Feb. 1 issue of The Light

Read The Light: Feb. 1, 2010

$8 million grant to put 60 math, science teachers in Cenla schools

The Rapides Foundation announced today that 60 people with math and science backgrounds will teach in Central Louisiana high schools while pursuing a tuition-paid master’s degree, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The project will create the Central Louisiana Academic Residency for Teachers (CART), a site-based teacher program that will take qualified college graduates and pay their tuition as they work toward a Master’s of Natural Science Degree. In turn, the residents will agree to teach in Central Louisiana high schools for three years after they receive their diploma.

The Rapides Foundation conceptualized the CART project to help Central Louisiana school districts with limited resources offer rigorous education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It approached LSU, which officially submitted the $8 million federal Teacher Quality Partnership grant that will fund the project. The Rapides Foundation’s partners in this five-year endeavor are The Orchard Foundation, LSU, LSU Alexandria and the public Central Louisiana school districts of Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn parishes.

The CART program is designed to increase student achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM, in Central Louisiana high schools by improving the quality and quantity of perspective new teachers.

“Research has proven that a strong background in STEM fields leads to more opportunities for our students,” said Joe Rosier, president and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. ”Our foundation maintains a strong commitment to improving the lives of the people in Cenla, and building a better educational system for our youth builds a more solid foundation for the future of this area.”

The residents will work in the schools while they pursue their master’s degrees, awarded from LSU. They will teach for three years in their assigned districts after they receive their diplomas. The 15 host schools are Oakdale High in Allen Parish; Avoyelles and Marksville high schools in Avoyelles; Block High in Catahoula; Montgomery High in Grant; LaSalle High in LaSalle; Bolton, Northwood, Peabody Magnet and Tioga high schools in Rapides; Lakeview and Natchitoches Central high schools in Natchitoches; Hornbeck and Rosepine high schools in Vernon Parish; and Winnfield Senior in Winn Parish.

LSU and its Colleges of Arts & Sciences, Basic Sciences and Education will lead the effort and The Gordon A. Cain Center for Scientific, Technological, Engineering and Mathematical Literacy will provide evaluation services.

“We are excited and honored to lead this program and take a giant step toward improving STEM education in Cenla,” said Gary Byerly, principal investigator on the grant and Richard R. & Betty S. Fenton Alumni Professor of Geology & Geophysics.

“This collaborative partnership is a model for the future of teacher preparation,” said M. Jayne Fleener, Dean of the LSU College of Education. “University and community partners have come together to make an important investment in the future of Louisiana. We are all stakeholders and winners in this collaborative endeavor.”

There are five major components to CART:

Teacher residency: Candidates co-teach for one year alongside an outstanding mentor teacher. During their first three years of teaching, the candidates are provided supportive induction services provided by the partners.

Student achievement and continuous improvement: The overall goal is to increase the number of students who are college- and workforce-ready by offering AP/Dual Enrollment/IB coursework in the STEM fields.

School leadership: CART provides leadership professional development to help build and strengthen the support structures necessary to attract and retain exemplary teachers.

Selection process: Candidates can be recent college graduates or mid-career changers.  They must hold an undergraduate degree in science, mathematics, engineering or other related field with 18 hours math or science content, earned a 3.0+ GPA, possess the qualities needed to teach effectively, and be willing to reside and teach in a high-poverty, rural location for a minimum of three years.

Broad-based partnership: The partners each bring unique attributes to the program to collectively ensure CART is successfully implemented and meets its goals.

For more information, call The Orchard Foundation at 318-767-6561.

Holt: ‘Don’t kid yourself,’ there’s still much work to do

By Sherri L. Jackson
The Light

For those who believe Martin Luther King’s dream has been fulfilled, Sibal Suarez Holt, the keynote speaker at Alexandria’s noon day event honoring the slain civil rights leader, said, “don’t kid yourself.”

“We have not achieve justice and equality,” she said to a pack crowd at the Alexandria Convention Hall. (Sibal Holt’s speech)

Holt, a licensed general contractor and former president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, emphasized, “(Martin) envisioned, it’s up to us to make it real.”

The noon day program started late as the parade slated to begin at 10:45 a.m. lasted longer than usual due to the number of participants.

Other program participants included the Citywide Choir, University Christian Prep School from Shreveport, the Rev. Phillip Taylor and Mayor Clarence Fields, who gave greetings from the City of Pineville.

Mayor Jacques Roy participated in the parade but didn’t attend the program. Sykes said an apparent mix-up resulted in Roy’s name not being on the program. Several people, including the Rev. Joe S. Green, tried to get Roy to come in to the program, but he didn’t come.

Meanwhile, the day’s activities began with a Prayer Breakfast with the Rev. George Gennuso as the speaker.

