Lindsay Smythe, School Leader and founder of Ecole Saint-Landry in Sunset, a free, public French Immersion elementary school, joins Discover Lafayette to discuss her journey in offering a quality educational experience to our youngest students.
Lindsay is a bilingual educator with 17 years of experience in education at the elementary, high school, and university levels. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher, and she brings a sense of joy and adventure to the classroom.
She received a Master’s in Education from LSU. Upon deciding that she wanted to pursue a Doctorate in Education, Lindsay learned that she would have to be fluent in a foreign language to earn her doctorate. She had never studied French and to accomplish this task quickly, she registered at “Débutant Une” (level one) to attend one of the only French Immersion universities in the world: Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia, Canada, which is also the original home of the Acadiens who were deported from the region in 1755.
Lindsay fell in love with the French language, as well as the Nova Scotia landscape. She describes it as a beautiful area….”There is no better place than this, with warm, friendly people. Picture the most beautiful Festival weekend here and that is Nova Scotia in the summertime.”
She stayed on two years teaching French at Université Sainte-Anne and then returned to the United States to teach French at Lafayette High. During her tenure there, she was named the 2016 Lafayette Parish Teacher of the Year and also nominated as the Louisiana Foreign Language Teachers Association Teacher of the Year.
Lindsay Smythe is a passionate spokesperson for a great public school system as well as for compensating teachers at a level that will entice the best and brightest students to enter the profession. She learned while teaching in Canada that teachers are paid at a much higher level than in the U. S. and the demand for jobs is incredibly competitive. Teachers typically have a wait time of five years to qualify for a permanent role as a teacher, having to first work as a long-term sub to earn their stripes.
In December 2016, Lindsay was summoned to an exploratory meeting called by Stephen Ortego and Sunset Mayor Charles James to discuss the possibility of starting a French immersion elementary school. The building that used to house Sunset High had been sitting vacant, owned by the Town of Sunset, and Ortego had realized its potential as a site for a French Immersion school. As a French teacher and resident of Sunset, Lindsay immediately saw the value of the idea and jumped in headfirst. Local teachers and education doctorates Michelle Haj-Broussard and Nicole Boudreaux drafted the Charter language, and Ecole Saint-Landry was officially approved by the St. Landry School Board as a Type 1 Charter school in 2018.
Ecole Saint-Landry is in month five of its inaugural school year at this point, with 55 students in Kindergarten and 1st Grade. There are five teachers, all fluent in French necessitated by the fact that no English is spoken in the classrooms.
The school is available at no charge to St. Landry residents and transportation is provided at satellite bus stops by the St. Landry Parish School System. No child has to travel more than five miles to access the bus transportation.
Lindsay shared that Ecole Saint’Landry’s goal is to bring private school students into the public school system by having this unique education option available to its youngest students.
The school continues to draw on the cultural roots of the community of Sunset in many ways — its mascot is the Lion (the previous mascot of Sunset High). Its school colors are kelly green and old gold (the colors of the former Sunset High). The school has been renovated and is currently meeting in the old First Baptist Church of Sunset (671 Napoleon Ave.). However, the school has partnered with the City of Sunset to lease the old Sunset High building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans to renovate the old high school are underway.
Lindsay spoke proudly of the school’s Office Administrator, Sarah Savoy, who hails from the well-known Savoy Family Band in Eunice, Louisiana. Sarah recently moved back from France, after having lived there for 12 years and five in Russia prior to that. She teaches Music at the school and is a perfect fit for the school’s mission to keep our local culture at the forefront of the children’s lives as they learn to become involved in the community. Lindsay calls Sarah a godsend as the administrative tasks of a school administrator are endless.
SchoolMint has partnered with Ecole Saint-Landry to assist with online registrations, a huge relief for Lindsay after the first year of handling everything the old-fashioned way on paper! SchoolMint is also helping identify potentially interested families and optimizing the school’s SEO and “Google presence.” Lindsay is also grateful to the Schumacher Family Foundation for its financial support of the school.
The benefits of a French Immersion curriculum and experience are great. Research shows that bilingual students perform well and can thrive, no matter what their socio-economic background, as all children start out having to learn the foreign language together. No one has a head start and it levels the playing field.
The application process for the upcoming school year is now open. There are no French language proficiency requirements for students applying for Kindergarten and first-grade seats. Second-grade students applying must have an equivalent French proficiency of his/her peers.
Interested families may apply to register for Ecole Saint-Landry’s upcoming school year by visiting https://ecolestlandry.schoolmint.com/login.
École Saint-Landry is seeking to fill 60 new kindergarten seats, 11 new 1st grade seats, and 1 new 2nd-grade seat. If fewer than those totals have applied by 5:00 PM on February 28, 2022, all students who have applied will be granted admission to the school. A lottery will be held the first week of March 2022 if more students than the allotted number apply. Applicants will be selected by random computer drawing for available seats. Applicants not selected will be placed on a numbered waiting list. Note: younger siblings of current students get automatic entry to the school upon application.
Any students who apply after February 28th at 5:00 PM will be admitted to the school on a first-come, first-serve basis until all seats are filled. Those who apply after all seats are full will be placed on a numbered waiting list.
We thank Lindsay Smythe for her commitment to public education and in particular, for inspiring our youngest to learn the beautiful French language. Best wishes on a bright and successful future!