The Natchitoches Police Department is investigating a homicide that took place early Sunday morning on Rowena Street.
On April 11, 2021 around 7:03 a.m., officers with the Natchitoches Police Department responded to the 600 block of Rowena Street in reference to an individual being shot in the area. Upon officers arrival they located Jerome Pier (B/M, 38 y.o.a. of Natchitoches) suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Jerome Pier was pronounced deceased by the Natchitoches Parish Coroner’s Office as a result of his injuries.
The Natchitoches Police Department will release more details as they become available.
If you would like to report suspicious activity please contact the Natchitoches Police Department at (318) 352-8101 or if you have additional information in regards to this investigation please contact Detective William Connell at (318) 238-3911. Remember all information given shall remain confidential.
John Greely Public Information Officer Natchitoches Police Department
The Natchitoches City Council meeting will be open to the public at the next regular meeting on Monday, April 12, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. Occupancy for the Council Chamber is limited to 25% or 26 people total. Temperature checks will be given before entering the chamber. Seating markers will be placed on the chairs.
If you have any comments that you would like to make on any agenda item, you can email those comments to email@example.com and they will be read into record. Also, during the meeting if you have any comments on the agenda item being considered, you may call 318-521-1023 and you will be placed on speaker phone to make your comments. You must state your name for the record and you will be limited to 3 minutes for your comments. Please remember that this is not a question and answer session and please speak clearly for the record. Since we are allowing for a public comment period, agenda items will take longer than usual because we will allow 45 seconds between the reading of the item and the vote being taken, for any public comment. For additional questions, please call 318-357-3821.
Natchitoches City Council will have a pre-council meeting beginning at 5:00 p.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m. to discuss non-agenda items. The City Council meeting will begin promptly at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month and will be reserved to only items on the Agenda. The public is invited to both the pre-council meetings and council meetings with the understanding that items not on the agenda will not be discussed at the scheduled council meetings, but the public is welcome to discuss any topic at the pre-council meetings. The City Council Meetings are held at the Natchitoches Arts Center located at 716 Second Street, Natchitoches, Louisiana.
NATCHITOCHES CITY COUNCIL MEETING
APRIL 12, 2021
A G E N D A
CALL TO ORDER
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
READING AND APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF MARCH 22, 2021
GUEST SPEAKER: Cedric Floyd, President of Data Center, LLC – Reapportionment and Redistricting.
#025 Petite Proclamation Declaring April 2021 As Fair Housing Month In The City Of Natchitoches.
#026 Nielsen Proclamation Declaring April 2021 As National Child Abuse Prevention Month In The City Of Natchitoches
#027 Harrington Proclamation Declaring April 22, 2021 As Earth Day In The City Of Natchitoches.
ORDINANCES – FINAL:
#014Harrington Ordinance Approving A Memorandum Of Cooperative Endeavor Between The City Of Natchitoches, The Red River Waterway Commission And The Natchitoches Convention & Vistors Bureau To Promote The Use Of The Red River For The KingKat Fishing Tournament.
#015Smith Ordinance Amending The 2020-2021 Budget to Reflect Additional Revenues and Expenditures.
#016Petite Ordinance Approving the City Of Natchitoches Entering Into An Employment Contract With Special Counsel And Further Authorizing The Mayor, Ronnie Williams, Jr., To Execute The Attached Employment Contract On Behalf Of The City Of Natchitoches.
#017 Nielsen Ordinance Amending Ordinance Number 002 Of 2021 To Correct A Typographical Error Changing The Zoning Classification From B-2 To B-3, For Said Tract Owned By Braxton Keyser, LLC, And Further Providing For The Fixing Of A Public Hearing, Advertisement, And Providing For An Effective Date Of The Ordinance.
ORDINANCES – INTRODUCTION:
#018 Harrington Ordinance Adopting The Budget For The City Of Natchitoches For The Fiscal Year June 1, 2021 Through May 31, 2022.
#019 Elie Ordinance Authorizing A Franchise In Favor Of Cane River Paddle& Pedal Sports, L.L.C. To Operate A Rental Boat Business Within The City Limits Of The City Of Natchitoches, Confirming The Term Of The Franchise, Conditions, And Considerations For Said Franchise And Authorizing The Mayor To Execute The Said Franchise Agreement On Behalf Of The City Providing For Advertising, Further Providing For Severability, And Further Providing For A Repealer And Effective Date Of Ordinance.
#020Elie Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches To Award The Bid For The LWCF Grant Improvements At Parc Natchitoches (BID NO. 0614)
#021 Nielsen Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches, Louisiana, To Enter Into An Amended Cooperative Endeavor Agreement With Natchitoches Historic Foundation, Which Will Provide To The Relocation Of The Roque House, Provide For The Completion Of The Downtown Riverwalk, Provide For The Lease Of The Ground Upon Which The Roque House Is To Be Relocated, And Provide For The Use Of The Facilities By The Parties, Providing For Advertising, Further Providing For Severability, And Further Providing For A Repealer And Effective Date Of Ordinance.
