City Council holds brief meeting on August 10

The Natchitoches City Council held a brief meeting Monday evening, August 10. See agenda items below.


PLANNING & ZONING – INTRODUCTION:

Declare Certain Buildings Unsafe And Recommending That Same Be Demolished Or Put Into Repair To Comply With The Building Code, Authorizing Notice To Be Serviced, Fixing Hearing Date And Appointing Curator To Represent Absentees.

Lot 11 Block 3 of Ellis Dean Addition (1217 Dean Street, owned by Alvin R. & Monica T. Bradley)
Lot 21 Block 3 of Ellis Dean Addition (1124 Allen Street, owned by Corey Layfield)
Lot 1 Block AD of Roy Addition (130 Howell Street, owned by Rosa Green
406 Hedges Street, owned by Myrtis Handy

ORDINANCES – FINAL:

Authorize The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches To Award The Bid For The Water Treatment Renovation, Backwash Effluent Transfer System (BID NO. 0626)

ORDINANCES – INTRODUCTION:

Amend The 2020-2021 Budget To Reflect Additional Revenues and Expenditures

Authorize The City Of Natchitoches To Enter Into An Agreement With The Louisiana Department Of Economic Development And Alliance Compressors, LLC For The Exemption From Ad Valorem Taxes Of An Addition To An Existing Manufacturing Establishment In Accordance With The Industrial Tax Exemption Application #20180501-ITE

RESOLUTIONS:

Designate Friday, September 4, 2020 As An Official Holiday For The Employees Of The City Of Natchitoches For The Year 2020.

Authorize The Mayor To Advertise For Bids For Phase 3 Street Rehabilitation (Bid No. 0629)

Authorize The Mayor To Advertise For Bids For A 35 Ton Detachable Gooseneck Spring Ride Trailer (Bid No. 0630)

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

The next scheduled City Council meeting will be August 24, 2020.


It takes a village: A look at infrastructure improvements

As a new outlet our readers regularly request that we look into why things happen, or don’t happen fast enough, in the city. It’s easy to take things like stable electricity, navigable roads, and clean water for granted. As citizens, we are often unaware of the daily workings of the many departments that keep things operational. And, as many things happen on a level where we can’t see immediate, physical results, we often lean toward the opinion that nothing is being done, or at least it’s not being done right.

But upon request, several City officials sat down to discuss past, present and future projects that are focused on improving the overall infrastructure of the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.

“We’re constantly maintaining,” said City Utility Director Charles Brossette. “It’s never-ending.”

You can imagine that everything ages out eventually, and being that Natchitoches was founded in 1714 there’s always work to be done. You also have to factor in that as time goes on, costs continue to rise. So while several decades ago an Oldsmobile sedan cost $375, some of the larger trucks for utility work can range from $150,000 – $300,000.

This sets the scene to talk about improvement projects. Overlaying streets is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Mayor Lee Posey, in the last 6 years the City has done $10 million worth of street overlays. In the previous 20 years, only $6 million worth of overlays were completed.

Major water, sewer, and electrical improvements over the last 4-6 years have totaled an estimated $13.4 million (SEE DOCUMENTS BELOW). However, it’s important to note that all this work was done with available funds in the City’s Utility Fund, not borrowed money.

“Because the majority of the projects are in-house funded, the City is making sure tax payers dollars are well spent,” said Assistant Utility Director Matt Anderson. “We try to be prudent so we’re not accumulating debt.”

Then there’s the 5-year capital outlay plans (SEE DOCUMENT BELOW*). These are plans for the continued improvement of the city’s infrastructure and are subject to change as priorities change. A lot of time and effort goes into this planning. It’s about putting money back into the city with monthly and sometimes daily meeting to discuss power outages, sewer leaks and any other problems that need to be addressed.

A lot of time and effort goes into these outlay plans. Take for example the water system, which is an antiquated distribution system. The City is trying to replace a little more each year. This includes plans to repaint the I-49 water tank, which is needed every 10 years. Another project is in the engineering phases to replace cast iron mains in East and West Natchitoches in the neighborhoods around the streets Gold, Stella, Stephens, Carver, Henry and Scarborough.

