School Board approves pay increases

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.


School Board looks into giving district employees appreciation paycheck due to Covid

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.


Natchitoches Police arrest individual for Attempted Second Degree Murder

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

Release Date: April 8, 2021


Guilty verdicts required to be unanimous: How will this affect criminal trials?

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.  

Guilty verdicts required to be unanimous: How will this affect criminal trials?

DISTRICT ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES SENTENCING IN 2017 SHOOTING


School Board continues discussion on district consolidation, receives audit and sales tax reports

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.

Approve budget update.


Natchitoches Parish School District looks to change Summer School format

School this year ends on June 3 for students and June 4 for teachers. Summer school will start June 7 and run through June 24. The district has the preliminary numbers of students who failed. These students will need to go to summer school. The district is also trying to determine numbers on how many teachers there will be for some summer school.

The district is doing a survey to see who’s interested and should know by the end of the week how many teacher spots there are so they can know how many student spots can be offered. The difference this year with summer school as opposed to previous years is that this year summer school will truly be a camp atmosphere. It will run from 8 am – 3 pm, but only two or three of those hours will be true academic instruction of ELA and Math. The rest of the time it will be a camp-like atmosphere with Art, PE, and Music.

So, the district wants to offer this opportunity to students who need it, but if possible, the district wants to offer this to another 500 students. This would mean the summer camp will offer free child care with transportation and food provided and it’d all be supported by the ESSER II and ESSER III dollars. ESSER stands for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for ESSER funding. The Department will award these grants ­to State educational agencies (SEAs) for the purpose of providing local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the Nation.

The tentative sites include Fairview which will serve the Fairview, Goldonna and Lakeview communities for children in 1st through 8th grade.

Natchitoches Magnet School will serve in town, Marthaville and Provencal for 3rd through 8th grade students. LP Vaughn will serve 1st and 2nd grade students for in-town schools, Marthaville and Provencal areas.

There will also be a Pre-K II program that will be separate from summer school that’s covered by a different grant that will also be very important and then the high schools will be tentatively at both high schools. There will be more information coming out about this soon.


New job descriptions may mean additional grant funding for Natchitoches Parish School District

Business Affairs Director for the Natchitoches Parish School District Lee Waskom presented the School Board with job descriptions for a temporary grant writer, so there can be two people writing grants and a full time grant administrator. The board approved the job descriptions at its April 8 meeting.

Grants take tremendous amounts of administration. During Hurricane Laura all 12 school campuses had damages. It could be as high as $1.6 million so it could go as high as $3 million worth of repairs. They pay the district an additional five percent to pay for the administrator so there’d be enough money to pay a grant administrator’s salary for a whole year. Waskom has already hired one on a temporary basis because there’s so much work to be done.

Dr. Amy Thompson is currently a district employee and would like to be hired as a grant writer on an as-needed basis.

Thompson has been a grant writer for the City of Natchitoches for several years. She’s learned that working together as a community to make things better is important because grant donors like to see this. Every corporation usually has an area designated to give for grants. The grant writer’s responsibility is to tell a story of how funds will benefit the entity that receives them. According to Thompson, the district has a real chance of obtaining some real money to do some things that need to be done.

Title I grant funding deals with instruction, curriculum, and what the district needs to teach and Thompson would be “fishing” for grants for all the other stuff that the district needs like playgrounds and so much more.

In addition, some FEMA grants actually have an area where they do pay print fees and that is not often but with larger grants they do they realize the work involved.

Sarah Burkehalter was hired on a temporary basis to help administering FEMA grants. Once this project, which will take months to finish, is finished Waskom said he would like to make her a permanent employee at a pay of around $32,000.

Gabe Firment has advised Waskom that the broadband funding can be acquired from a different source. It’s up to $17 million. The district could use its ESSER II and III money to deploy broadband, which is estimated to be somewhere between $5-10 million. Or if it could acquire this other grant to pay 70-80% that’s a big deal. The ESSER II and III money could be saved and deployed elsewhere because the district has 5 years to use all the money.

Grant writing is about networking so Waskom said he wants to send the grant writer to training seminars. It’s also about finding new funding opportunities. As an example, he explained that a third of the Lafayette Tourist Commission’s funding ($20 million) came from writing grants.

Waskom’s goal is that it’s not going to cost the district anything.


Natchitoches Parish School District pivots to stand-alone Virtual Online School Option

During his superintendent’s report on April 6, Dr. Grant Eloi said March has been really good for the district as far as reported Covid cases. There are under four cases for both teachers and students and the parish is still in Phase 3. The CDC is now saying students and teachers can be three feet apart, but district administrators are still telling everyone that six feet is the gold standard.