#022Smith Ordinance Of The City Of Natchitoches, Louisiana, Granting To Canterra Networks, The Franchise And Rights To Lay, Construct, Lease And/ Or Operate A Cable Optics Transmission Cable, Within The Municipal Boundaries Of The City And The Right To Use The Present And Future Street, Roads, Highways, Alleys, Bridges, And Public Ways In Such City And Owned And Controlled By Such City For Such Purposes; Prescribing Terms And Conditions To Which Such Franchise And Rights Are Subject; And Prescribing The Term Of Such Franchise And Rights.
#023Petite Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor, Ronnie Williams, Jr. To Execute An Instrument Entitled “Service Agreement” Under Which The City Will Contract For Consulting And Professional Services From Merchant Mcintyre & Associates, LLC, Related To Pursuing And Obtaining Federal Funding.
#028 Elie Resolution Authorizing The Mayor To Execute ChangeOrder No. 4 To The Contract Between The City Of Natchitoches And Regional Construction, LLC For Phase 3 Street Rehabilitation. (Bid No. 029)
#029 Smith Resolution Giving Preliminary Approval To The Issuance Of Not Exceeding Twelve Million Dollars ($12,000,000) Aggregate Principal Amount Of Sales Tax Refunding Bonds Of The City Of Natchitoches, State Of Louisiana (The “Issuer”), For The Purpose Of Refinancing Outstanding Debt Of The Issuer; Providing Certain Terms Of Said Bonds; Making Application To The State Bond Commission For Approval Of Said Bonds; Hiring Professionals In Connection Therewith; And Providing For Other Matters In Connection Therewith.
The next scheduled City Council meeting will be Monday, April 26, 2021.
The 13th annual NSU Louisiana High School Essay Contest is open for submissions until June 1. The essay contest is open to all Louisiana students in grades 9-12 regardless of type of school institution, including students in all types of private educational environments, as well as home schooled students.
The 2021 Contest theme is “Louisiana Heroes.” Entrants are invited to explore the following questions in their essays: “Who is a Louisianan you greatly admire? How has this person’s example benefitted you?” Students may be acquainted or even related to the person they discuss, and the person may be living or deceased. Personal reflections and experiences are perfectly valid as part of the essay content. Essays may be in narrative form if the student so chooses.
Essays should be approximately 1,000 – 2,500+ words, should have titles and should be typed (double spaced, 12-point font, standard margins). Entries should include a cover sheet with the student’s name, school affiliation, entrant’s mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address and the title of their entry. Entries may be submitted via e-mail to Dr. Shane Rasmussen, firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the Louisiana Folklife Center, NSU Box 3663, Natchitoches, LA 71497. “2021 NSU Louisiana High School Essay Contest” should be the subject line of e-mails. Prize-winning students will be notified by July 15.
The prizes for the contest winners are: $150 for first; $100 for second and $50 for third. Essay contest winners will receive a $200/per semester NSU scholarship with a value up to $1,600 if they attend NSU for four years. This award is in addition to other scholarship awards that the student may receive from Northwestern State. Winners must have at least a 20 ACT composite or 950 on the SAT, as well as at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible. Essay winners need to submit proof of the award.
Winning essayists will be invited to read their paper at the 13th Annual Louisiana Studies Conference to be held virtually via Microsoft Teams on Saturday Sept. 25. The top three winning entries will also be published in the Louisiana Folklife Journal. Submission of an entry to the Contest entails granting permission to publish the essay in the Louisiana Folklife Journal. Entries may be subject to minor revision prior to publication. Additional information is available on the website for the Louisiana Folklife Center at Northwestern State:https://louisianafolklife.nsula.edu/.
The contest is sponsored by the Louisiana Folklife Center, the NSU Writing Project, the College of Arts, Sciences, Graduate Studies and Research, the Department of English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies, the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of University Recruiting at Northwestern State.
Natchitoches Central High School has recently completed Mid-term exams. The faculty and staff would like to invite parents/guardians to come pick-up report cards and meet teachers Tuesday, April 13 from 3:30-6:30. This is a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the conduct of classes in the physical/virtual classroom. We would like to thank everyone for all the support and understanding we all have gone thru this year.
Early voting for the 2021 election kicked off Saturday, April 10 at the parish courthouse. Voters will decide a runoff for BESE Board District 4. Residents of sales tax district 1 will decide on a New Sales Tax of a 1% sales tax.
In what has become a bit of an electoral tradition, Mr. and Mrs. Major and LaFern Ward were the first voters of the election cycle.
Early voting will continue from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day but Sunday at the Natchitoches Parish Courthouse. The early voting started today and will continue until April 17. Election Day is April 24. The Natchitoches Parish Journal urges every citizen to exercise their right to vote. Early voting is an excellent opportunity to ensure that your voice will be heard!
The Natchitoches Parish Journal wishes to commend Mr. & Mrs. Ward for their continuing dedication to a better America by their active participation in our democratic freedoms. In the years we have been covering the first day of early voting, the Wards have been the first in line each time. This election was no exception! We would also like to thank Mr. Ward once again for his service to our nation in the Vietnam War.
