HARVEY, LA (WVUE) - The Jefferson Parish school system is the largest in the state, and its new leader is facing some harsh realities.
After 100 days on the job, Dr. Cade Brumley just completed a performance assessment as he works on a game plan designed to improve student performance and raise teacher pay.
With more than 47,000 students, the Jefferson Parish school system faces some big challenges.
Brumley sat down for a one-on-one interview with FOX 8 after he completed an assessment of school strengths and weaknesses.
"Right now we lose three out of 10 teachers every year, and it's worse with our first-year teachers," said Brumley.
Brumley believes teacher attrition is partly responsible for some disturbing trends. His analysis found that the number of 3rd- and 8th-grade students who showed proficiency in LEAP testing dropped from 61% two years ago to 55% last school year.
Average ACT composite scores also dipped from 19.3 to 19.1.
"I don't look at this as an expense as much as investment. You have to make sure we have talent...and you get those results from that talent," said Brumley.
Brumley and the School Board are now trying to build community support to pass a millage increase where previous efforts failed. He hopes to fund teacher and staff pay raises. Jefferson teachers are the lowest-paid in the region, and Brumley has already come up with a way to provide a small $250 pay raise.
"With our recent reorganization, we cut about $1.3 million in district administrative costs, and we re-directed that in a raise for our employees," said Brumley.
School officials say the system has many strengths to build on. Six schools, like Metairie's Haynes Academy, ranked among the state's top 15, a model that school leaders hope to build on with career academies like the one being planned at NOLA Motorsports on the Westbank. It would feature as many as 14 career development areas.
"I envision a situation where you can do a career school where people can learn the movie industry and go right over to Elmwood and be employed in the movie industry. That's something that will hopefully be running a long time that no one has really explored at the high school level," said Jefferson Parish School Board President Mark Morgan.
Another big challenge are school facilities. Unlike Orleans parish schools, which saw a complete rebuild after Katrina, some JP schools are 50 years or older.
The system has a $700 million facilities upgrade plan, but it will have to wait.
"Although we've identified a plan, our first order of business is to retain teachers," said Morgan.
The expectations for the new superintendent are high.
"He's the Drew Brees of superintendents, we are lucky to have him," said Morgan.
And Cade Brumley says he's ready.
"Failure is not an option. We need to get this right so our kids get what they need," said Brumley.
School officials are hoping to have a plan in place, to seek a millage increase to pay for teacher pay raises, perhaps as early as next May.