In the Electric Department the ring bus system that’s been in the works for a while now is 90 percent complete. The completion of this project will cut citywide outages by 75 percent.

The biggest consideration when planning improvement projects is to look ahead and think about the life of equipment over the next 30 years.

“We don’t sit around and wait for things to break,” said Electric Department Supervisor Lee McKinney. “We try to predict when things will need to be replaced or worked on.”

Breakers have to maintain future loads and handle greater capacities so the city can continue to grow. The master lift station that was first built in 1993 was rebuilt and finished in 2019. It was built bigger to last the City another 30-40 years worth of growth. Forty-year-old underground primary cable will be replaced along Royal Street. The installation will include new duct banks so yards won’t have to be dug up anymore for repairs and other work. In a few weeks, a crew will come in to trim trees from power lines over a two-month period.

On top of all this, the Electric Department is continuously adding to the City’s electric grid. The City is currently pulling 67MW, but it’s capacity if 150 MW

“We overbuilt the system,” said Purchasing Director Edd Lee. “ This way the electric grid can accommodate industries that are interested in moving to Natchitoches.”

At the end of the day this may seem like a daunting task. And it is. It takes a lot of dedicated people who are willing to work no matter the temperature or weather conditions. There’s about 26 employees in the Electric Department with another 10 at the Utility Payment Center. The Water and Sewer Department has about 28 employees. Of these there are two full-time operators at the water and sewer plant. Someone must be at the water plant 24/7. There’s also a contract worker at the Utility Department to dispatch service calls outside of normal business hours.

There’s also a lot of training and schooling that’s required to keep up with ever-changing rules and regulations. These men and women miss out on a lot of personal time with their families to make sure the lights stay on and everything runs properly throughout the city.

Let’s not forget about all the other departments including Public Works, Recreation, Community Development, the Airport, Police and Fire, Finance, and Planning and Zoning. We probably left someone off the list, but this just goes to show that the City of Natchitoches is a machine with many moving parts.

Now to wrap up, let’s throw in the fact that these same men and women are the ones that maintain and install the Christmas lights that make this City so famous. On top of their regularly scheduled hours and call-outs at night and on the weekends, they decorate the City with thousands of twinkling lights, which takes them three months (September through November) to complete.

“It’s different for everyone but we all have a reason why we do what we do,” said McKinney. “We may have to work in the middle of the night and things may be hard and dangerous at times, but it’s all worthwhile when someone expresses their appreciation for their lights being turned back on or when you see the awe on a child’s face as they watch you climb a power line pole.”

Brosette and Anderson echoed the same sentiment, saying that while their jobs can be challenging, it’s something different every day.

This is a lot of information and some of it might not make sense to the average layperson, but it’s all important and it all needs to happen to keep Natchitoches running and growing toward the future.

  • The 5-year capital outlay plan is subject to change based on the City’s need and priorities and project amounts are estimates.


Two Natchitoches men arrested on narcotics charges

According to a Task Force Official on July 17, 2020, NMJDTF Agents were conducting surveillance in reference to an ongoing narcotics investigation in the Breda Town community. During this surveillance Task Force Agents and NPSO Deputies initiated a Traffic Stop on a blue 2016 Kia Optima traveling southbound on Breda Avenue. During the course of the traffic stop Agents utilized the NMJDTF certified narcotics detection K-9, Misty on the exterior of the vehicle. K9 Misty alerted on the blue Kia Optima indicating narcotics might be present in the interior of the vehicle and Agents secured a narcotics search warrant, signed by a 10th District Judge, to search the interior of the blue 2016 Kia Optima’s interior compartments.

A search of the vehicle revealed two (2) United States Postal Service packages in the trunk of the vehicle. A search of the two packages revealed approximately two (2) pounds of suspected Marijuana.

The vehicle’s driver, Mr. Bruce Smith, of Natchitoches, Louisiana was arrested and charged with the following offense:

RS 40:966A – Possession of Schedule I (Marijuana) with Intent to Distribute
As a result of the seizure and arrest, Task Force Agents with the assistance of NPD CID Detectives executed an additional search warrant at a residence located in the 1200 block of Ash St.

