The following is a statement by Donna Masson as presented at the Natchitoches Parish School Board Committee Meeting:
Communities need schools. The 1980 federal court order first closed Gorum and Natchez Schools and bused students in grades 6-8 from Cloutierville, Gorum, and Natchez to St. Matthew. This left Springhill, a K-5 School, and Cloutierville High with grades 9-12.
A few years later in 1988, Judge Scott closed Springhill and St. Matthew and starting busing Cloutierville’s high school students to NCHS. Cloutierville became an Elementary-Jr. High serving K-8 for the Cane River, Point Place, Gorum, Marco, Chopin, Part of Natchez, Town South, and Cloutierville communities. It was the largest populated rural Elementary/Jr. High in Natchitoches Parish. It is the ONLY remaining school from Natchitoches, south to the parish line.
Over the years, as attendance lines were not enforced and more students were bused to Cloutierville, many of the local students left. They are attending Provencal, City Schools, and Northwood in Rapides Parish. Some are being home schooled, as many parents were dissatisfied with the public school system.
Next, when Magnet was established it took the students who scored high on achievement tests (who weren’t disciplinary problems) still left in Cloutierville. This explains why the enrollment is down from what it used to be. However, it’s not the lowest enrollment in the parish, and we have good students at our school!!
During this time, the Natchitoches Parish School Board wouldn’t vote to ask the judge to release us from the court order. Certain groups in Natchitoches maintain that we’re not ready to manage our own schools and would rather go to a federal judge to ask permission for every decision that needs to be made for OUR students.
When I served on this board I witnessed members of these communities getting on the stand and making statements to PROMOTE maintaining the court order instead of helping us get out from under it. So the busing that continues today could’ve been stopped, but the representatives on the board from the town communities chose NOT to allow it to stop. It should be noted that MOST of the students bused from Natchitoches want to be at Cloutierville. The handful that don’t, could’ve been accommodated if the board had chosen to ask the judge.
There are ways to decrease spending in the school system that won’t close schools. One way is to eliminate unnecessary positions, like too many Master Teachers in the schools and support personnel in the school board office. Also, with the current computer systems, there’s waste in the amount of paper that’s copied and sent to schools. Next, principal salaries being paid to personnel in the classroom is a waste. Scheduling more than one bus on a road is a waste also. And there are MANY others!
Transportation costs will increase if students from the rural areas in south Natchitoches Parish are bused to Natchitoches. There are MANY roads to cover to pick up all the students zoned to Cloutierville, and then transporting them to schools in town will ADD to transportation costs. I don’t see any savings here. You will then be losing MFP money because some of these parents will simply take their students out of the parish for schooling.
Our school system is supposed to be doing the BEST for our STUDENTS. For over 30 years we failed our students by remaining under a court order. Now with the board looking at closing our school we are failing them again – and by the way, since I know all the schools in Natchitoches are overcrowded, WHERE will they go?? Into overcrowded Classrooms ?! How will that benefit the students?? And what about our very capable teachers and staff?? Where will they go?
Finally, Cloutierville has a great SCHOOL Based Health Center funded by a grant from St. Frances Cabrini Hospital. This money and program will be lost since it’s specific to Cloutierville School. I know the board has received letters about the number of students receiving services at this Health Center. It would be a disgrace to throw that away.
Find the money somewhere else to balance the budget!! Let the family atmosphere at CLOUTIERVILLE continue! The people love their school.
PLEASE put the students of Cloutierville School first! I think they deserve it!!