Natchitoches School Board members Rev Steven Harris, Reba Phelps, Chad Fredieu, Russ Danzy, and Billy Benefield joined Goldonna Elementary School principal Corie Beth Manuel in presenting a town hall meeting to a group of around 30 interested parents and teachers at Goldonna Elementary School Tuesday, June 20. Superintendent Eloi was called away to Baton Rouge for a Superintendent’s meeting. The Town Hall covered a wide range of subjects ranging from truancy to SPS scores as Principal Manuel, Board President Benefield, and the other board members present reported on the progress the system has made and their plans for the system’s future.
Principal Manuel began the meeting with an update on the considerable progress her school has made. Goldonna’s 134 students are being taught by a faculty that is 100% either certified or in an alternate certification program having passed the PRAXIS tests. The school will have a band for 7th and 8th graders next year as well as music and art classes for the younger children. On next year’s academic front, Goldonna Elementary will offer Algebra I and Quest for Success. The school also hosts a 4-H Club and Good News Club. The opportunity to take Algebra I in middle school will be a huge benefit to young men and women when they go on to high school.
The district’s Dual Enrollment program is an incredible opportunity that Dr. Eloi and the board wish to make more well-known. It is possible for a student in a Natchitoches public school to earn college credits up to an associate degree while still in high school. Board president Billy Benefield pointed out that parents can save the cost of up to two years of college. For those on TOPS, the student can use the two years saved to pursue a master’s degree using TOPS, an outstanding opportunity made possible by early college credit at no cost to the student or their family.
For those looking for career opportunities not involving college, Mike Stewart, the system’s new Career and Technical Advisor, explained that the school system is starting an industrial maintenance program in conjunction with the mills in Mansfield, and Red River as well as Roy O. Martin, Alliance, and Weyerhaeuser. They have agreed to hire students completing the program after graduation. The new graduates will begin their careers immediately after high school, having already completed a good deal of training, and will be placed in jobs with full benefits paying well over $50,000.00 per year. The upcoming year will be the first for the program and will have an initial intake of 10 students. As board president Benefield stated, “the school system is looking to be an economic driver for the parish”. Mr. Stewart comes to the school system with a wealth of real-world experience after retiring from a career at International Paper at Mansfield.
Natchitoches Central High School currently has 17 students who scored 30 or above on the ACT, a bottom-line indicator of quality. Both NCHS and Lakeview offer the life-changing opportunity of dual enrollment. In the case of the industrial maintenance program, they are the only two high schools in the state of Louisiana to offer that program. The Natchitoches Parish School system has greatly improved over the past few years and is heading in a good direction.