Natchitoches Parish is at 2.8 positivity rate, which is slightly higher than it was but it’s still below 3% and statewide has been below 5% since February 25. With all these things combined it’s really painting a picture that the district is in a good place. Since 27.4% of the state has initiated vaccinations the district is encouraging all of its employees to be vaccinated. Parents with children age 16 or older are also encouraged to bring them out to be vaccinated.

With all of this being said what the district is seeing is that Covid is in a much different location than it was nine months ago and there’s a need to pivot somewhat in terms of how the district approaches this from an instructional standpoint.

There’s a need for a virtual schooling option and the district still feels as though that’s necessary to a degree but due to the climate being different in terms of coping the district would like to set some standards on what entails being able to be allowed to be in virtual school. This will have to be brought to be brought before the board to vote on. The idea is to create a list of criteria students would have to meet to be eligible for virtual school.

“This isn’t just an arbitrary decision,” said Eloi. “This is based on the fact that we do feel as though the vaccines are getting out there and all those things and we’re also looking at other districts and what they’re doing, and so at the same time while we’re trying to pivot away from remote learning for the masses, we’re also creating a standalone virtual school.”

Christie Irchirl from Lakeview Jr. High will transfer to be principal over the virtual school. She would create this program where many districts already have it. In fact, many of them have had it for close to a decade. Creating this program for Natchitoches Parish would help students who are homebound, students who are expelled, students who are behind in their coursework, students who want to accelerate because maybe they are working toward an associate’s degree and they want to get ahead on a class that they think they can do online, and then also students who have a true hardship.

The program would also switch from google classroom to Edgenuity because that’s a true completely online platform that really speaks more of a virtual school as opposed to remote learning. The district is trying to draw that line that there’s remote learning which was done this year and then there’s virtual online school which the district is pivoting to.

Irchirl and her team are working on the handbook and they’re taking information from other districts. The next step is to get people to apply who feel that virtual online schooling is a real need in their family. There are still going to be families that have a true need because of Covid if they have someone in their family with multiple co-morbid conditions and other things of this nature.

The virtual option will have requirements for students including (nothing is set in stone yet):

-Have had to successfully been in virtual this year
-Have at least a C average
-Have an attendance requirement less than a certain amount of absences
-No disciplinary issues in virtual
-Teacher recommendations
-Approval from administration

If there’s a medical diagnosis involved, proof of that medical diagnosis would be required.

Next month Eloi said he will provide the board with a very specific plan of how to get students enrolled in virtual online school and what exactly the virtual program will look like. Irchirl will also be available to answer questions.


NPSB Announces 2021-2022 Kid Superintendent and Recognizes Nominees

NATCHITOCHES, LOUISIANA – The Natchitoches Parish School Board announced the 2021 NPSB Kid Superintendent, Amsden Pasch, at the April 8 board meeting and recognized nominees with certificates for their participation.

“A few weeks ago, we sent out a search for NPSB’s Kid Superintendent for our upcoming social media campaign,” says NPSB District Communications Manager, Chynna Paris. “We received 16 video submissions from students across our district and we are so proud of all of the hard work they put into making their videos fun and creative!”

NPSB is planning an ongoing social media campaign called “Come See Our Progress.” This campaign will consist of multiple videos showcasing all of the amazing things we have happening in our school district this year. Amsden Pasch will serve as NPSB Kid Superintendent for the 2021-2022 school year and will work with Dr. Grant Eloi to show the community everything the Board has planned for Natchitoches Parish Schools.


Coach De Foundation receives donation from the City of Natchitoches

The Coach De Foundation (TCDF), a local nonprofit organization, receives a donation from the City of Natchitoches. The funds will be used to continue providing resources to the community.

The Coach De Foundation is a nonprofit organization designed to be used as a vehicle to bring resources to underserved or low income neighborhoods. TCDF currently hosts Coach De’s Closets, provides school supplies (shoes, backpacks, supplies and uniforms) to local youth, hosts Thanksgiving/Toy Drives, and participates in other local nonprofit/community events by providing crafts. In the future, TCDF plans to provide entertainment, along with arts and crafts, sports and educational programming.

Coach De’s Closets are events that provide clothing, toys, shoes, food and hygiene products to families in low-income neighborhoods. The Closets are hosted at local parks to break the transportation and financial barriers families of the neighborhood encounter. The Coach De Foundation solicits lightly used or new items from the community to fill the closets prior to the events through donations.

To make a financial contribution visit the foundation website, www.thecoachdefoundation.com.

To donate clothing, toys, shoes, food or hygiene products contact thecoachdefoundation@gmail.com.