The Registrar of Voters may be reached at 318-357-2211 if you have any questions.
Northwestern State University’s 71st Demon Battalion, U.S. Army ROTC is 31 cadets strong this semester. Battalion Commander is CDT Adrian Vandiver and the Command Sergeant Major is CDT Ethan Lewis. Six cadets will be commissioned as second lieutenants upon graduating this spring, five from NSU on May 7 and one from LSU-S on May 14.
Natchitoches Magnet students finished the 3rd nine-weeks grading period with positivity, responsibility, impendence, dedication and determination. PRIDE is the school motto. Stephonie French, Natchitoches Magnet School’s Principal, congratulates the following students on their academic achievements:
Principal’s List (first grade) Milleigh Aton, Carleigh Bush, Sasha Chandler, Maggie Fluitt, Hailey Howard, Rhynn Lacombe, Iylan Latigue, Blythe LeBlanc, Khloe Luman, Lillian Mitchell, Christopher Norwood, Mackenzie Sesvold, Camryn Vance, Jett Waters, Brylen Young and Catherine Yount (second grade) Nikeo Collins, Hailey Dorsey, Ames Guillory, Rhett Manuel, Jackson Moffett, Murphy Reid, Alease Smith, Ryder Blanchard, Kayden Bradley, Sophia Conklin, Mason Dawson, Adrianne Duruisseau, Mackynzie Goleman, Ricky Issac, Alex Nguyen, Ally Vanzant, Radlee Turner and Mariya Young (third grade) Nicholas Washington and Everett Watson (fourth grade) Atticus DeFord, Carson Lacour and Axel Laning (fifth grade) Levi Aton, Jasmyn Carpenter, Ella Fluitt, Gabriella Moore, Avery Simpson, Izabella Smith and Saniah Thomas (sixth grade) Aiden Cooper (seventh grade) Lily Westfall (eighth grade) Avery Broadway, Huntar Goings, Ce’licia Vercher and Akeelah Wade.
A Honor Roll (first grade) Denver Martin and Brycen Young (second grade) Gabby Lee, Darrius Armstrong, Victor Bardney, Phillip Burton, John Mason and Damian Varice (third grade) Alayjia Taylor (fourth grade) Jairen Burton, Bentley Lard, Camron McDaniel and Joshua Walsworth (fifth grade) Journey Ashlock, Gabriel Bush, Shelby Gallien, Patrick Martinez and Ava Moses (sixth grade) Derek Davis, Kylee Hickman, McKinsey Pittman and Jacob Smith (seventh grade) Bryan Chen (eighth grade) Ana Baltazar,Chance Fontenot, Deanna Fowler and Layla Johnson.
B Honor Roll (first grade) Caidence Barriere, Brinley Bryd, Cameron Drakes, Mason Fitzgerald, Adrian Fontenot, Ivan Goleman, Emily Howard, Aubree Jackson, Daziah Johnson, Ke’Zyaih King, Crosby Marcotte, Gabriel Methvin, Daniel Owecki, Kaylee Toussaint and Nic’Kayla Walker (second grade) Amelia Arredondo, Carter Ciacco, Makayla Duruisseau, Cade Goings, Kamarjae Harrison, Peyton Helaire, Xane Jones, Devianna Lewis, Laykin Lloyd, Hayli Mosley, Bentleigh Murphy, Michael Randolph, Kaiden Walker, Shelby Broadway, Aaliyah Perry, Zakiyya Hamilton, Lamyia Jackson, Tobi Mitchell and Joseph Melton (third grade) Paisley Adkins, Cullen Aton, Aunestie Brown, Mason Brown, Aiden Bush, Emma Floyd, Allison Friday, Kinsley Graves, Hudson Harrell, Josiah Harris, Alaina Hayes, Zorian Hunter, MacKenzie Johnson, Harper Jones, Boss Lacaze, Lamaria Lacour, Clay Manuel, Zoey Matthews, Avery Mitchell, David Morris, AJ Procell, Drake Sesvold, Gavin Solomon, Raeghan Taylor, James Warford, Eli West and Robert Williams (fourth grade) Paityn Anthony, Maddison Bayonne, Chloe Borders, Nicholas Bradford, Blessed Brown, Madisyn Calhoun, Millan Duhon, Harmonee Helaire, Peyton Helaire, Layla Jernigan, Kayden Jones, Chandler Mitchell, Elyse Monette, Breauna Robinson and Ryland Snow (fifth grade) Aubrey Bedgood, Myonah Bernstine, Braylon Carter, Dalton Conant, Latrell Frederick, Morgan Garcia, Janiya Harris, Jazmin Martinez, Ainsley Mclaren, Bailee Mitchell, Malaya Osby, Braylen Patrick, Leann Powell, Kilee Smith, Maci-Grace Taylor, Oscar Williams, Alyza White and Andrew Ye (sixth grade) Braddox Bridges, Gabriela Contreras, Max Deford, Taviah Freeman,Jaxon Harrell, Caleb Hatten, Destini Hoover, Raygan Jackson, Madison Johnson, Joshua LaCaze, Jordan Lewis, Ciara Maree, Charity Marshall, Skylar McDaniel, Eric McGraw, Austin Moffett, Serenity Pikes, Bayla Procell, Blakely Ridley, Ian Sanders, Bradin Smith, Ryan Taylor and Jailea Williams (seventh grade) Austin Carter, Trinity Dixon, Jacob French, Madison Gorum, Wesley Johnson, Chloe Kelly, Dakota Keyser, Macyn Lacour, Jakira Williams, Daniyah Young, Braylen Commick, Belladonna Jones, Ryann Dove, Marquis Miles, Tiya Moses and Terrance Robinson (eighth grade) Jazlyn Alarcon,Christopher Anderson,Derrian Anthony,Devon Brown,Bria Bruce, Cailah Bush, Logan Butler,Skyler Davis, Anthony Jernigan, Brooklyn Jones, Dezerae Lewis, Harper Marcotte, Morgan Robinson, Brayden Sanders, Joey Lynn Smith, Justice Wamber, Leslie Wamber.
