After three failed attempts, school tax passes in St. Helena

GREENSBURG, LA (WAFB) - The community needed to see improvement in the schools before they said yes to paying more taxes in St. Helena Parish. Several times residents have said no to a pay raise for teachers and money to improve the schools, but Tuesday night, both a tax and a bond issue passed. Some teachers say it's all due to the vision of their new leadership.

They show up to class every day ready to teach, but this morning some of the teachers in St. Helena just couldn't hold back their smiles.

Starting pay in the district is $30,000, the lowest in the state. Last night, voters there approved a new school tax that will give teachers a $6,000 raise.

"We have teachers that live here and go out to other parishes to work. That won't have to happen anymore, because they can make a decent salary here," said Norweda Carter, a teacher at St. Helena Elementary School.

Superintendent Kelli Joseph says that raise will appear on checks next school year.

Voters also approved a tax plan that will build a new eight-classroom building at the elementary school, renovate buildings at St. Helena High School, fix the auditorium and gym there as well and add a new football field.

"We have a clear vision to increase student achievement, develop educator effectiveness and build public confidence," Joseph said, when asked why the tax has passed now after it failed three previous times, under other leadership.

Some feel Joseph has done more for this system than past leaders, and she's only been here for one year.

"They can't say anything about us now, we have changed. We're the number one most improved school in state, we're accredited and we got our tax passed," said Cynthia Lee, another teacher at the elementary school.

They say Joseph has put the right people in place and without those positives - the public would have voted the tax down again.

Joseph says the credit should stay in the classroom because that's where the changes have happened. She adds, those changes are just beginning.

"We're still working on building public confidence. While we did win by 54 percent, we still have the remaining that are not convinced," Joseph said.

Joseph says her next mission is to regain control of the middle school; it is currently under state takeover.

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