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Principal helps repair New Orleans schools

May 14, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

MAUGANSVILLE -- Archie van Norden's brother lost his Gulf Coast home during Hurricane Katrina, making it hard for the Maugansville Elementary School principal to resist a chance to help restore some New Orleans schools.

"They are trying to make a comeback, but it's taking a long time," van Norden said.

Van Norden, 55, of Halfway, was one of 100 elementary and middle school principals nationwide who participated in the National Association of Elementary School Principals' annual convention in April.

Part of the professional development conference included a day of service, when attendees performed landscaping work at two New Orleans schools.

"One school, from the outside, was in pretty bad shape," said van Norden, the only Washington County principal to attend the conference.

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Van Norden said the principals cleared dead animals from the middle school grounds, planted new shrubbery, spread mulch and planted trees. At the elementary school, the principals focused on planting shrubbery and spreading mulch.

The group wanted to make repairs inside as well, but students were taking state tests, van Norden said.

The principals saw the students' reactions as they were giving their schools a face-lift.

"You could see their faces ... big smiles," van Norden said. "We were just there to help out in any way we could."

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