Cannon and rifle fire reverberated through the quiet village of Pleasant Hill April 9-11 as the Union and Confederate armies clashed in one of the battles of Union General Nathan P. Banks’ Red River Campaign. Unlike the actual battle in 1864, the cannon and rifle fire did not result in a storm of lead and steel and the casualties “resurrected” after the battle was over.
Friday, April 9, marked the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Pleasant Hill. The first re-enactment was held in 1964 on the 100th anniversary of the battle. After a hiatus of several years, the re-enactment went on to become a beloved tradition held on the anniversary of the battle for more than 40 years. The Battle of Pleasant Hill re-enactment is one of only a few in that it commemorates a specific battle and takes place on the actual battlefield. The site is about 3 miles from the modern site of the Village of Pleasant Hill. This year’s re-enactment featured approximately 500 participants from Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Virginia, and Oklahoma.
Friday featured an open camp held for local educators so school groups could come and learn about life in the Civil War era. Saturday and Sunday each featured battles fought before a large crowd of visitors as well as the Battle of Pleasant Hill Queen, court and a contingent of festival and pageant queens from across Louisiana.
In addition to the battles, the event featured a period dance and old-fashioned church service held by the Rev. Alan Farley, from the United States Christian Commission. The United States Christian Commission was an organization formed during the Civil War to minister to the soldiers of the Union Army. Members passed out tracts, hymnbooks, bibles and held services. They also brought extra items such as coffee, tea, and broth to the troops. Rev. Farley travels to re-enactments throughout the United States as a member of the Commission holding old-style church services. Rev Farley’s “coffee wagon”, a reproduction of an 1863 wagon that had the facilities to make over 1,800 gallons of coffee a day, proved to be quite popular with re-enactors and visitors alike.
The event also featured guest speakers Donnie Kennedy and Richard Holloway and a memorial luminaria ceremony commemorating each of the soldiers who fell in the battle of Pleasant Hill.
Scouts from Many’s Troop 80, sponsored by First United Methodist Church of Many raised the US flag on Saturday. Young men from a local Trail Life Troop raised the flag on Sunday. NSU Hospitality and Tourism major, Autumn Palmer, was chosen as the 39th Miss Battle of Pleasant Hill. Converse High student Miss Annabelle Bagley was chosen as Teen Miss Battle of Pleasant Hill.
By Bud Denega, Sports Information Graduate Assistant
BEAUMONT, Texas — Northwestern State senior infielder Emma Hawthorne entered the Lamar series this weekend still trying to round into form offensively. She showed glimpses, but still hadn’t rediscovered the prowess at the plate she encompassed a season ago.
That changed this weekend in Beaumont. It showed Friday night and again Saturday in the biggest of ways. Hawthorne logged a two-out, two-run, go-ahead single in the top of the sixth inning that vaulted the Lady Demons to a 5-4 victory and a series win.
“She’s done it the right way, and the game knows. When people handle (offensive struggles) the right way, when opportunities come their way, they come through,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “I’m just proud of how she’s handled it because she’s been a big part of what we’ve been doing through her career here.”
The win improved NSU to 17-12 overall and 11-4 in Southland Conference play. The loss dropped Lamar to 5-34 overall and 1-14 in league action.
All three of NSU’s pitchers were utilized to make the one-run lead hold. Junior E.C. Delafield received the start and went 5.2 innings pitched, surrendering two earned runs on three hits with three strikeouts to log the win that pushed her record to 7-2.
Junior Jensen Howell came on in the sixth and maneuvered around a runner on third to keep NSU in the lead. Sophomore Bronte Rhoden twirled the seventh and didn’t allow an inherited runner — who had made it to third — from scoring.
“We have a lot of confidence in those pitchers,” Pickett said. “All three of them did a good job today in getting some outs when we needed them.”
Hawthorne’s big hit in the sixth occurred after an equally-important base knock. Freshman infielder Kat Marshall recorded a two-out RBI single that extended the inning.
The big inning was set up by freshman infielder Keely DuBois’ leadoff single. That was followed by a single from Rhoden on a full count.