While conducting further investigation agents arrested one Michael Smith B/M for the following offense:

RS 40:966A Distribution of CDS Schedule I (Marijuana)

Mr. Smith was placed in the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center and given a return District Court date of September 15th 2020.

The Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force would like to thank the Citizens of Natchitoches for their support. Many times an investigation begins with a simple phone call or tip from a concerned citizen. For this reason the Task Force encourages all citizens to report any crimes in their neighborhoods anonymously by calling 318-357-2248, The Natchitoches Police Department, or the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Press Release: NMJDTF


As Coronavirus continues, it exposes modern church’s weaknesses and strengths

By Edwin Crayton/Opinion

Sometime just after the Coronavirus shutdown ended, a friend angrily barked, “They shut down the churches and left the liquor stores open!” Later, it occurred to me that this was not entirely true. “They” had not shut down the churches at all. “They” had only shut down church buildings.

In the 1st Century, the very first Christians did not make this mistake. When they used the word “church”, they did not mean a building. They meant a “body of believers”. They focused their energies on the world outside the walls of buildings. They knew that this is what their benevolent God wanted. Indeed, Jesus himself had told them so. The Bible records that in Matthew 28:19-20, he said to his followers then and now, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In other words, Jesus wanted (and still wants) his followers to share the good news of how people can make it to heaven. That was and still is, the main mission of the church. You might call it the world’s longest and greatest rescue mission: Jesus wanted all who would believe in him to have an opportunity to do so. But in order to do that they would first have to hear the gospel message. This command from our Lord to all of his followers, became known as the Great Commission. The first Christians took it quite seriously. They were inspired by three reasons. First, they knew executing and obeying this command was urgent because Jesus himself had said also that no one would be able to get into heaven unless they believed in him (John 14: 6). Quite a controversial statement then and now. Secondly, he also gave his followers a powerful insight that drove them. In Matthew Chapter 22 he shared that the entire Bible is based on two great commandments: The first commandment is that believers should love God. The second commandment is that Christians must love their neighbors as they love themselves. The third reason is that he further said, that he would not even return again until the gospel had been spread to all the world (Matthew 24:14). So when you combine these three reasons it should be clear that if Christians love God and love people they will be compelled to tell them that they must believe in Jesus to get to heaven. And that this must all occur before Jesus will return. In short, these early believers were driven by love for God and people and the realization that this was all tied to Jesus’ triumphant return which will end all evil. They believed true Christians would live in heaven. Those who reject Christ—including Satan— would be eternally separated from God and be damned to hell. The early believers, like all true Christians wanted people to be saved and that was their main priority. That zeal drove them. The faith spread. The powerful felt threatened by this success and jailed and persecuted Christians. In Roman cities, Christians were fed to lions or burned alive. The flock scattered, fleeing persecution and then an amazing thing happened: Christianity grew even faster. Eventually, it became a major religion. But through the centuries, it changed in ways that lured it away from Christ’s commission. Evangelizing the world became less important. Christ’s vision was that the church would make the world more like the faith. Instead, for the most part the opposite happened. The church became more like the world. Evangelism took a back seat to other goals. An article by Ed Setzer in the Washington Post pointed out that a 2012 LifeWay poll claimed 80% of Christians said they believed they should share their faith, yet only 39% actually do. More interestingly, the same article also pointed out that a poll also showed 78% of non-believers would be interested in hearing about the Christian faith. Ironically, church members themselves are learning less and less about the Bible and the faith. According to a new research study from the respected Barna Research Group, “36% fewer Americans attended church in 2020 than in 1993, and only 35% of Christians read the Bible weekly. That matters when one pauses to realize the Bible is the instruction manual for the faith. The Scriptures themselves say in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourself approved”. Although there are faithful, strong churches, for too many, the church has become just a place “you go to” on Sundays. The concept of church being a body of believers is mostly lost. So when the Coronavirus led to church shut downs many churches did not know what to do. What would the 1st Century believers do? Would they tell us that this is both a crisis and an opportunity to reach out to those suffering all around us? Would they urge us to go out and spread the gospel? Perhaps the first Christians would tell us this is the time for fresh ideas. I got an example of what this might look like a couple of Sunday evenings ago. I stumbled upon “social distancing” street revival with lots of masks and lots of Holy Spirit. (Even the CDC would have shouted “Amen.”)