JOIN OUR HELPING HANDS

OMC Seeking qualified candidates for the following key management positions:

· Chief Nursing Officer / Director of Nursing
· Executive Assistant to CEO/CMO
· Director of Billing & Collections
· Patient Services Representative

For more information, call 318-357-2071.

You may also submit resume and a cover letter to info@outpatientmedical.org

Find us on facebook at our new page: “The NEW Outpatient Medical Center”

EOE


GOODNESS GRACIOUS

By Tommy Rush

Few things bring a bigger smile to the face of a teenager than pulling out their new driver’s license to show a friend. Recently, a young person in our church stopped me in the parking lot to show me her new license, with a huge smile across her face. I enjoyed seeing her excitement, but the pastor and dad in me had to reminded her to be careful and drive safe. It’s fun to pull out our driver’s license to show a friend but not so fun to pull them out for a police officer!

For most young people, the day they get their driver’s license is a milestone. There’s something about having license to drive that gives us a sense of independence and control. As much as young people get excited over getting their driver’s license, older people grieve over giving theirs up. My father struggled with dementia for several years before he passed away. I still remember the day my family had to convince him it was time to stop driving. It was a really tough day. Whether young or old, we like having our own car keys and the freedom to go whenever and wherever we choose.

For many we not only enjoy the freedom driving gives us but we also like the feeling of being in control. That’s not only true when it comes to driving a car, but it’s true of our lives. Nothing reminds us of how little we can control more than watching our son or daughter back out of the driveway without us for the first time. Someone said it’s when your heart leaves the house without your body.

A lot of people struggle in life with control issues. I admit that I’m one of those people. My wife will tell you that it’s hard for me to ride in a car when someone else is driving. Nothings worse than having a driving instructor in the passenger seat when you don’t need one. Sometimes it’s best to just close your eyes and enjoy the journey I’ve actually discovered that the time it takes to drive from Natchitoches to Shreveport is the perfect time for a good nap. There’s definitely more rest and less stress when we trust people more and let go of the need for being in control. This is not only true when it comes to driving a car, but even more when living life. There’s more peace when you loosen the tight grip on the steering wheel and give it to the One who was meant to drive all along. Maybe the Lord is saying that to some of us today, “Let Me drive. Lay your head back and rest awhile.”


Shanita Holman Completes the Praxis Exam as the First Participant in NPSB’s 240 Tutoring Program

NATCHITOCHES, LOUISIANA – 240 Tutoring is an online program that provides a comprehensive review of the ideas and concepts for the Praxis Exam teachers are working to complete. Shanita Holman is our first participant who has worked through the Praxis Writing Module and successfully completed her exam.

Our district has valuable long-term substitutes working with our students in a variety of content areas. We are already providing tuition exemption and refunding for the costs of their certification exams, but we wanted to see if we could assist them in passing whichever exam they were needing to become certified.

After working through the modules, participants have the opportunity to take practice tests that mimic the actual test they are required to pass. The program also provides feedback on their responses, correct or incorrect, so they will have a clearer understanding of what the correct answer should be.

Shanita Holman is a 2nd grade teacher at L.P. Vaughn Elementary School and has been working for the district for several years. We hope she is the first of many success stories we will be able to share with you.


TENNIS – NSU awarded no-contest win against UIW

By Aaron Ferguson, Sports Information Graduate Assistant

NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State tennis team’s Friday match against Incarnate Word has been declared a no-contest win for the Lady Demons by the Southland Conference.

The victory raises NSU’s record to 6-7 overall, and 5-5 in Southland play.

UIW has opted out of the remainder of the 2021 season following recommendations from its medical staff because of COVID-19 complications and injury assessments.

The Lady Demons will host Abilene Christian on Sunday for Senior Day, honoring the team’s two veteran members. First serve is set for 11 a.m. at the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex.

Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services


St. Mary’s Catholic School Open House

St. Mary’s Catholic School will host an Open House on Wednesday, April 14th at 6:00pm in the school gymnasium. Prospective new families, of students in preschool through twelfth grade, will be able to tour the school campus and receive enrollment information. Faculty members as well as club and athletic representatives will be available for questions. RSVP is preferred but not required. Interested families may contact Debbie Norman at 352-8394 or dnorman@smstigers.org if they wish to attend. Masks are required.

New student registration is currently open for the 2021-22 school year.

St. Mary’s is a Catholic, co-educational college preparatory school that educates students from preschool through twelfth grade. It is a ministry of the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Church.

