are indicating they will not be prepared to resume school before Monday. In some cases, particularly where the eye of the storm passed along the Gulf Coast, it will likely be beyond that date, and perhaps as much as a week or two before classes can commence. The western, southwestern and northern parts of the state were spared the immediate effects of Gustav. However, as a result of very heavy rains and tornados sustained in the aftermath of the storm on Tuesday and today, additional school communities outside the path of the storm may have to postpone classes beyond Thursday.

Operations of almost all schools have been halted since Friday, August 29 when the state braced for as Hurricane Gustav.

"As we anticipated, school districts in Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, Assumption and other parishes in the south are reporting notable damage to school buildings and severe power outages. We are continuing to work with districts as they assess the damages and make adjustments to accommodate students and families in their school communities," said State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek. "Many local superintendents and education officials and working very hard under difficult circumstances to reopen schools for students as fast as possible. Because of great planning and post storm collaboration, these local officials are bringing schools back remarkably fast. The good news is that there are some areas in the state that are ready to resume classes Thursday, and even those who have been substantially impacted seem well prepared and are working to serve their communities. However, there are some locations that have been too heavily devastated and continue to be pelted with rains and tornadoes, and it is just too early to tell when schools in several parishes can reopen. We encourage families to stay tune to their local media for updates."

For information on school district closures, please visit the Department of Education website at or refer to the attached list of updated closures.

List of Updated Closures

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Essential Employees Only

The Governor has announced today, September 2nd, that only essential employees should report to work tomorrow, Wednesday, September 3rd.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Superintendent Pastorek's Message to DOE Staff

Ladies and Gentlemen:

This has been a difficult day for our entire state. I believe that this storm has affected (or will affect) almost every part of Louisiana and our education community. I have heard reports that many of you have suffered damage to your home and property. We are sorry for the hardships many of you are enduring, but we remain grateful that thus far there are no reports of any injuries among our DOE family or education community.

The Governor has announced that only essential employees should report to work tomorrow. I know that many of you have to provide for your family, pick up the pieces and clean up after the passage of Gustav. With this in mind, we are asking that you not attempt to come to work tomorrow.

If you are one of the fortunate ones who sustained little or no impact from the storm, I would strongly suggest that you offer to volunteer at the nearest shelter. There are thousands who have evacuated and are in need of support.

Please stay tuned so that we are able to communicate with you. Also, if there is anything that I, or the Department of Education can do to support you, please let us know.

Paul Pastorek
Louisiana Department of Education

Gov. Jindal to Announce Government Office Closures

Governor Jindal will announce today whether government offices will be open on Tuesday, September 2nd.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Updated District Closure Plans

As we continue to prepare for Hurricane Gustav and support school communities across the state, we continue to receive information on school district closures.

As of 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 31, the following school districts have contacted the Department of Education with their closure plans for Hurricane Gustav: (The asterisk represents a change from the list that was published on Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.)

Acadia (Tuesday)
Allen (Tuesday)
*Ascension Parish - (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Assumption (Tuesday)
*Beauregard (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Bogalusa City (Tuesday)
*Calcasieau (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Cameron (Tuesday and Wednesday)
*East Feliciana (Tuesday and School Board Meeting Tuesday Cancelled)
Iberia (Tuesday)
*Iberville Parish - (Tuesday)
Jefferson Davis (Tuesday and Wednesday)
*Lafayette (Tuesday and Wednesday - had previously announced Tuesday)
*Lafourche (Tuesday and Wednesday)
*Livingston Parish - (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Orleans (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Plaquemines (Tuesday)
Pointe Coupee (Tuesday)
Recovery School District (Tuesday and Wednesday)
St. Charles (Tuesday and Wednesday)
St. Helena (Tuesday)
St. James (Monday and Tuesday)
St. John (Tuesday and Wednesday)
*St. Martin (Tuesday and Wednesday - had previously announced Tuesday)
St. Mary (Tuesday)
St. Tammany (Tuesday)

*Tangipahoa (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Terrebonne (Tuesday)
Vermillion (Tuesday)
Washington (Tuesday)
*West Baton Rouge (Tuesday)
School for the Deaf (Monday and Tuesday)
School for the Visually Impaired (Monday and Tuesday)
*Vermillion (Tuesday and Wednesday - had previously announced Tuesday)

Please check back with us periodically if possible, and forward us questions or information that we can share with others across the state. We appreciate the cooperation, collaboration and support of the dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals who are working to ensure our education system is poised to respond to this very serious hurricane.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Voluntary and Mandatory School Closures

Due to the impending approach of Hurricane Gustav, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has issued an Executive Order requiring the closure of selected Louisiana school districts on Tuesday, September 2nd and Wednesday, September 3rd. On Friday, the Louisiana Department of Education released a list of school districts announcing closures, but the Governor’s announcement makes closures of school districts in these parishes mandatory. Most schools had already planned to be off on Monday, September 1st in observance of the Labor Day holiday.

The Governor’s Executive Order will make school closures mandatory in 30 selected parishes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Parishes identified in the Executive Order include Avoyelles, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Catahoula, Claiborne, Concordia, DeSoto, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, Tensas, Union, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, and Winn.

We will continue to work closely with the Governor’s Office and other state agencies to make decisions that support the safety of all our families. The potential impact this storm poses for our state requires us to proceed with the highest level of precaution.

On Friday, the Department of Education listed the names of school districts who voluntary announced closures. Most of the districts were located in South Louisiana and include Acadia (Tuesday), Allen (Tuesday), Assumption (Tuesday), Assumption (Tuesday), Bogalusa City (Tuesday), Cameron (Tuesday and Wednesday), Iberia (Tuesday), Jefferson Davis (Tuesday and Wednesday), Lafayette (Tuesday), Lafourche (Tuesday), Orleans (Tuesday and Wednesday), Plaquemines (Tuesday), Pointe Coupee (Tuesday), Recovery School District (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), St. Charles (Tuesday and Wednesday), St. Helena (Tuesday), St. John (Tuesday and Wednesday), St. Martin (Tuesday), St. Mary (Tuesday), St. James (Monday and Tuesday), St. Tammany (Tuesday), Terrebonne (Tuesday), Washington (Tuesday), Louisiana School for the Deaf (Monday and Tuesday) and Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired (Monday and Tuesday).

We encourage you to continue to monitor this web-site and blog and send us information so that we can share it across the state. It is highly probably that as the affects are felt in impacted areas, other school districts will be announcing closings and those already participating in the closure will extend the timeframe of closures. Again, please stay safe and monitor news media or the latest information.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Message From Superintendent Paul Pastorek

As Hurricane Gustav approaches the Gulf, we are keeping a watchful eye on its direction. Safety is our first priority for our Department employees and their families as well as our school communities across the state. Over the next few days I hope that you will periodically check our website and this blog to stay informed and to share information with us as it becomes available. We will be working diligently to communicate information to our public as we are updated. Please stay safe, and be sure you and your loved ones have a game plan.