DuBois finished with four hits and two RBIs — the game’s first two runs — to cap a week that saw her go 8-for-11 with five RBIs.
“She’s starting to have a lot more confidence up there, and her confidence continues to grow each and every game,” Pickett said. “She’s done a really good job of staying consistent and her talent is starting to show.”
The Lady Demons finished with 12 hits, as the reshuffling of the lineup produced, once again. Lamar only managed three base knocks.
Northwestern State remains on the road, traveling to Stephen F. Austin for a three-game set. That series commences Friday with a single game at 5 p.m.
4th Grade Micah Dillon Dynaste Driver Jacob Dumars Kyleon Fowler Ma’Liyah Garner Devin Hayes Alexander Riolo Nariyah Rockingham Hayden Session Rylan Tingle William Turner Lajuana Washington Landon Williams
Mackenzie Allen Arion Berryman Joseph Dunn Gavin Franks Shawn Hammers Lyvia Hayden Braniyah Hayes
Northwestern State University students who are members of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity Beta Omicron Chapter and Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority Alpha Zeta Chapter were recognized as recipients of David D. Morgan and Sherry F. Morgan “Extra Mile” and First Generation scholarships during a socially-distanced assembly April 8.
David Morgan, a 1973 NSU graduate and alumnus of NSU’s Beta Omicron Chapter, established the “Extra Mile” Scholarship in 2008 to recognize members of Pi Kappa Phi who distinguish themselves through academic success, chapter leadership, campus involvement and part-time employment. The scholarship has since grown and is awarded at the national level as well as in the local chapter. The Sherry Fargerson Morgan “Extra Mile” Scholarship for Sigma Sigma Sigma was announced in 2017 and mirrors the criteria for Pi Kappa Phi by honoring students who are outstanding and high achieving members of the chapter. First Generation Scholarships are students who are the first in their immediate families to attend college.
Qualifying members participate in an application process that is reviewed by chapter alumni before selections are made.
Since 2018, the Morgan First Generation Scholarship has awarded more than $105,000 to NSU students. This year’s recipients are Trace Anthon of Hammond, Tabatha Bowlin of Alexandria, Courtney Chancellor of Gray, Katie Cole of Campti, Sheridan Duet of Thibodaux, Katelynn Edwards of Haughton, Javier Garcia of Bossier City, Jonatan Jimenez of Bossier City, Gabriella Lawrence of Bossier City, Emmette Nobles of Natchitoches, Jacob Norris of Jonesville, Bailee Rattanachai of Haughton, and Katelyn Stevens of Ringgold.
Recipients of the Sherry F. Morgan Extra Mile Scholarship are Hannah Angell of Boerne, Texas; Natalee Cook of Shreveport, Sheridan Duet of Thibodaux, Grace Gosserand of Ventress, Katelyn Kennedy of Baker, McKenzie Knotts of Keithville, Lilly Roach of Bryant, Arkansas, and Lauren Vienne of Natchitoches, LA
Recipients of David D. Morgan Extra Mile Scholarship are Trace Anthon of Hammond, Andrew Dubriske of Barksdale AFB, Jonathan Gennaro of Kenner, Jonatan Jimenez of Bossier City, Emmett Nobles of Natchitoches, Jacob Norris of Jonesville and Joshua Wiggins of Alexandria.
Keynote speaker was NSU alumna and businesswoman Britney Burton Spivey. Spivey is a 2007 graduate of NSU and owner of Simply Chic Boutique with franchised stores across Louisiana. In addition to numerous recognitions for entrepreneurship, leadership and community service, she is a mother of three and actively involved in service and mentorship in her church, her community and Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority.
Sigma Sigma Sigma National President Natalie Averette of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Pi Kappa Phi CEO Mark E. Timmes of Charlotte, North Carolina, sent greetings via video.
Morgan Scholarship: Members of Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority and Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity thanked David and Sherry Morgan, center, for their generosity in funding First Generation and Extra Mile Scholarships for NSU students.
Northwestern State University’s Center for Positivity, Well-Being, & Hope received a grant of $6,000 from the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Foundation for health-related projects in Natchitoches Parish.
The grant will fund workshops to be held during the 21-22 academic year, “Achieving Holistic Wellness without Stressing Out” and “The Power of Positivity.” The workshops will be open to NSU faculty, staff and students as well as the Natchitoches community. Organizers are hoping that the workshops will be held face-to-face.
NSU’s Center for Positivity, Well-Being and Hope was launched last year to promote positive thinking, enhance well-being and instill resilience and hope so that individuals can enhance their lives, transform communities and positively impact the world, according to Neeru Deep, an instructor of psychology who spearheaded the initiative.
Deep was made aware of the grant opportunity by Dr. Yonna Pasch, NSU’s director of Student Activities and Organizations and Deep’s mentor in the IGNiTE program, a faculty/staff development program for early and mid-career professionals and newly positioned campus leaders. Together they developed these workshops, and both are excited to join efforts to bring this initiative to the campus and Natchitoches community.
