St. Bernard Parish Public Schools Leverages Data to Create a Bright Future

Posted by Matt Berringer on November 13, 2013

Chalmette, LA, December 16, 2005 - As residents return to St. Bernard Parish, students return to the scholastic life at the St. Bernard Unified School located in trailers and a portion of the second floor at Chalmette High School.  This facility currently has 550 enrolled from 14 different schools.  They have been open since Nov. 14 while reconstuction continues at the high school.  Robert Kaufmann/FEMA Robert Kaufmann/FEMA

School District Profile:

  • Public school district serving students in the parish southeast of New Orleans, an area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
  • The storm devastated all 15 of the district’s buildings and forced most of the district’s students and staff to abandon their homes. Enrollment fell from 8,800 to 334 students.
  • Today, St. Bernard Parish Public Schools has repaired and reopened 11 schools and its enrollment is approaching pre-Katrina levels. The district’s extraordinary efforts and determination are inspiring a generation of students to pursue their educational dreams despite the obstacles.


Demonstrate to students that “given a vision, an extraordinary effort will result in extraordinary success.”


Leverage data in SunGard K-12 Education’s student information system, eSchoolPLUS, to guide teachers in improving individual student performance.

St. Bernard Parish Public Schools’ Success Story

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through St. Bernard Parish, La. One of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history, Katrina created a 25-foot storm surge that destroyed the parish’s levees and left behind five- to 12-feet of standing water in the community. All 15 school buildings of St. Bernard Parish Public Schools were devastated, some beyond repair.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the school district led the community’s rebirth, resuming classes on November 14, 2005, at St. Bernard Unified School, which was comprised of temporary trailers and an undamaged portion of Chalmette High School. Just 334 of the district’s 8,800 students attended on re-opening day—brave warriors in the community’s fight to restore a sense of normalcy to everyday life.

Today, the district has been shaped by the determination of its administration, staff, parents, and students in those days in the aftermath of the historic storm. With widespread support, St. Bernard Parish has repaired and reopened 11 schools. Families continue to return to the community, growing the student population to about 6,500—not quite what it was on that fateful day in August 2005, but certainly reminiscent of the days before Katrina forever altered their way of life.

School Data Survives the Storm

For George Cancienne, St. Bernard Parish Public Schools’ computer services manager, the seemingly herculean task of rebuilding was eased by a fortuitous circumstance.

“We didn’t lose too much because my data center is on the second floor. Our first floor was destroyed by the flood, but the second floor was fine,” he explains. “When we got back, my mainframe was okay … and I lost just one server in my office.

“At the time, our systems weren’t set up as they are today,” he recalls. “Basically our mainframe did everything, and I was lucky to have copied all the files off before the storm.” His efforts backed up all of the district’s information, including its student data—which was then, as it is today, collected in eSchoolPLUS, SunGard K-12 Education’s student information system.

eSchoolPLUS is a recognized industry-leading student information system. It has received Gartner’s highest possible rating and was named to District Administration’s Top 100 products list. A cost-effective software solution, eSchoolPLUS helps educators manage day-to-day student administration, monitor student performance, and facilitate communication between district staff, parents, and students.

The data from eSchoolPLUS gave district faculty and administrators one solid foothold from which they could start the rebuilding process.

Looking Forward with High Expectations

After years of effort, St. Bernard Parish Public Schools have been revitalized. Today, the district is a leader in student achievement.

Fundamental to St. Bernard Parish’s educational philosophy is the belief that “expectations for learning must be high in order for students to think critically and produce quality work.” For Cancienne, eSchoolPLUS is a key to the realization of this truth, as the system provides the data that helps educators develop a firm understanding of the needs and abilities of the individual student.

Cancienne and his team mine student performance data from the student information system. “It’s good to have the data there, but if you’re just using it to print report cards, what good does it do you?” asks Cancienne.

In eSchoolPLUS, the district has set up a benchmark assessment grade for each student. “We import all the state testing data. Once we load all those test records, we can run reports for each teacher by subject area. Then they can look at how the student performance was the previous year and see how to help them,” he explains.

“When you give a report like that to a teacher, he or she can see where individual students aren’t performing well and can help that student improve. Not every student needs help in the same way. One student may be lacking in one area and another may need help somewhere else. You have to tailor your teaching for different students. And, I think these reports give teachers that data to analyze each student’s capabilities.”

A Brightened Future for Students

Guided by data, St. Bernard Parish educators are energizing their classrooms—empowering their students and brightening their future. “We’re quite proud of how well our students are achieving,” says Cancienne. “And, that’s because of the efforts of our teaching staff and our administration.”

Since the days before Katrina, Cancienne says the district has added more and more technology to support teachers as they seek to inspire students to be “responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.” “We now have smart boards for teachers with laptops, which are just changing education tremendously,” he says. “All this technology has got to be making a world of difference for our teachers and students.”

In addition, the district holds a Data Fest every summer. During the session, principals and curriculum supervisors review data from eSchoolPLUS and state benchmark assessments and develop a “game plan” for improving student performance during the coming academic year.

While implementing the plan, the school district uses SunGard K-12 Education’s Home Access Center to engage parents and guardians in supporting student achievement. “I think Home Access Center has been a real hit with our parents,” says Cancienne.

Thanks to these initiatives, St. Bernard Parish Public Schools are demonstrating by example that “given a vision, an extraordinary effort will result in extraordinary success.”

Visit SunGard K-12 Education’s website for more stories celebrating our customers’ success.

Topics: technology, eschoolplus, Case Studies, Customer Profiles, K-12