Freshwater Elementary School was named Louisiana’s most improved school, and its principal, who is the 2020 Livingston Parish Elementary Principal of the Year, credits the improvement to the school’s caring atmosphere.
Principal Julie Dugas said more Freshwater teachers were comfortable teaching a more difficult curriculum, more teachers used data to further personalize their lessons, more teachers participated after school hours in student-learning activities and more students started performing at higher levels, according to Livingston Parish Public Schools.
“I’m so proud of our teachers and their willingness to do what it takes to make our students successful,” Dugas said. “We have a philosophy here at Freshwater and it is simple, but the execution has to be sincere – put the students first in all that we do, set high expectations, and establish caring relationships with every single student. We can’t effectively teach a child unless he or she knows we care.”
Freshwater’s philosophy undoubtedly helped boost its students’ learning.
The school’s overall mastery rate soared from 43% to 60%, and Freshwater was ranked No. 27 out of 1,267 similar elementary and middle schools in the state, according to the Louisiana Department of Education.
Freshwater further outshined the other 23 elementary schools in its district, and it ranks No. 1 overall in math and science, No. 2 overall in social studies and No. 5 in English and social studies, according to LPPS.
Dugas said the staff at Freshwater seems more like family, and they sincerely care about one another. She said staff members’ caring attitudes trickles down to their students.
Dugas makes sure she does more than her fair share to help her staff and students.
“I’ve committed myself to taking more time to pray for my faculty and staff,” Dugas said. “I establish relationships with our students all year long, but I take time to go into the classrooms before each testing period and talk to the kids about their concerns and about being nervous and how to overcome fears. I make a point to give every student a hand-written note to let them know I believe in them.”