It’s also good that many churches are adapting their ministries by reaching more people online. But what else is in God’s playbook? Only God knows. But he will reveal what to do and how to reach out to communities if we will ask him to lead us. James 1:5 says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God.”

It is reassuring to realize that Christianity has always thrived in times of trial. Is there a greater trial than a stubbornly persistent, treacherous pandemic that can kill anyone and everyone on the planet? Yet, there is something worse that physical death. Losing one’s soul is worse than losing one’s life. The Christian faith is strongest when believers remember what is at stake and react in love to share Jesus and perform deeds of love. We are called to love all people and share with unbelievers how faith in Jesus provides hope in this life and eternal life in the next. To accomplish this noble mission, the church needs to embrace new, creative methods. The virus is strong. It destroys lives and cripples nations. But even the Coronavirus cannot prevail against the church of God. Nothing can stop God’s church, as long as it does not stop itself by continuing to mostly ignore and disobey Christ’s command to spread the word and share the hope it brings.

“The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church” – Matthew 16:17

“How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?”—Romans 10:14


NATCHITOCHES MAN ARRESTED FOR TWO ATF INDICTMENTS AND ADDITIONAL DRUG AND WEAPON CHARGES

According to a Task Force Officials on 7/23/2020 Agents with the Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force, along with Natchitoches Police Departments (Crime Suppression Unit) arrested Shaquille Robinson, 25, of the 800 Block of Merilyn Ave. Robinson was arrested for two outstanding indictments through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The indictments were in reference a June 2019 case, in which the NMJDTF had arrested Robinson.

On 7/23/2020, Officers made contact with Robinson at his residence, upon contact with Robinson; he was placed under arrest for the outstanding ATF indictments. During Robinson’s arrest, Agents executed a search warrant at Mr. Robinson’s residence seized the following items:

Approximately 3.5 lbs of suspected high grade marijuana
Approximately 500 suspected Alprazolam (Xanax)
An American Tactical Imports AR 15 223 caliber rifle
A Rossi 38 special revolver.
Several items believed to be used for the usage, weighing, and packaging of the suspected narcotics.
Robinson was transported to the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center with a federal detainer hold through the ATF. Robinson was given a return District Court date of 11-17-20 and charged with the following through the 10th Judicial District:

La Rs 40:966, Possession of Schedule I (Marijuana) with Intent to Distribute
La Rs 40:969, Possession of Schedule IV (Xanax/Alprazolam) with Intent to Distribute
La Rs 14:95E, Possession of a Firearm in the Presence of CDS
La Rs 40:1023, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Also arrested during the investigation was Lloyd Brown, 25, of the 200 block of Cardino Rd. Natchez, La. Brown was issued a summons for La RS40:966C Possession of Marijuana and released.

The Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force is working with the 10th Judicial District Attorneys Office, the ATF, and several agencies in this ongoing investigation.

The Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force would like to thank the Citizens of Natchitoches for their support. Many times an investigation begins with a simple phone call or tip from a concerned citizen. For this reason the Task Force encourages all citizens to report any crimes in their neighborhoods anonymously by calling 318-357-2248, The Natchitoches Police Department, or the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Press Release: NMJDTF


Lakeview graduate retires as State FFA Area II Area Vice President

Lakeview High School recent graduate, Salem Johnson, recently retired from serving this year as 2019-2020 State FFA Area II Vice President. The Louisiana FFA State Officer team consists of ten elected FFA members who serve Louisiana FFA as youth ambassadors for The National FFA Organization and agriculture. Salem was elected in June 2019 after completing several interview rounds at Louisiana FFA State Convention held in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon election, Salem and 9 other state office team members began their training as state officers facilitated by the National FFA Organization.

