Freshwater is State’s Most Improved School

Freshwater is State’s Most Improved School
Posted on 12/18/2019
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Freshwater Elementary is State’s Most Improved School;
Principal Attributes Success to Caring Atmosphere

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. – Freshwater Elementary Principal Julie Dugas expected good news when the state announced its latest accountability scores for each school in the state.

She knew, that at her school: (1) more teachers were gaining comfort with teaching the district’s more rigorous curriculum; (2) more teachers were using data to better personalize their lesson plans and create one-on-one instructional sessions; (3) more teachers were voluntarily participating in student-learning activities before and after regular hours; (4) more teachers were investing in greater professional development workshops and exercises; and (5) more students were performing at higher levels, according to in-class testing and observations.

What she didn’t expect was for her school’s improvements to be so dramatic that they would elevate her school to be the most improved in the state and to put Freshwater Elementary in the top 2 percent of all elementary and middle schools in the state!

According to the Louisiana Department of Education, only nine schools in Louisiana improved by 10 percentage points or more. Freshwater Elementary was the most improved – increasing its overall mastery rate from 43 percent to 60 percent – a 17 percent jump. Out of 1,267 elementary and middle schools (non-magnets) statewide, Freshwater came in at number 27.

Freshwater Elementary’s overall School Performance Score also grew from 83.5 in 2018 to 95.7 in 2019 – a 12.2-point improvement. One of the most impressive score indicators was the school’s progress index, which measures the number of individual students who meet their growth target level – that number grew from 100.7 points in 2018 to 115 points in 2019, reflecting a 14.3 jump that easily earned Freshwater Elementary an “A” status rating as a Top Gains Honoree.

“When they started announcing the numbers, I couldn’t believe it. I knew our students and teachers had given their best, but the numbers were amazing,” Dugas said. “Our school was at the top in our district and among the state’s very best. Most of our teachers recorded the top scores overall in their grade and subject areas.”

Dugas noted that some teachers grew their individual sections by double digits and a few by more than 20 points.

Compared to all 24 elementary schools in the district, Freshwater Elementary proved to be a top performer in several areas: 1st overall in math, 1st overall in science, 2nd overall in social studies, and 5th overall in English/Language Arts. At the individual grade levels, Freshwater’s third graders scored 1st among all parish third graders in math, social studies and English/Language Arts and 3rd in science; the fourth graders scored 4th in science, and 5th in math and social studies; and the fifth graders scored 1st in math, 1st in science, and 3rd in English/Language Arts and social studies.

“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.”

Dugas, who has been named the 2020 Livingston Parish Elementary Principal of the Year, said she tries to lead by example. It is evident that she believes in her faculty and staff and knows that Freshwater’s success is a family effort and everyone on campus has a stake in that success.

“We are truly a family here at Freshwater. Our faculty and staff sincerely care about one other and that makes for some great friendships. It’s nice to surround yourself with caring people, as it only betters each of us. And that attitude trickles down to our students, one by one,” she said.

Dugas contributes many things to the school’s success, but no improvements have come overnight, she said. “I’ve committed myself to taking more time to pray for my faculty and staff. 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. I encourage them to be confident in their abilities as they have worked hard all year and it is their time to shine,” she said.

Dugas said her teachers also provide incentives throughout the year, as well as during testing time, to students who have shown growth.

“We are proud of all of our students. From pre-K to fifth grade, we are all in this together. Our students’ success builds upon each grade level, and all are vital to their individual achievement. We believe in our students and want to celebrate every improvement and provide encouragement,” Dugas said.

“We know that if kids believe in themselves, then they can accomplish great things.”

Notice of Discrimination

The Livingston Parish School Board does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, religion, national origin, disability or gender in its educational programs and activities (including employment and application for employment), and it is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of gender by Title IX (20 USC 168) and on the basis of disability by Section 504 (42 USC 794). The Title IX Coordinator is Stephen Parrill

Livingston Parish Public Schools is committed to ensuring that all websites and web applications, both public-facing and for internal use, conform to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (W.C.A.G.) 2.0 Level AA. Any issues should be reported (, Assistant Superintendent, P.O. Box 1130, Livingston, LA 70754; Phone (225) 686-7044. The Special Education Director is Dr. Eric Penalber (; the LPPS 504 Coordinator is Marcia McKnight (, P.O. Box 1130 Livingston, LA 70754; Phone (225)686-4248.

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