The mood was grim as the Natchitoches Parish School Board met Tuesday, June 13th at a special called meeting. The room was packed to capacity with every principal in the school system and many teachers attending. The meeting was called with one item to discuss – how to deal with the impending $1, 500,000.00 deficit now that school closures are “off the table” and the district faces the possibility of layoffs in order to close the deficit.
Representatives from the three levels of education in the system, elementary, middle school and high school spoke to the board about the devestating effects losing teachers would have on their schools. Mr. Bill Gordy, principal of the largest school in the parish, Natchitoches Central High School, spoke at length. While he spoke of the effects on the school, he also pointed out the effects on the parish’s economy. Cuts to personnel would endanger the “Jump Start” workforce training program for vocational education by cutting back on welding, prostart, home ec and agriculture teachers. It would also endanger NCHS’ higher than the state average 86% graduation rate and rise to a “B” school performance score. All of these are factors that companies look at when they are looking for places to locate. The cuts would become a workforce preparation issue that would further hold the parish back.
All of the speakers sounded a common theme of increased class sizes, discipline problems, loss of planning time, support for teachers, recruiting and retention of quality teachers, and school safety.