Their summer training immediately began after State FFA Convention with Base Camp where the team focused on areas such as sound character, positive influence, professionalism, and time management. Their next training was Checkpoint where they were able to collaborate with Mississippi and Alabama state FFA officers and focus on creating successful workshops, public speaking, conversation skills, and team dynamics. Another training, State Officer Summit, was completed in Washington D.C. that focused on serving as an advocate for agriculture and FFA, as well as communicating clear messages related to agriculture and FFA.

These trainings prepared the state officer team to facilitate a leadership camp open to all Louisiana FFA members during the course of 3 weeks of summer. Salem created and presented workshops to FFA members as well as met with Louisiana agriculture teachers from all areas of the state. Throughout the year, she visited over 15 FFA Chapters across the state to recruit FFA members, provide leadership training to chapter officers, and celebrate chapter accomplishments. In October, she served as a voting delegate at the 92nd National FFA Convention and Expo to make decisions that will effect over 700,000 FFA members. Salem took advantage of the opportunity to travel abroad with International Leadership Seminar for State Officers through National FFA, along with 70 selected state officers from around the nation, to study agriculture in Spain and Portugal for 2 weeks. Salem and her team advocated for FFA and agriculture throughout the year by meeting with stakeholders, conducting conferences, and helping facilitate career and leadership development events. Due to Covid-19, Louisiana FFA’s state officer team faced many challenges during the end of their year to serve, one being the 2020 State FFA Convention. Salem and her team conducted the first ever virtual Louisiana FFA State Convention, where they presented their retiring addresses, acknowledged FFA member accomplishments, and recognized chapter achievements. The newly elected state officer team was officially installed at the conclusion of banquet, allowing Salem and her team to retire from their year of service. Salem will be attending Louisiana State University pursuing a degree in Agricultural Leadership and Development.

Salem’s Retiring Address and Convention sessions can be viewed on Louisiana FFA’s Youtube Channel.

FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.


NATCHITOCHES MAN ARRESTED FOR DRUG AND WEAPON CHARGES

According to a Task Force Official on 7/16/2020, Agents with the Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force (NMJDTF) conducted a Uniformed Tactical Operation (UTO), in conjunction with officers from the Natchitoches Police Department and deputies from the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office. During the operation agents arrested Kendall Morris B/M 27 for narcotic and weapons charges after a traffic stop for a traffic violation at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Berry Avenue.

During the course of the traffic stop, Agents located an Aero Precision AR15 rifle in plain view. Upon further investigation, a search of the vehicle was conducted resulting in agents locating the following:

Approximately 15.89 ounces of suspected high-grade marijuana
7 suspected Hydrocodone pills
5 suspected Oxycodone pills
Glock 17 9mm handgun
Aero Precision AR15 Model M4E1 Rifle
$6,863.00 U.S. currency

Morris was transferred to the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center for further investigation. Morris was arrested for the following charges:

2 Counts of Possession of CDS Schedule II (Hydrocodone and Oxycodone)
Possession of CDS I Schedule I with Intent to Distribute (Marijuana)
Possession of Firearm
Stop Sign disobedience
Expired Driver’s License

The Natchitoches Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force would like to thank the Citizens of Natchitoches for their support. Many times an investigation begins with a simple phone call or tip from a concerned citizen. For this reason the Task Force encourages all citizens to report any crimes in their neighborhoods anonymously by calling 318-357-2248, The Natchitoches Police Department, or the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

NPSO:  Press Release 


Notice of Death – August 10, 2020

NATCHITOCHES:
Dr. Leland Carroll Scoggins
May 16, 1933 – August 07, 2020
Service: Wednesday, August 12 at 10 am at Kisatchie Baptist Church Cemetery,

Jameka L. Waldrup
August 17, 1995 – August 10, 2020
Service: Saturday, August 15 at 10 am at the Winnfield Memorial Funeral Home Chapel in Natchitoches

SABINE:
Huey Wayne Isgitt
February 7, 1937 – August 7, 2020
Service: Tuesday, August 11 at 10 am at Emmanuel Pentecostal Church


Agenda for August 10 City Council Meeting – LIVE STREAM TONIGHT

The Natchitoches City Council meeting will be open to the public at the next regular meeting on Monday, August 10, 2020 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. Any Citizen that wishes to observe the City Council meeting live may do so at:

www.natchitochesparishjournal.com

or

www.facebook.com/NPJNatLa

If you have any comments that you would like to make on any agenda item, you can email those comments to smcqueary@natchitochesla.gov 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.