Community support needed to help Scott Crittle purchase special van

Jan. 15, 2010

Pineville’s ‘local heroes’ honored

Pineville Mayor Clarence Fields, left, presents a honor to Don Holman for his actions during a Dec. 19 housefire. Photo by Bill Sumrall

Mayor Clarence Fields honors Councilman Nathan Martin for his life-saving actions during a Dec. 19 house fire. Photo by Bill Sumrall

Pineville Mayor Clarence Fields presents an honorary citizen certificate to Susanna Broenniman, a Swiss exhange student. Photo by Bill Sumrall

By Bill Sumrall
The Light

PINEVILLE — Mayor Clarence Fields, during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, recognized Lowe’s employee Don Holman and District 5 Councilman Nathan Martin for their actions concerning a Dec. 19 house fire on Hollymoore Drive.

Both men received certificates as “local heroes” for risking their lives by entering the burning house to clear the residence of any potential victims.

Holman made no public statement but Martin said that Holman was the first on the scene and “in my mind he’s the hero on this.”

Martin added he counted 11 different emergency vehicles responding to the fire.

Also, Susanna Broennimann, a Swiss exchange student attending Pineville High School, received an honorary citizen certificate from Mayor Fields.

Broennimann, whose host family is Ken and Lorene Christie of Pineville, in turn presented a box of chocolates from Switzerland to the mayor.

In other business, City auditor Mark McKay gave a report on the audit for the city of Pineville’s fiscal year ending in June 2009.

McKay found one minor infraction in the purchase of a new fire truck that did not follow strict bid laws.

A fire truck destroyed in an accident needed to be replaced as soon as possible but McKay said the city made assurances that all such purchases in future will be in compliance.

A 6 to 8-percent decrease in sales tax revenues was reported elsewhere, “but we (in Pineville) increased by 8 percent,” McKay said, adding “good job, Lowe’s.”

Overall for the fiscal year, McKay reported “we’re in good shape” in Pineville with a surplus but he warned to be careful in spending. “My hat’s off to you and I salute you,” McKay said.

District 1 Councilwoman Mary B. Galloway announced a meeting for concerned citizens of District 1 is set for Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Main Street Community Center.

The Council approved introducing for publication amendments to the city’s billboard and off-premise sign ordinance which will be take up at next month’s meeting.

The Council approved a resolution supporting the implementation of the Louisiana College School of Medicine in Central Louisiana.

Chief of Staff Rich Dupree said the college applied for approval last November with the American Medical Institute and enrollment is not expected until 2011.

The resolution states in part that a Louisiana College Medical School would create a $1.4 billion economic impact to Louisiana and create more than 8,000 jobs as well as directly improve the quality of health care in Central Louisiana.

City Engineer Tom David with Pan-American reported on the introduction for publication of an ordinance to issue $2 million in utilities revenue bonds.

David said this takes advantage of a low-interest government-sponsored loan program of monies available through the federal Environmental Protection Agency to fix environmental problem with the sewer system.

David noted that the interest rate on the funds loaned to the city of Pineville was below 1 percent, far below the 8 percent interest rate which funded the Revolutionary War and the 5 percent interest rates after World War II.

“It’s about economic stimulation,” David said.

The Council approved a resolution authorizing the city to state their intention to maintain permit requirements as set forth by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System to prevent wastewater permit violations.

Also, the Council approved a resolution from the state DOTD for capital assistance necessary for transportation of the elderly in Pineville, which the mayor explained is done in a van operated by the police department.

Charlie Moore with the street department reported no major problems with city water lines due to cold weather but advised citizens to take precautions.

2010 looks good for the city of Pineville

By Bill Sumrall
The Light

PINEVILLE — Mayor Clarence Fields says the outlook for 2010 could include a bid opening for a new O.K. Allen Bridge.

In an interview with The Light, Fields said the state Department of Transportation and Development’s project for a new four-lane bridge to replace the aging O.K. Allen Bridge is estimated by city officials to cost $75 million.

The overall project includes the four-laning of U.S. 165 from Red River to Pineville High School, which is estimated to cost $25 million, city officials added.

“That will be a major, major undertaking,” the mayor said, describing the total $100 million project as changing the face of the cities of Pineville and Alexandria.

The new bridge will be built in about the same location across the river and eventually displace the current O.K. Allen Bridge, Fields said.

“It originally was going to be a six-lane bridge but because of funding it’s going to be cut down to a four-lane, which will still be a great asset for us,” Fields said.

The project is part of the Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development, or TIMED, program, which is cited as “the single largest transportation program in state history” by the state DOTD Web site.

“The TIMED Program was created by Act 16 of the 1989 Louisiana Legislature and was voted for by the people,” according to the Web site at http://www.timedla.com.

“The project is funded by a four-cent gas tax established in 1989 and in effect until all TIMED projects are complete. A series of bond sales will help accelerate construction,” the Web site states.

“The $5 billion improvement program includes widening 536 miles of state highways to four lanes on 11 project corridors, widening and/or new construction on three major bridges and improvements to both the Port of New Orleans and Louis Armstrong International Airport,” the Web site states.

The mayor said that the one goal now for the city of Pineville in 2010 is “to complete some of the projects that are in line to be completed.”

