EBRPSS Focus Choice Programs: Building a strong workforce for Baton Rouge’s future

Dr. Lillie Flores, Director of Focus Choice Schools

To help prepare students for the area’s workforce demands, East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS) has implemented two programs specifically focused on current and anticipated career pathways in the medical and environmental fields. As the Director of Focus Choice Schools, Dr. Lillie Flores, who joined the team in the Innovative and Specialized Programs Department in October 2022, is responsible for implementing new schools and monitoring the progress of programs at Park Elementary and Eva Legard Learning Center.  


Top executives: Lillie Flores, East Baton Rouge Parish Magnet Schools Director of Focus Choice Schools; Elizabeth Thomas, Recruiter for Innovative and Specialized Programs

Phone: 225.922.5472

Address: 1050 S. Foster Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Website: ebrfocus.org

“These Focus Choice model schools help promote career awareness while giving students a comprehensive knowledge of specific industries,” says Flores. In addition, micro-programs focus  on specialized themes designed by agreements with post-secondary institutions, such as LSU and Southern, for a Teaching Academy at J.K. Haynes. Future programs will include other industry-based partners, each assisting the district with implementation and specialized support for students and teachers. 

“We work with industries and post-secondary partners across the district who work as intentional partners to create a pipeline to college and careers in the chosen field. The boutique school model increases choice options for students through smaller class sizes and specialized programming,” says Dr. Sito Narcisse, the Superintendent for EBRPSS.

The medical program at Park Elementary is an exploratory model for students in grades Pre-K  through 7th grade for the upcoming school year, and the Eva Legard Center for Coastal and Environmental Studies for sixth and seventh graders. The program at J. K. Haynes will serve students in kindergarten through sixth grade, phasing in a grade each year. 

By closely partnering with industry-based partners aligned with each school, Flores and her team collaborate with area employers on events, guest speakers, and enrichment and field experiences for both students and teachers. “Each session offers more awareness of the broad scope of career opportunities within their school’s field,” she says. “We want students to learn as much as possible about each field so they’ll leave knowing that industries are not just limited to one facet, but offer all ranges of career opportunities.”

By meeting regularly with CEOs and program directors of partnering companies, a goal of the district’s Focus Choice Schools is to help students achieve industry-based certifications and internship opportunities. Focus Choice Schools are programs offered to any student residing in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. However, students must maintain a specific grade point average, reflecting the existing admission requirements and prerequisite based on the requirement at the post-secondary level. 

“If our goal is to get students into the career path of the school they attend, certain grade point average retentions is only to assure students that they will be academically successful in their programs of choice,” said Flores. “Maintaining these requirements reduces false expectations and equips students with education and skills necessary to get into related college programs.”

The concept of the Focus Choice model, a vision of Superintendent Narcisse, was developed after looking at other school districts’ successful strategies to retain their brightest, most talented young people, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) based occupations. Identifying technology, construction and manufacturing, medical and pre-med, transportation and logistics, and liberal arts and management as the area’s five strongest fields, the district began forming partnerships with related businesses. Today, Baton Rouge General Medical Center is the industry partner for Park Medical Academy, and the LSU College of the Coast and Environment is the partner for the Eva Legard Center for Coastal and Environmental Studies. 

“Anytime our office forms a partnership with an organization, what they stand for and the good they do in our community are carefully considered,” says Flores. “We hope that these partnerships will help students jump right into related college courses, then on to the workforce.”

So far, data is showing significant success for the Focus Choice Schools. From increased attendance to higher grades to stronger teacher engagement, once struggling schools are now thriving.

With national complaints about the education system, Flores and her team are thrilled to partner with the community and area businesses to move the needle forward in the Baton Rouge area by identifying issues that need focus and change, purposefully choosing programs that can affect positive change in those areas, and intentionally choosing fields of study that could lead to a better Baton Rouge.

“Louisiana has great minds, a strong culture, a rich history, and bright people, and the decision to go with the Focus Choice School model was born because we’re trying to keep our talent here,” she says. “The East Baton Rouge Parish School System committed to doing our part to help students learn more about career paths they can follow right here in Baton Rouge.”