The City Council meetings 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 City Council Meetings are held at the Natchitoches City Council Chambers located at 716 Second Street, Natchitoches, Louisiana.

 

NATCHITOCHES CITY COUNCIL MEETING
AUGUST 10, 2020
5:30 P.M.
A G E N D A

PLANNING & ZONING – INTRODUCTION:

#044 Nielsen Ordinance Declaring Certain Buildings Unsafe And Recommending That Same Be Demolished Or Put Into Repair To Comply With The Building Code, Authorizing Notice To Be Serviced, Fixing Hearing Date And Appointing Curator To Represent Absentees.

ORDINANCES – FINAL:

#043 Smith Ordinance Authorizing The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches To Award The Bid For The Water Treatment Renovation, Backwash Effluent Transfer System (BID NO. 0626)

ORDINANCES – INTRODUCTION:

#045 Harrington Ordinance Amending The 2020-2021 Budget To Reflect Additional Revenues and Expenditures

#046 Nielsen Ordinance Authorizing The City Of Natchitoches To Enter Into An Agreement With The Louisiana Department Of Economic Development And Alliance Compressors, LLC For The Exemption From Ad Valorem Taxes Of An Addition To An Existing Manufacturing Establishment In Accordance With The Industrial Tax Exemption Application #20180501-ITE

RESOLUTIONS:

#050 Harrington Resolution Designating Friday, September 4, 2020 As An Official Holiday For The Employees Of The City Of Natchitoches For The Year 2020.

#051 Morrow Resolution Authorizing The Mayor To Advertise For Bids For Phase 3 Street Rehabilitation (Bid No. 0629)

#052 Batiste Resolution Authorizing The Mayor To Advertise For Bids For A 35 Ton Detachable Gooseneck Spring Ride Trailer (Bid No. 0630)

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

The next scheduled City Council meeting will be August 24, 2020.


Early Voting – Final Day 08-08-20

Early Voting for the August 15, 2020 Election as of the Close-Of-Business on Saturday,  August 8, 2020.

TOTALS In Person Mail In
293 252 41

WHITE BLACK OTHER
138 148 7

DEM REP OTHER
148 85 60

MALE FEMALE
109 184

  • Full Reports from the SOS 


A Consistent Culture of Excellence

By Kevin Shannahan/Opinion

The Natchitoches Parish School system operates two high schools – Lakeview and NCHS. The system also operates several middle and elementary schools. Each year, the school accountability scores for the parish’s schools run the gamut from A to F. The release of the scores is always a bit anticlimactic, the only true suspense being whether or not there would be an incremental increase or decrease in an individual school’s score. Which schools would have the low scores and which the better ones seldom, if ever, came as a surprise.

That means, to a large extent, the quality of a child’s educational experience depends in no small part in which one of the parish’s schools they are zoned to attend, or that their parents can wheedle them into. This is patently unfair to the children trapped in the failing schools and is an abdication of the system’s – and our – responsibility to them. That such a gap in school quality continues to exist promotes cynicism and distrust.

Over the years, there have been several school board members who have advocated closing the Magnet School and returning the children to their home schools on the theory that it was not fair to take the better students away from their home schools and that doing so was causing the failing school’s scores. I must respectfully disagree here. The problem is not the Magnet School’s taking a relatively small number of students whose return to their home schools would scarcely have an effect on their home school’s overall score. Nor are the Magnet and Lab schools the district’s sole repository of sound teaching. The Academy of Fine Arts in L.P. Vaughn and then East, is truly innovative and has produced solid results. The only schools in the Natchitoches Parish system sending students to the Regional Science Fair for the past two years have been the Junior High and East. Both of those are the result of hard working and dedicated teachers and administrators who believe in their students and go far above the call of duty in serving them. There are smart and talented children in each and every school in the parish. We are failing too many of them.