Among those projects is a new community center on Bragg Street in the Smithville/Lakeview area of Pineville, which is slated to be open later this month, Fields said.

“It will not be a full-blown community center operationally like Kees Park and Main Street is because it’s a little bit smaller,” Fields said.

The primary use for the center will be for small meetings and there are three offices available for different initiatives, which could include a community police officer working from one of those offices, the mayor said.

While he hoped more attention could be paid to senior citizens through the center, Fields said plans for its exact operation were still being formulated.

The city contributed about 20 percent toward grant funds totaling $800,000 for building the facility, which is located on 40 acres of land donated to the city by the Tutor family, Fields said.

Fields said they hoped to continue to “find ways to fund some of the major projects relative to infrastructure, particularly water and sewer,” throughout 2010.

“The Susex Drive project is the major project and it’s on track,” the mayor said, adding this “major improvement for a major thoroughfare through our city” is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Fields predicted increases in the funding of police, firefighter and other municipal workers’ pension systems statewide represent a major challenge in the future.

“All indications are that we’re going to see increases there,” Fields said.

Preliminary numbers for the city’s firefighter pension system indicate a jump of 7 1/2 percent, from 14 percent to 21 1/2 percent, for the employers’ match portion due to investment losses statewide, said city auditor Mark McKay.

McKay presented his fiscal report on the city of Pineville during the City Council meeting Jan. 12 and said the city faces an increase of as much as $500,000 to meet pension system hikes.

The mayor said that, while they have preliminary numbers about the municipal firefighters’ retirement system now, they won’t know about increases for police and city workers’ retirement system hikes for another month or two.

“And then we’ll start having to meet those challenges,” Fields said, though he believed they’ll be OK as far as health insurance and workmen’s comp.

During the Jan. 12 Pineville City Council meeting, city auditor Mark McKay reported that some $200,000 in sales taxes over a 10-year period, totaling about $2 million, are slated to be reimbursed for the Lowe’s project in future obligations.

However, McKay said the city “will benefit more than we pay” in sales taxes generated by the company locating here.

District 4 Councilman Tom Bouchie agreed, saying the city may see more than $1 million a year back.

Fields said this is not an issue because “what the city will gain overall from the Lowe’s presence here is far more than what it will do to help them relative to them coming here.”

“We still believe that potentially, particularly here in Central Louisiana, particularly in Pineville, we’re in a great position,” the mayor said.

“We just have to be very conscious and cautious of some of the challenges and not let them derail, you know, some of the things that we’ll be trying to do here in 2010, as far as improvements are concerned,” Fields said.

U.S. Census count means ‘the future is in our hands’

Census hearing in Alexandria, LA Photo by Bill Sumrall

By Bill Sumrall
The Light

One of nine regional meetings on the 2010 U.S. Census and how it affects reapportionment statewide was held Monday in Alexandria.

“We’re trying to raise awareness across the state about the Census, which will begin April 1,” said Rep. Rick Gallot.

Gallot chairs the committee on House and Governmental Affairs of the Louisiana House of Representatives, which sponsors the meetings.

“It is important that every person in our state be counted, and we want to do our part to make sure that everyone is in fact aware that the Census is fast approaching and that everyone is involved in this counting,” Gallot said.

About 35 people, including several past and present elected officials, attended the public educational presentation Jan. 11 in Alexandria on the 2010 Census and 2011 Redistricting process.

Reps. Herbert Dixon and Chris Roy and former House Speaker Charlie DeWitt were there as well as Rapides Parish School Board member Janet Dixon.

The presentation held in the Gladys Higdon Instructional Resource Center at 502 Beauregard St. in Alexandria lasted  a little more than two hours.

The hearing was streamed live via the House’s Internet site and is archived for future reference, accessible at http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Redistricting2011.

Gallot said that the event was educational and informational in nature to discuss the Census and redistricting principles, not a meeting to discuss redistricting plans or proposals.

“We will conduct another round of statewide meetings after the Census is conducted and we receive the Census results. We’ll do that approximately in March of 2011,” Gallot said.

Census representatives Lacey Loftin and Gabriel Sanchez presented Power Point slides outlining the 2010 Census, followed by a presentation on the 2011 Redistricting process and the law by attorney Mark Mahaffey, Legislative analyst Patricia Lowrey-Dufour and House Clerk Alfred W. “Butch” Speer.

Census numbers are the key to distribution of federal funds, officials said.

“It’s estimated that for every person that is uncounted in the Census, it costs Louisiana over $1,300 per year, so that would be $13,000 in a 10-year period,” Lowrey-Dufour said.

“It’s not an exact science, it really depends on the federal programs that use the Census for the allocation of those fund dollars as well as any grants that also count on Census data for that fund allocation,” Lowrey-Dufour said.

Officials noted that, according to Census projections, the state of Louisiana could lose one Congressional seat due to the lack of population growth over the past decade.

For more information about temporary jobs available for Census canvassing, call (866) 861-2010 and for more information about the Census, go online to http://www.2010census.gov.