“We all hear that health is wealth, but sometimes we think health only in term of physical health and ignore all the other aspects of health such as mental health, spiritual health and even social health,” Deep said. “The Positivity and Wellness Workshop Series will bring awareness about holistic wellness and the NRMC grant will help us reach out to the NSU family and the Natchitoches community. We are very grateful to Sean Baylor and Natchitoches Regional Medical Center for providing the Center for Positivity, Well-being and Hope this grant for its new initiative for the Positivity and Wellness Workshop Series.”
Pictured: Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Foundation awarded a grant to NSU’s Center for Positivity, Well-Being & Hope that will be used to fund holistic health workshops open to the Natchitoches community. From left are Neeru Deep, who organized the Center; Yonna Pasch, director of Student Activities and Organizations, and Danielle Cobb representing the NSU Foundation.
The Natchitoches Parish School Board voted to raise the summer school teacher salary from $20 an hour to $35 an hour at its meeting on April 8. This will be paid out of federal funds, so it will be specific to this year alone and this is to recruit folks for the upcoming summer school that’s set to occur in a year that’s already making it hard to recruit.
The board also approved changing the hourly stipend pay from $20 to $25. A poll of surrounding districts showed that the Natchitoches Parish School District is below the average and so this will bring it up to the average.
The district’s daily sub pay was also below the area average so Superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi asked the board to increase the daily sub pay (not long-term subs who are on a higher rate) to raise the minimum from $50 to $60 a day and the maximum from $75 to $90.
Discuss giving faculty and staff an extra paycheck in appreciation of their work during Covid. School Board member Tankeia Palmer added this item to the agenda because she thought that this would be a great way to show appreciation to our employees for all the hard work and perseverance they have put in this school year.
Employees enter into buildings on a daily basis where the ventilation is not that good and they are interacting with a lot of people in a day’s time. The PPE hasn’t been 100% effective and being in close contact with others in an environment where you can’t detect where Covid might be lingering has got to be mentally physically and emotionally draining. They are not only thinking about themselves but the students, other staff, and their own children and family members. It’s like they’ve been thrown on a battlefield on a daily basis. Palmer feels they deserve a monetary appreciation for enduring. She added that if anyone feels or thinks they are sufficient with their salaries bonuses and MFP stipend you’re sadly mistaken in a pandemic or not, the school district should always if it financially can, show them its appreciation for their service. It was mentioned that there may be stipulations on the Covid relief money but Palmer said the teachers are listening to the board and they see more employees being hired for different positions and it’s discouraging because the district is getting money, but it’s not fair because the district should find a way to give them something.
Superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi said other districts have already put this out there and that some of them saw an increase in tax revenue, which the Natchitoches Parish School District has also seen, but many of these districts don’t give out all their tax revenue. The NPSB gives out all that sales tax because it’s seen really big checks this year at Christmas and the district is anticipating that it will see that again in July. This means some of the other districts did not see the MFP shortage the NPSB saw, but the district has been looking at the ESSER II Federal funds.
Eloi has been in discussions with lawyers because there are some areas that say that stipends can be paid for Covid preparedness. So the district is looking for a mechanism in order to give a stipend to all employees. There’s a legal delineation between what Palmer suggested and what the district can do. It’s not allowed to give payment for work already produced. Eloi asked Palmer to give them the month of April to fully investigate and fully flesh out what they would like to do is look at a possible training module about Covid preparedness that everyone in the district would take after hours. It would be simply viewing a video and doing some training. They would log in for that for a time period and then they would receive a stipend. Eloi said they’re not sure what that dollar amount is yet, but it would be a flat amount to everyone.
“It would be a way to say we’re preparing for Covid and also an alternative means of showing appreciation while not doing it in a way that would put us in a bind with the legislative auditor,” Eloi said.
Eloi added that there is a group he’d like to look at to receive extra training because they were doing things during the true shutdown.
This would give employees a possible June payout so they have the entire month of May into a little bit of June to take this training and Eloi said he loves the timing because that would give employees a possible stipend in June and their tax check in July.
The Natchitoches Police Department has arrested an individual for Attempted Second Degree Murder for a shooting that occurred on Royal Street near South Drive.
On April 8, 2021 around 1:23 p.m., officers with the Natchitoches Police Department responded to the 100 block of Royal Street near South Drive in reference to gunshots in the area. Upon officers arrival they located the victim who was suffering from several gunshot wounds. While officers were speaking with witnesses they were notified that the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office located the suspect vehicle in the 200 block of Fairgrounds Road and after a brief foot chase Marquis Evans (B/M, 20 y.o.a. of Natchitoches) was arrested without incident.
Marquis Evans has been arrested for one count of Attempted Second Degree Murder and he was placed in the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center.
The victim was transported to the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center and later air lifted to a hospital in Caddo Parish where they are listed in stable condition.
If you would like to report suspicious activity please contact the Natchitoches Police Department at (318) 352-8101 or if you have additional information in regards to this investigation please contact Detective William Connell at (318) 238-3911. Remember all information given shall remain confidential.