What then should the system and the citizens of the parish do to increase the equity and overall quality of education in each of the schools? Simply raise expectations and be intentional in distributing resources. See what is working and how we can replicate it throughout the parish.

Music: Both Magnet, Lab and NCHS have superb orchestras. While an orchestra might not be practical for Lakeview, the Junior High and other schools, there is room for improvement in all. NSU has a wonderful music education program, why not offer their students internships in our needier schools? I have seen some of the superb talent at L.P. Vaughn and later, East. I think this is a problem that would be easy to solve with some out of the box thinking. It would also be wonderful if a young NSU Music Education student fell in love with our parish and decided to teach here after graduation.

Theater: Once again, our neighbor NSU has a wonderful theater department as does the LSMSA. Why is there no theater program at any of our schools? Is a high school play beyond our children’s abilities? I think not.

Duke University Talent Identification Search: I have covered the TIP awards ceremony for the past few years. Most, if not all, of the children participating in the program hail from Lab and Magnet. That needs to change! This is a potentially life changing program, especially for a child of modest background who could see the possibilities that lay beyond his or her circumstances. There is absolutely no reason every school in the parish cannot have children in this program. That we do not is a travesty.

This stuff is simple, but it is not easy. Let us take a look around us for opportunities for our children to excel and grow. Let us make sure that every school in the parish does right by their children. This may involve difficult conversations. So be it. We cannot afford complacency.

The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal.  If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.


Kindergartner donates to NSU Food Pantry

Davis McDaniel, 5, delivered bags of food to the Northwestern State University Food Pantry Thursday.

“It started a long time ago when I was going to get vegetables and fruits for my neighbor,” Davis said. “In the virus, not much students can go to restaurants, so I decided to get food from the supermarket and store so students would have food to eat.”

With the help of his dad, NSU’s Director of Marketing and Branding Josh McDaniel, Davis got a list of items needed at the food pantry, selected the items online for pickup and delivered them to the pantry. Davis spent many hours at NSU this summer as a photo/video production assistant and will start Fall 2020 as a kindergartener.

The NSU Food Pantry has remained open this summer, with a large percent of its patrons international students who remained in Natchitoches over the summer. The NSU Food Pantry began as a project for a social work class and developed into a resource available to all NSU and Bossier Parish Community College @NSU students. Anyone interested in making a donation can do so through the NSU Foundation by visiting northwesternstatealumni.com. Donors should specify they wish to support the NSU Food Pantry in the Make A Gift section.

Anyone who would like to donate non-perishable food and toiletry items to the Food Pantry should contact sponsor Dr. Denise Bailey at garlandd@nsula.edu or call (318) 357-6129.


RoyOMartin Land and Timber Department Marks 13-Year Safety Milestone

Wood-products manufacturer RoyOMartin announced that its land and timber department has completed 13 years without an OSHA-recordable injury, effective Aug. 2. Logging and forestry have historically been among the most dangerous occupations in North America. Given those statistics and the vast amount of timberland managed by RoyOMartin foresters—nearly 550,000 acres—this accomplishment is especially noteworthy.

Keys to the team’s success include reporting near-misses, performing quality safety audits, and making daily contacts, in cooperation with a dedicated team of health, safety, and environmental professionals.

“This group of professionals leads the way in safety, not only in our workplace, but also in our industry,” stated RoyOMartin Vice President of Land and Timber Cade Young. “While following safety protocols and best practices is critical in our line of work, what really sets our team apart is the genuine care and concern they have for one another. Safety is part of our culture, and we carry that mindset throughout our daily activities, wherever they may take us.”

President and COO Scott Poole stated, “The entire RoyOMartin organization celebrates the land and timber department’s success. These dedicated women and men understand how critical their personal responsibility for safety is, especially given their risk of exposure to upset or unsafe conditions in the field. Beyond that, however, they serve as their ‘brother’s keeper,’ working as a cohesive team to achieve this significant safety milestone, of which we’re all proud.”

The above photo of the RoyOMartin Land and Timber Department was taken at their 2019 safety celebration for working 12 years accident-free.