By Kevin Shannahan
This past Saturday, 94 students from from 12 schools throughout central Louisiana competed in the Region IV Regional Science Fair at LSU-A. Of those 94 students, 24 of them will advance to the Louisiana State Science Fair at LSU in Baton Rouge. Should any of them be successful at the State Fair, they will advance to the Broadmoor Masters Competition.
It was a joy to watch a group of young people engaging in serious intellectual activities at a young age. This is the kind of stuff that can set a life on a different and better course. It shows young people what is possible.
There was one huge problem with the fair, however. Of those 94 students from 12 schools, not one was from Natchitoches Parish! Not one school, public or private, sent any students to the regional science fair. According to officials at the fair, this has been the case for at least the past 3 years. Let that sink in for a minute. The parish schools have blown off the Regional Science Fair for the past several years. I was absolutely flabbergasted when I made what I thought was to be a routine call to the science fair officials, only to find out that there would be not one student from Natchitoches Parish at the fair. It represents a lost opportunity for our parish’s children and a profound leadership failure on the part of the school district. Quite simply, our children deserve better than this.
This article would be much easier to write if the parish’s schools were all abject failures staffed by time serving incompetents. That such is clearly not the case, made what I found out last week all the more disturbing. There is much to rightly celebrate going on in the parish schools. The orchestras are just superb, racking up honor after honor every year. The 4-H and FFA chapters are doing a wonderful job in building young men and women. The schools’ sports teams are well coached and disciplined, doing a good job of preparing their athletes for their future lives. I know a number of teachers, all of whom are hard working, impressive men and women.
Next year, I’d like to see students from every school in the parish competing. There are bright children in every one of our schools. All they need is for someone to show them the way. Let’s fix this!