Eyebrows could be raised by the Faith and Character Task Force — a component of Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper’s Turnaround Plan for the Lafayette Parish School System.

Yet, that potential “elephant in the room” was quickly addressed during a workshop held prior to Wednesday’s meeting of the Lafayette Parish School Board by the chairman of the task force, Pastor Bobby Richard of Hope Alive.

Pastor Bobby Richard speaking during Wednesday's school board workshop 

“I’ll tell you what our intention is not — this task force was not formed with any secret motive to proselytize to any LPSS student or faculty member,” Richard says of the group, which consists of pastors and congregation members from a growing number of churches from around Acadiana. “We certainly don’t need another platform to speak from or pulpit to preach from.”

The purpose of the task force, says Richard, is to assist with one of the Turnaround Plan’s key components: that all students entering the school system graduate, better known as 100 percent in / 100 percent out.

“Our message is no drugs, no bullying, sexual abstinence and to stay in school,” explains Richard. “What we’re trying to provide is character and life skills, mentorships, family support and other volunteer support services. All at no cost to the school system.”

One testimonial for the task force came from Evangeline Elementary School Principal Felise Williams.

The orange shirts worn by the task force volunteers has become a popular sight at her school, she says, adding so is the help they’ve been providing since the start of this school year.

“Whenever they see a need, they don’t ask, they just do it,” says Williams.

Along with providing monthly “treats” for Evangeline’s teachers, the volunteers, says Williams, have helped with everything from assisting with car rider duty to sitting with students selected for a special lunch for good behavior whose parents were unable to attend. They also have a tendency for cleaning up, adds Williams, and will soon begin an effort to impart good sportsmanship skills by playing basketball with the school’s students.

“This task force has the biggest potential for our children and for bringing our community together,” says Williams.

According to LPSS Community Collaboration & Partnerships Director Angela Morrison, there are 44 local churches involved in the task force so far. The task force, she adds, is still in the early stages of development, and the next step, she says, is to begin introducing the churches to school leadership.

“We are really just starting to introduce the churches to school leadership,” says Morrison. “We felt it was important to first introduce the scope of the work of the task force to the board last evening, and we will continue to orient the principals over the next few weeks.”

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