Natchitoches School Board members Rev Steven Harris, Reba Phelps, Chad Fredieu, Lela Harvey, Dorothy McGaskey, Tan’Keia Palmer, and Billy Benefield joined Superintendent Dr. Grant Eloi at a town hall meeting held at Natchitoches Central High School Wednesday, June 28. The Town Hall covered a wide range of subjects ranging from NCHS’ accomplishments to Dual Enrollment Opportunities. 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.
NCHS principal Micah Coleman spoke of his student’s and faculty’s achievements. The school’s SPS rating is a solid B and NCHS’ first-ever A rating is expected when the state releases the scores. Fully 100% of the faculty is certified or in the process of becoming so.
NCHS’ 1,140 students may take part in an eclectic variety of over 30 extracurricular activities and clubs. Band Director Cody Thurber has 78 young men and women in the Pride of The Tribe, a number that is expected to increase in the future as the feeder schools now have band programs themselves. This opens up life-changing opportunities for more children in the NCHS band and orchestra. Fully 10% of the NCHS student body is enrolled in the Army JROTC Chief Battalion. The Chiefs also field a full array of sports for young men and women. There are any number of places for students to find a niche and make the most out of their tenure at NCHS.
The school’s academic offerings will prepare students for life after graduation. NCHS offers math through calculus and science through physics. Students may choose between French or Spanish for foreign languages. The coming school year will also see the Natchitoches Parish Schools’ first high school drama production which will debut in May.
Natchitoches Central High School currently has a number of students who scored 30 or above on the ACT, a bottom-line indicator of quality. Seventeen students have scored a perfect 850 on their LEAP assessments and one student won a state literary rally title. These accomplishments reflect well upon the students, their families, and their teachers.
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, 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”. The NPSB Career and Technical Advisor, Mr. Mike Stewart, comes to the school system with a wealth of real-world experience after retiring from a 41-year career at International Paper in Mansfield.
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 an exciting direction.