Marthaville Principal, Micah Nicholson, welcomed the crowd of over one hundred people as they filled into the school’s gymnasium. Once everyone was seated he introduced School Superintendent, Dr. Grant Eloi and Director of Business Affairs, Lee Waskom. He then recognized the School Board Members in attendance: Beverly Broadway, Vice President Reba Phelps, President Steven Harris, Emile Metoyer and Eugene Garner.
Principal Nicholson asked President Harris to open in prayer and this was last pleasantry of the evening.
Dr. Eloi, much like in the Provencal meeting, opened with an apology for providing too much information too soon and not focusing more on the detailed steps that needed to happen before a new High School could be entertained. The crowd listened intently but occasionally scoffed at the information being supplied.
Eloi and Waskom presented the same information that was provided in the Provencal meeting. This included their vision to consolidate Districts 6, 8 and 10 into a new District 11. The Board would vote in June for said consolidation. This information was obviously upsetting to the crowd who could not contain their displeasure.
Once this presentation was over Dr. Eloi introduced a resident who compiled his own
presentation that was much more pleasing to the attendees.
Marthaville resident, Phillip Strahan, was granted permission to present his own Powerpoint with his own set of facts, which somewhat contradicted the facts previously provided by Waskom. Waskom tried to answer questions and correct the misinformation as it was being presented but was declined by Mr. Strahan. The crowd was cheering and clapping with every new slide that came across the screen.
Waskom patiently waited until his presentation was complete to explain where his tax information was gathered. He verified all of his numbers were provided by the Natchitoches Parish Tax Assessor’s Office. During this time Dr. Eloi was answering remarks and questions that were growing more and more heated as time went on.
Some of the heated remarks directed at the Board included; “We do not trust you, you might as well be from Washington DC.” “You closed our schools in 1981 and we were forced to be bussed to a school we didn’t want to go to.” “We want our tax money to stay in Marthaville, Natchitoches gets everything and we get nothing.”
“We will not send our kids to a school where they fight all the time.” “Marthaville kids deserve better and that’s why most kids don’t graduate from Natchitoches Central”. “We work hard for our money and we are tired of supporting other schools with our money.” “The School Board could have repealed the Federal Desegregation Order anytime they wanted but chose not to.” “Natchitoches only wants to take everyones tax money and waste it on everything except roads.”
Eloi politely asked that the citizens line up at the microphone so he could hear better and address everyone that had a question and so they did.
Marthaville resident and Educator, Laura Strahan, addressed the crowd and was not in support of the consolidation and listed a long list of Parishes in Louisiana who have Districts with higher ratings than Natchitoches Parish and they all had one thing in common. They have K-12 smaller schools.
All through the evening the crowd kept asking why our Parish can’t be more like Sabine Parish who has all K-12 small schools.
Another resident who made her way to microphone wanted to know why their School Board Member, Beverly Broadway, was sitting there not saying a word. She also advised that she had done her homework with the Registrar of Voters Office and said that it only took 772 votes to recall their Board Member. Some in the crowd clapped as the resident advised they had enough votes in the gym to have her recalled. Some sat in dismay.
Mrs. Broadway did not hesitate to stand and address the crowd. She reminded them that there are other residents aside from the ones present that night who would have a say in the survey as well. She answered all of their concerns.
Dr. Eloi asked if the other Board Members in attendance had anything else they wanted to say.
Board Member Reba Phelps, stood up and assured the crowd that the NPSB members were there to listen and will be continuously working together. She also stated that all of the Board Members consider the whole Parish their district, not just their respective areas.
Board Member Eugene Garner advised the crowd of the successes that his District has had by working together in unity. As the meeting ended, Dr. Eloi, Lee Waskom and the School Board members stayed and visited individually with the residents.
The next community forum will be held at New Birth Baptist Church in Natchez on April 27, 2021 at 6:00pm.