Yet another “Good Idea”…

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By Kevin Shannahan

The recent decision by the BESE Board to require students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or have their parents sign an opt out form in order to graduate from high school is an example of both overreach and ineffectiveness – unfortunately a common result when someone in government gets a “good idea.” It addresses a minor symptom while failing to see a much larger problem, one that will not lend itself to superficial “feel good” solutions and therefore won’t be addressed.

I was a schoolteacher in one of Louisiana’s poorest districts for four years after leaving the Air Force. After that, I worked for seven years in the Admissions Office of one of our state universities. Those jobs gave me a unique insight into the condition of secondary education in our state. I visited high schools in every parish in Louisiana where I met many bright, interesting kids, easily the equal of any in the country. While there is considerable room for improvement, our better high schools do a good job with top students. Unfortunately, such is not the case in the majority of schools I visited and in none of the poorer ones.  A bright child in one of those schools is not being educated to anywhere near his/her potential. This is a waste that borders on immoral.

Seniors not filling out financial aid paperwork is the least of our state’s educational woes. The quality of guidance in the schools is as abysmal as the education all too many of them fail to provide. There are other symptoms, many more serious than the low numbers of seniors filling out the FAFSA. How many high schools schedule homecoming or dances on the night before an ACT test date? How many  schools fail to offer the PSAT or SAT, the only gateway to a National Merit or Achievement Scholarship? I once found myself explaining what those scholarships were to a guidance counselor at a large public high school in New Orleans. Her “We don’t do that” condemned her students to unknowable lost opportunity.

The temptation to impose rules rather than know the underlying cause is a constant temptation to bureaucracies everywhere that must be constantly guarded against. If we only had one more rule, everything would be so much better…

Contrast the new BESE rule with The Taylor Opportunity Program (TOPS) one of, if not the, most successful educational reform enacted by our state. Its authors looked at the end goal-what does a young person need from his or her high school to make it through college and how can we incentivise both the student and the schools to prepare for that  future? BESE’s new rule makes government an endlessly nagging scold. “Do this! Don’t do that! We know what’s best and it’s for your own good anyway!” TOPS tells a young person “Do this and we’ll help you build a better life.”

Ask yourself how many high schools offered foreign languages before TOPS? No edict came from on high commanding high schools to offer foreign languages and  advanced math. Parents wanting the opportunity for their children bought into the idea and drove the change, bettering the district and its students. That, not nagging edicts from Baton Rouge, is how you drive positive change. Were I in charge, I would not ban dances and ballgames x amount of days from an ACT test date, nor would I declare that the PSAT/SAT must be offered in every district. Instead, I would work to change the culture so that those things would become important. Care to venture a guess as to which approach leads to lasting change?

VENDORS SOUGHT FOR 2016 BLOOMIN’ ON THE BRICKS

Annual Spring Festival & Garden Show to be Held March 19

The City of Natchitoches Main Street Office is seeking vendors for the 2016 Bloomin’ on the Bricks spring festival. The 16th Annual Bloomin’ on the Bricks, Natchitoches’ spring garden festival, will be held on Saturday, March 19, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the downtown riverbank in Natchitoches’ Historic Landmark District.

The event will feature an exhibit area of lawn and garden vendors who will display and sell an assortment of items related to garden and lawn care. Vendors of lawn and garden merchandise such as landscaping, nurseries, lawn furniture, ironwork, yard art, garden décor, etc. are invited to participate in this year’s show. Vendor spaces are available for $50 per each 10×10 space.

Bloomin’ on the Bricks, organized by the Natchitoches Main Street Program, is a celebration of spring throughout the City’s Historic District. Visitors will be able to see the beauty of springtime in downtown Natchitoches through its hanging flower baskets and thousands of daffodils and tulips planted along the riverbank. The event will also feature live entertainment, children’s activities and food booths. Bloomin’ on the Bricks is free and open to the public.

For those interested in becoming a vendor at Bloomin’ on the Bricks, please contact the City of Natchitoches Main Street Office at (318) 352-2746 for more information.

Third-quarter wake-up call spurs NSU to victory against Xavier (La.)

Janelle Perez - NSU Basketball

Janelle Perez directs traffic during NSU’s 73-57 win against Xavier (La.) on Tuesday night. Photo credit: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photographic Services

NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State women’s basketball team needed a little pickup early in the second half Tuesday night.

Fourth-year co-head coach Brooke Stoehr quickly called timeout and made sure her team understood her concerns.

Buoyed by that timely timeout, Northwestern State recaptured the momentum and carried it to a 73-57 victory over visiting Xavier University of Louisiana in its final non-conference game of the season.

“Sometimes you just have to get their attention,” Stoehr said. “I didn’t like our intensity and our energy to start the second half. We had some people on the floor who weren’t playing very hard. We challenged them in the timeout. The whole gym probably heard it, and they responded. We have a great group of kids, and we love this team, but sometimes they’re not mean enough. They need to be a little more aggressive on both ends of the floor.

“I’m very proud of how they responded.”

NSU (6-5) led by 12 at halftime before the visiting Gold Nuggets (9-5) rattled off the first six points of the second half, forcing a pair of Northwestern State turnovers in the process.

After Stoehr took the timeout at the 7:45 mark of the third quarter, NSU responded with an 13-2 run across the next 6:27 to take firm control of the game.

Senior Janelle Perez and freshman Cheyenne Brown ignited the run, combining for 10 of NSU’s 13 points in that stretch.

Perez finished with a game-high 22 points and team bests in rebounds (7) and assists (4) as Northwestern State won its season-high third straight game.

Brown added 13 points as NSU put four players in double figures. Shahd Abboud (12) and Beatrice Attura (10) rounded out NSU’s double-figure scoring crew.

