The latest report of The Education Initiative, a partnership of Fort Polk Progress, Vernon Parish schools, JRTC & Fort Polk and community stakeholders, notes that the graduation rate for the total student population has climbed almost 10 per cent, to nine out of 10, over the three most-recent years measured.

“Moving Vernon Parish Schools from Good to Great!” is the initiative motto and the 30-page report is packed with data that seems to affirm that is the direction the system is going.

The report is through the 2016-17 school year. It shows a student population at 19 schools on 16 sites of just under 9,000, with 74 percent civilian; 26 percent military dependent.

Pre-deployment concern in early summer about a negative impact on the system population turned out to be worry for nothing. There are actually a few more students in Vernon schools now than a year ago.

Of that student count, 10 per cent are in Special Education, including special needs and gifted programs.

The student body is a diverse one: 69.6 per cent white, 15.4 black, 7.5 Hispanic, 1.2 Asian and 0.7 Native American.

And those students are for the most part doing well. For instance, the assessment index for 3rd-8th Grade (proficient or above) is 93.4, compared to the statewide 77.5. On the other end of the grade levels, ACT composite averages for Vernon students was 20.8, which meets the national average. Statewide it was 19.5.

Vernon students earned $7.39 million in TOPS scholarships in 2017. Those dollars are awarded on the basis of academic prowess.

The report notes the system is graded “A” under the state Department of Education Accountability Program. That was for the 2015-16 year, a grade earned again in the most-recent accounting.

In fact, Vernon’s score on performance testing ranked third in the state among traditional public school systems.

As of May 2017, the system had 1,236 full-time employees, including 580 teachers and 36 administrators. Among employees were 44 military spouses.

The overall student/teacher ratio was 14 to 1. Among those teachers were 441 with bachelor’s degrees, 113 with master’s degrees and 26 with master’s degrees plus hours.

The system had $95 million in revenue in 2016-17, and spent $93.9 million.

Revenue sources included: state Minimum Foundation Programs, $56.9 million; grants and contributions, $12.3 million; local taxes, $17.8 million; federal impact aid, $4.8 million; and $3.2 million from other sources.

Instruction, at $59.8 million, is the big ticket on the spending side. Other costs included: administration, $9.4 million; infrastructure, $7.4 million; food service, $6.4 million; transportation, $6.5 million; and student services, $4.4 million.