John Greely Public Information Officer Natchitoches Police Department
In April of 2020 in the case Ramos v. Louisiana, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the provision of the Louisiana Constitution (and similar laws of Oregon and Puerto Rico) stating that a defendant can be convicted of a felony offense if only 10 of the 12 jurors agreed to convict violates the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantee of a trial by impartial jury. After review of the legislative and constitutional histories, state practices, decades of conviction statistics, and most specifically, the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1898, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Louisiana’s concept of the non-unanimous jury or “split jury” for conviction was racially motivated to ensure that one or two Black jurors could not prevent the convictions of Black defendants.
In the fall of 2018, Louisiana voters beat the Supreme Court to the punch by voting to amend the Louisiana Constitution by banning the future practice of non-unanimous jury verdicts. Nonetheless, the Ramos decision presently applies to Louisiana defendants whose convictions were not yet final, i.e., prosecutions and appeals pending at the time of the Ramos decision.
A Natchitoches example of the Ramos decision in action is the case of State v. Ervin Walker. In August of 2018, Mr. Walker was convicted of Illegal Use of Weapons During a Crime of Violence by a non-unanimous jury verdict and sentenced to 17 years. Since his case was on appeal at the time of the Ramos decision was rendered, the Louisiana Third Circuit overturned the verdict and remanded the case back to Natchitoches for retrial under the unanimous-verdict standard. Walker was retried earlier this week where the jury found him guilty of a lesser crime, Illegal Use of Weapons, by a unanimous verdict, which carries a maximum sentence of two years. Since Walker has been incarcerated for more than two years on this offense, at his sentencing on April 8, he was sentenced to 2 years credit for time served.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling in Edwards v. Vannoy deciding whether its Ramos decision applies retroactively to those whose appeals have expired.
The School Board opened discussions regarding the consolidation of School Districts 6, 8 and 10 into Consolidated School District 11 at its meetings on April 6 and 8. The agenda item has been tabled at the moment. After the information hit the public after the board’s committee meeting on April 6, Superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi wanted to ensure everyone that the consolidation is a smart financial endeavor regardless of the proposed idea of a third high school. There will be equity in regards to each district pulling their own weight. The entire process has multiple steps, multiple votes at the school board, etc… The location on Waterwell Road is just a possibility. Many details will be worked out at the upcoming Town Halls where the community can provide input.
There are five districts within the school district taxing districts. This consolidation has nothing to do with political districts. When Cloutierville closed it became a non-functioning school district so all the supporting taxes that people used to pay in district six no longer exist. They only pay their constitutionally mandated taxes.
This leads to the idea that where two schools feed into a high school like in the Campti area. The district wants to adopt this model so along with this consolidation they’re proposing to the board that two community meetings on April 20 in Provencal and on April 22 in Marthaville, both at 6 pm.
The whole idea is if the district wants to create this model the next idea would be to create a standalone high school that would service the Cloutierville, Provencal and Marthaville areas. This proposal has been in the history of Natchitoches Parish for a long time. It was part of the original desegregation order but no one could ever get it done. The district has been doing some data mining and some qualitative interviews. There’s a desire in the southern and southwest parts of the parish to have a smaller school experience and the district cannot provide that currently.
This is nothing against Natchitoches Central, which is at its capacity. The consolidation of the districts and creation of a new high school would reduce the population of Central while also allowing people to have a method of schooling that they really want and desire and have been asking for for many years.
The district also seems to be losing the battle of competition. Over the past decade the district has lost close to $6 million in MFP dollars.
“The only people we could be mad at are ourselves,” said Eloi.
Because the district wasn’t offering parents what they wanted they sent their children to schools in other parishes, to private schools, or chose homeschooling.
“We thoroughly believe that if we don’t do something of this nature that the next shoe that’s going to drop is the potential charter school, another private school,” said Eloi. “We’re already seeing that to some degree in certain parts of the parish so this is a means of being more competitive with our education competitors.”
The other side of this is the roadblocks the district has. Eloi said he believes the district will only do this if they can obtain three things. One is diversity.
“We do not want to create homogeneous schools in this district and so we would have to determine that our lines would maintain a diversity that we’re all comfortable with in the parish. We’re working with ECCO Ride bus transportation to do this.”
The second thing is that the district cannot let Central suffer because of the addition of a new school, so the idea would be to build up and promote Central at the same time. The district will ensure that open enrollment is not something that will be considered in District 11. The districting lines would be strictly adhered to.
This would not affect the number of members on the School Board, which will remain the same as it is currently.
There’s also some issues with existing bond debt the district is going to have to work out that would have to go before the people to vote.
Speaking of being competitive, you have to be competitive and innovative in the district because you want to have that reputation that kids are going to get a good education in Natchitoches Parish and parents are going to be satisfied in the school of their choice. Eloi said they’ll be looking at the music and the arts.
“That’s actually when we presented the bond nine changes particularly within the city schools. The music is a big emphasis in expanding our music and we have allotments to a lot of schools in district nine for that. We actually have a meeting with kind of the the four families of music coming to the office on April 14.”