Brown tallied six of her points during the game-turning run and now has scored in double figures in three of the first four home games she has played in this season.

Perez, meanwhile, typified Northwestern State’s offensive efficiency Tuesday night, hitting 7 of 10 shots and knocking down all seven of her free throw attempts. Her 22 points made Perez the thrd NSU player to crack 20 points in a game this season, joining Abboud and Attura.

“It just comes down to playing basketball,” Perez said. “We’ve all played since we were younger. Being able to read each other and being able to execute the plays and being able to read the defense and taking what they give us is pretty awesome. Getting that going allows us to open up for other teammates and get them open and work with that.”

Xavier’s Donyeah Mayfield shook off an 0-for-8 first-half shooting performance to score all 13 of her team-high points in the second half, but Xavier was never fully able to recover from a sluggish 3-for-25 shooting start.

NSU shot the ball well throughout, hitting a season-high 53.5 percent of its shots.

“It’s always hard coming off a layoff,” said Stoehr, whose team last played 10 days ago. “You’re used to being in the gym every day, and you take a break from games and you wonder how much rust is going to be on. I thought our execution for the most part was really good. We got some good action off our pick and roll. We got in the paint and created. We were able, when the post helped up defensively, to finish some shots and get to the free-throw line. We got to the line 34 times. We were aggressive. That’s what you want.”

Northwestern State returns to play Saturday when it opens Southland Conference play by hosting Houston Baptist at 1 p.m. in a rematch of the 2015 Southland Conference Tournament championship game. That game is the opener of an SLC doubleheader that will feature the Houston Baptist-Northwestern State men’s game at 3 p.m. in Prather Coliseum.

Demons outlast Centenary 92-69

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SHREVEPORT – Northwestern State fought off a strong effort by Division III Centenary Tuesday night, shooting 58.5 percent from the floor and pulling away for a 92-69 road win over the Gentlemen in front of 1,377, many of them Demon fans, at the Gold Dome.

NSU (3-7), winning its second straight after a 10-day layoff sandwiched around Christmas, led 45-34 at halftime, built the spread to 17 and weathered a Centenary run within 66-61. From that point, The Demons scored 12 of the next 17 points to start a game-ending 26-8 run.

Five Northwestern State players scored in double figures, led by the eighth-leading scorer in NCAA Division I, junior guard Zeek Woodley, who posted 20 points on 7 of 9 aim, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers. He also snatched 7 rebounds.

Freshman center Ishmael Lane missed only one of eight shots and recorded 15 points and a game-high 9 rebounds. Junior guard Sabri Thompson scored 14, as did freshman Malik Metoyer in his first double-digit scoring output. Sophomore point guard Devonte Hall, playing across the Red River from his hometown of Bossier City, posted 10 points and a game-best 7 points, more than his 5.7 average that ranks 40th in the country.

NSU sank 9 of 15 3-point shots and 31 of 53 overall.

The Gents, whose 7-3 record entering the game did not change since they counted the contest as an exhibition, picked up a game-best 23 points from sophomore guard Travion Kirkendoll, along with 14 apiece by Kendall Demouchet and Brandon Campbell.

Centenary remained in range most of the night despite making only 38 percent of its shots, just 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

“There were stretches when we did some things pretty well, and definitely one of them was how we reacted when Centenary closed the gap on us in the second half,” said NSU coach Mike McConathy. “I thought Centenary competed very well, played a smart and tough game, and that’s what we anticipated. This was a good way to come off the break and get ready for the conference season.”

NSU opens Southland Conference play Saturday afternoon at home against Houston Baptist in a 3 p.m. game that follows a 1 o’clock women’s contest between the schools. Another Southland doubleheader follows Monday night with a 5:30 women’s tip and a 7:30 men’s start slated at Prather Coliseum as Sam Houston State visits.

SOLICITATION OF VOLUNTEER TO SERVE ON CANE RIVER WATERWAY COMMISSION

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Parish President Rick Nowlin has announced his intention to submit a list of three persons to the Governor’s Office of Boards and Commissions for consideration for appointment to the Cane River Waterway Commission. Persons interested in serving on the Cane River Waterway Commission may submit their name and contact information by mailing it to the Office of the President, P. O. Box 799, 200 Church Street, Natchitoches 71458-0779; by calling Mrs. Lynda Vance, Executive Assistant to the President at (318) 352-2714; or by sending an email to admin@npgov.org).  Mrs. Vance will provide all interested persons the application instructions.

Applications must be received by close of business on Monday, January 4, 2016 in order to be considered.

PRESS RELEASE: December 29, 2015

PARISH OF NATCHITOCHES
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
200 CHURCH STREET
NATCHITOCHES, LOUISIANA 71457

Parish Solid Waste Schedule for New Year’s

Solid Waste Bags

Natchitoches Parish President Rick Nowlin announces that all Parish Solid Waste facilities, including the Parish Landfill located at 4597 Hwy. 1 North, will be closed on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2016.

All Parish Solid Waste facilities will be open during their regular operating hours on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2015, and will re-open on Saturday, January 2, 2016.

Questions relative to Parish Solid Waste operations may be directed to the Parish Solid Waste Department at (318) 238-3704.

Cane River Children’s Services receive donation from the Bank of Montgomery

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BOM presented Jennifer Karle, Chief Executive Officer of Cane River Children’s Services, a check for $250. The donation will ensure that the boys and girls that stay at their facility a memorable holiday season and positive activities in the year to come. In the picture from left to right: Dustin, Damon, Jennifer Karle, Brooke and Logan. — with Jennifer Karle, Logan Miles Lambert, Damon Jones, Brooke Latham Harrell and Dustin Dauzat.

Thank you to Ken Hale, the Board and Staff for their continued support of the quality of life in Natchitoches Parish.