CROWLEY – With one dissenting vote Monday night, the Acadia Parish School Board approved what they believe to be a great asset in dental hygiene for the students of Church Point Elementary School.
In a program brought forth by Church Point Elementary to the board’s September committee meetings, SMILE will help provide dental care to students who otherwise would not have access to it.
SMILE, a mobile dentistry practice that is now in 270 schools across the state aims to get students the dental care they need that otherwise can be hard if not impossible to take on.
SMILE is funded by Medicare/Medicaid. With so few dentists in the area accepting Medicare, the supply has not been meeting the demand, according to Principal Joe Jacobi. Thus, when school nurse Melissa Briscoe returned from a convention this summer and told the principal about the SMILE program, Jacobi jumped at the potential opportunity.
Roughly one hundred students could see the benefits of the program, according to Jacobi and Briscoe’s early estimates, however, that number will be based solely on how many parents consent to the program.
“I see the benefit for our kids,” Jacobi reiterated Monday night.
He also explained how other school districts gave glowing reviews of the program.
The board learned at the committee meetings as well as Monday night that, while it depends on what work each child needs to have done, the mobile unit could see anywhere between 10 to 20 students each day they are at the school. They will return as often as needed (depending of course on scheduling between SMILE and the school) and will also return in six months, becoming a “dental home” for the students that use the program.
The only obligations for the school are to send out and collect consent forms and to provide a room that SMILE can work out of, and the school board is not entering into a contract with SMILE, thus if they deem the project to not be working, they need only give adequate notice (90 days was suggested at the committee meeting) to say they are opting out.
“To me, this is a no-brainer,” said Lynn Shamsie, school board member, district three.
But there were concerns raised. School board member for district five Roland Boudreaux brought forth a letter and concern from a dentist in Rayne.
In his letter, Edwin L. Bercier IV, D.D.S. expressed his concerns over Dr. Greg Folse’s business model, the blanket consent forms used and how after a dental procedure (i.e. a tooth extraction), the child will be under the supervision of a teacher, which could be problematic if the child has an allergic reaction or post-operative emergency.
Bercier also pointed to how other programs like Kool Smiles have come under fire for their business practices.
Folse, on hand for the meeting Monday as well, explained that Bercier’s worriers were not as problematic as they appeared.
“There are a number of national, in-office programs [like Kool Smiles], but they are different from SMILE,” he said.
Folse pointed to the need for dentistry care across the state, and, in particular Acadia Parish, and how he and his team take precautions and are still around after a tooth extraction and so forth at the school seeing other children.
“Also, we will need written permission (through consent forms) to extract a tooth, but we also call the parent first if the child needs an extraction.
Students are also sent home with a “report card” informing the parent of what was done, what still needs to be done and the phone number of a 24-hour hotline in case of emergencies. Also, if the child needs it, he or she will be referred to a specialist, just as any other general dentist does.
Job descriptions change
Principals in Acadia Parish can officially receive the help they may need with teacher evaluations after Monday night’s school board meeting.
With the changes to the evaluation system put in place by the state came changes to the job description of instructional assistants and disciplinarians, and the Acadia Parish School Board changed its job description at its October meeting to reflect those changes.
Now, they will also have the authority to evaluate teachers if they are certified to do so and the school’s principal opts to allow them.
Several board members voiced concerns over the change, particularly in regards to instructional assistants due to their intricate relationship with teachers already, but Ellan Kay Baggett, executive director of personnel/operations, pointed that while the evaluations are done by one single person, other factors like collaborative observations are brought into play.
“It should be a collaborative effort anyway at schools, period,” she said. “The principal will have a say as well, certainly.”
Superintendent John Bourque agreed, reiterating that it is all a process from day one that concerns the school’s entire administrative staff.
“I just hope everyone is on the same page throughout the parish,” said Milton Simar, school board member district eight.
Board President and district six representative Gene Daigle agreed, but also knows that the concern is throughout the state, not just Acadia Parish concerning the new system.
“Everyone wants to be ‘highly effective’, no one wants to be a ‘one’,” he said. “But you have to be evaluated.”
The job description change passed with no opposing vote.
The board will hold its next general meeting Nov. 5.