In other business the board approved the audit report as presented it was presented at their April 6 meeting. A representative from Fortenberry and Ballard presented the audit report for the fiscal year June 30, 2020. He went over a couple of good items regarding some system items that through the years have pretty much worked their way through and they’ve been taken care of. He added that the School Board should commend the district’s accounting staff and business affairs director because everything has now gotten to the point where everyone wants it. An unqualified audit opinion which pretty states that the numbers in the report are reasonable. A little example is that the statement of revenues expenditures and changes in the general fund shows the net fund balance position has increased by a little over $300,000 from the prior year. The representative said he wanted to note this because he remembers when he first started working with the district and for the first audit the cash position then was in the $4 million range so through the years the district has bumped up the general fund and a lot of improvements have been made there and as far as the solvency just for just general items in the school board.
“Everything is kind of looking upward,” he said.
In other news there were a couple of audit findings. The first one involved the national school lunch program. This has been a finding once before and there was no audit last year but there’s a date that the the food service director or has to get the the food count into the Louisiana Department of Education to get the district’s reimbursement. There were some instances where it was done a lot later and while there were extenuating circumstances, it’s a rule that they require the firm to look at. The representative added that there have been discussions on how to fix this and there’s a new director that is going in a new direction. Fixing the issue also helps the food service fund too because then the program will know its cash is coming in consistently.
The second finding deals with the district’s special education cluster (aka the idea program). There were some instances where they were signing forms stating that certain times are being worked to receive the grant funding for it. Some forms were filled out but they were pre-filled and some signatures were missing. This is just simple process of getting the paperwork done.
From an audit standpoint these are more or less minor findings. It’s not a major finding where there’s missing money or something like that. It’s just more less compliance and just getting down to doing that but other than that the rest of the audit report didn’t have anything that was a material weakness or any material non-compliances.
Waskom added that this was the end of the firm’s contract and he will be working to find a new firm moving forward.
Additionally, Eloi also wanted to dispel rumors surrounding the hiring process for the district’s new instructional specialist positions.
“There’s going to be a lot of eyes on these instructional specialists and there should be,” said Eloi. “We’re putting a lot of investment and a lot of time, money, energy, etc… and really this is kind of the driving force of our vision for the district. We want the eyes on the process but I want to be very transparent with how we’re doing this because I keep hearing the refrain from people that say, ‘Oh, it’s a good old boy system. You already give this to you know who your friends and so on and so forth so I want to let you know we spent no less than six hours last talking about how to interview these people. We discussed every detail of how we do this and how we do it equitably and fairly. The next thing is the application process which is extremely rigorous. They have to film a video of themselves teaching, they have to provide three letters of recommendation, they have to provide documentation of how they move students. The process itself is going to weed people out. Then there will be two informational meetings. We will also put a diverse committee together made up of different genders and races and experiences and ages that will look at the applicants. Then principals will have some degree of choice in their position
“We want people to know that we don’t want, you know, the cousins and bubbas and friends and all that. We want the best and it doesn’t matter if they’re in district out of district or whatever. We want the best and that’s our commitment.”
The district is also working on some recruitment tools for the website so applicants can type in their years of experience, type of job they want, their education, and then see see a salary schedule with how much money they’ll make in the district and an estimate of their tax checks.
Eloi also reported that he, Lee Waskom, and Pinkney have made trips over the last week to Walker to observe an amazing school with some amazing opportunities. The school had a bank in it and it had its own pizza place in it.
It had all sorts of entrepreneurial businesses and opportunities for kids and it was amazing. They got some great insight into the programs. They’ll also visit Bossier Community Career Center and observe their process and what they’re doing.
“We just want to see what can work and what will work for the students and folks in Natchitoches Parish,” said Eloi.
Sales Tax Report: From July of 2020 to the end of February the district’s running percentage right now is a 7.21 increase in sales tax that is still running very good.
There was also a 7.32 percent increase in sales taxes for the month but the cumulative for the year since July is a 7.21 percent increase.
“I’m very encouraged by this because you can see where it seems to be headed back up again,” said Waskom.
The general fund spending looks pretty much in order. The actual revenue is almost in line from the 2020 actual year to date and the year to date 2021. It’s within $2,000 of the exact same amount of revenue coming in. Looking at the expenses things are slightly down about $1.5 million overlapping in the general fund. Under child nutrition the difference between revenue and expenses is that revenue is down $127,811 over, which is slowly closing the gap, which used to be in the $450,000 range and it is still closing.
Some of that is reduced bills and has to do with fixed expenses and the district has reduced the number of meals served so there’s certain staff that have to be paid no matter what. Work is finally catching up right with billing. Waskom said he’s hoping to close the gap by June. Just getting food service to just be at neutral would be a good thing.
“I’m very comfortable with everything on the budget right now,” said Waskom.
Some of the MFP adjustments the district had to make were upsetting, according to Waskom, but he thinks that the board will hear some reports of money as the district starts to receive ESSER II stimulus money that’s coming in. Waskom said he will soon have more reports on additional funds.
Other agenda items included:
Motion to authorize Waskom to put out bids for locks for exterior doors to school campuses to fully secure properties. It’s two campuses in particular.