St. Mary’s Catholic School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin in: (i) the admission of students; (ii) the offerings of rights, privileges, programs, or activities generally made available to their students; or (iii) the administration of educational policies, admissions policies, loan programs, athletic programs, employment practices or policies, or other school-administered programs.


Angler’s Perspective – Lighting My Bass Fishing Fuse

While I never attempted to fish at the highest level of professional bass fishing, that still has not damped my passion to compete at this lifelong sport. Bass fishing is a constant attempt to continually educate yourself in order to be successful. It’s a never ending process of reading, studying and spending endless hours on the water committing yourself to getting better. If you want to compete at a high level, you’ll have to dedicate yourself and develop fishing skills. But where did this passion come from? Where did it all start for me and why?

It all began on an East Texas Ranch located just north of Mt. Pleasant, Texas. Graf Brothers Ranch (owned by my dad Loyd Graf Jr. and his brother William”Bill” Graf) was a little under 400 acres just on the edge of Sulphur bottom. We had three fully stocked ponds, not including my Grandad’s (Loyd Graf Sr.) place that joined our east fence with two stock ponds as well just waiting for a young angler to get hooked on what would become a lifelong passion for me. At the age of 8 years old in 1969, I made my first cast on one of these stock ponds with a Zebco rod & reel and little did I know, that it would be the first of thousands of casts. Endless hours of walking the banks cast after cast, looking to catch one of those little green trout called largemouth bass.

I had a cousin who also loved to fish, who would show up at the ranch from time to time and we would fish together all day. He was also the guy who introduced me to Bassmaster Magazine and my first open face reel; the Ambassador 5000C. It was the prettiest piece of fishing equipment I had ever seen. It was bright red with silver knobs and handles and just looked so impressive. I remember getting one for my 9th birthday and could not get it out of the box quick enough. None of my friends had a fishing reel with such high tech innovations. In my mind, I was now king of the water and none of my friends could even come close to the set up I now possessed. But it was also a challenge to learn to throw without getting a major backlash or rats nest. But once you mastered that reel, oh what a joy it was to fish with. Smooth and you could cast it a mile!

Every kid who ever picked up a rod and reel has raided their dad’s old tackle box. I remember the first time I opened my dad’s and was so intrigued by the many lures he had accumulated over time. Old crankbaits and topwater lures along with a small selection of H&H spinnerbaits. This tackle box also had two or three packages of Crème soft plastic worms (3 in a pack), you know the ones with the hooks already threaded in the worm. This tackle box is where I got my first look at a flat sided crankbait known as a Sonic which later became the predecessor to the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap. I sure wish I had some of those old baits from that dust covered tackle box including the ones I lost or hung up on an underwater stump. Many of those old lures would now be collectors items and worth a few dollars.

By age ten (1971) like my cousin, I was a subscriber to the greatest bass fishing magazine that is still in existence today…Bassmaster Magazine! I was like a kid in a candy store every month when that arrived at my house. Even more excited to get that magazine than I was the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog. It was a resource beyond belief to a ten year old boy with great information, sketches and drawings in detail about the latest techniques and the hottest baits. Interviews with the best anglers on the planet like Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Ricky Green, and Booby Murray who won the first Bassmaster Classic in 1971. Truly a wealth of information that I thumbed through night after night before going to sleep and dreaming of a huge largemouth that I would soon be catching. While other kids were reading the “Highlights” magazine and other boring books like “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “Huckleberry Finn,” I was studying how to pitch and flip a jig in heavy cover! Now that was something worth reading!

While I still remember walking those East Texas stock ponds and making cast after cast, I did not know that this would be where I would cut my teeth and light the fuse for what would become a lifelong passion. The freedom I had as a kid is something kids today cannot relate to. Days on end I left the house just after sunrise and came home at sunset hopefully with a stringer full of bass that would make my dad proud. The only thing that trumped bass fishing was my passion for baseball.

After a short minor league baseball career with the Montreal Expos, I needed something to fill that competitive void I had in my life. Fast forward to 1990 when a friend of mine asked me to fish a team bass tournament on north Louisiana’s Lake Bistineau and once again the fuse was lit! From that day forward I have fished competitively on all levels. Fished several team trails, Pro/Am events like the FLW BFL Tour, the FLW Everstart/Costa Series, B.A.S.S Opens and the ABA Open Series and the new (2021)ABA Top 150 Solo Tour. It’s just like any other hobby, once it gets in your blood, it’s hard to walk away from. But for me it’s still fun and something I truly enjoy. I’ve met and made some great friends for life while fishing and that by far is better than winning any tour event…well maybe! Till next time, don’t forget to set the hook!

Steve Graf
Owner/Co-host
Hook’N Up & Track’N Down Show
And Tackle Talk Live