Sunday, June 28, 2015

Gatti vs Burns

The race for State Senate in District 36 is heating up, as Attorney Ryan Gatti is taking on State Representative Henry Burns for the seat that Robert Adley is vacating because of term limits.
This one will be very interesting to watch. Both Burns and Gatti are campaigning as conservative Republicans.
Burns has a solid following from his days in the House, but Gatti seems to be generating a lot of support.
At this point, I'm not sure that Burns' tenure in the State House will be a blessing or a curse for him; the legislature is not in great favor right now. My hunch (and it's only that), is that Burns may do well in the more rural areas of the district, while Gatti will do better in the city.
We'll see.

If you are a candidate for office and would like to address the voters with your platform for office, please send a few paragraphs to and we will publish it.  Attach a picture if you like and we’ll include it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

On Memorial Day, we honor those who have fallen in service to our country.  I have compiled a list of service men and women from Bossier Parish who have died in action, beginning with World War I. This list is as complete as I could make it; if you know of anyone who is not on the list, please let me know and I will add them. List of everyone from Louisiana who was killed in all wars.

Thomas E Doty
Robert N Gaynor
James H Roach
Clark Strayhan
Allie Bryant
Stephen Fullwood
Allen Gleason
Arthur Jackson
Gus Williams
Murphy Williams

Willie B American
James O Avery
William Bedingfield
Guy A Buie
Gay Clark
Charles R Clemens
Thomas B Cole
Lamar Coleman
Harold J Courtney
Garland E Hickman
Campbell B Hodges
Woodrow W Holland
Louis A Johnson
Robert A Johnson
Grant King
Eugene E Lossett
Jake Maniscalco Jr
Horace J Miller
James V Palmer
Allen S Powell
Hines N Ritch
George F Rowe
Wilburn Sheppard
Roy T Strange
Stephen T Strayhan
John L Swilley
Harold M Valentine
Charles W Watson Jr
Kenneth Winham

David Grisham
James Kelleher
C Steelman

Arthur Norman Welch
Dennis Bedelle Black
Alton Delaney Kellogg
Wallace Lee Ogea
Isaac David Faughn
Charles Reuben Miller Jr
Arnold John Rahm
Dolroy Francies
James Walter Myles
Herbert Walter
Milford Donovin Carter

Craig T Nelson
Bernard C Sembly
Julia V Atkins
Joshua C Burrows

Michael Garcia
Larry D Bunn

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

For one family, A Senior Nightmare

As a follow-up to my post Senior Project or Senior Nightmare I was contacted by Ronda Spataro. This is her account of what her family encountered at Benton High School.

My son did his senior project on helping homeless people and those living homeless with pets. He volunteered at a daytime homeless shelter and spent time getting to know these people and their stories. He did not take pictures out of respect for the sensitive nature of their situation.
If your senior goes to school in Bossier Parish, Senior Project is a requirement to graduate.
Your child spends nearly 5 months doing this project, and your entire household revolves around Senior Project. I don't understand why literature and English are not the main concern. It is so stressful that my son, along with most of the students I've mentored over the years, are consumed and worried for months and they are unable to enjoy their senior year.
My son did his practice presentation and his teacher did not believe him. He was so proud of the time he gave to the community and yet his teacher did not allow him to present his project to the judges panel. The panel is made of judges from people in our community. My son is not a perfect student but he did the project (and his mentor verified his work). Because of him not being allowed to present his project, he now must take summer school and not walk with his class.
This requirement is just too much work for our kids. At first I liked the idea, but went through this 3 years ago with my other son. Nothing but stress. All the kids I've mentored, nothing but stress. It's too subjective because the rules change from school to school, teacher to teacher. At one school, your child may speak for 7 minutes, at another, 8-10 minutes. I know some students fake the whole project and still pass. My son did his project and should have been allowed to present. If there were issues that needed to change at his practice presentation, why wasn't he advised on needed changes to be ready for the presentation? Isn't that why they practice nearly a week before the real presentation? Some advice or guidance would have been nice, but he was called a liar.
I just think it's too much for our seniors and now my son will not be graduating with his friends. He will be in summer school, not for ENGLISH IV, but for Senior Project.
Parents are scared to speak up because they are scared their child will suffer the consequence. If you have a teacher that doesn't like your child, nothing will ever be good enough anyway.
Senior Project is definitely a nightmare and it needs to change!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Monica Hudson Fundraiser

I attended Monica Hudson's fundraiser at Silver Star tonight, she had a pretty good turnout. It was from 5 to 8, when I got there at 6:30 there were a number of people coming and going. She was answering questions, discussing her plans for the office and sharing anecdotes about working for Wilna Mabry.

Midway through coming and going

Monica with Paul Carmouche and volunteers ready to serve food

Chow time

The inevitable mingling

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Senior Project or Senior Nightmare?

I have been hearing stories about Senior Project, and some of them are really bad. Not having a child or grandchild in high school, it is all new to me and I’ve had to research it.  Senior Project has been a pet project of the Superintendent in Bossier Parish high schools for about four years now; it was a pilot program at Parkway the first year, then rolled out to every high school in the parish.  Caddo does not do Senior Project.
On the surface, to me at least, the goal seems worthy but the thing itself is over-complicated, very subjective, and in some cases, counter-productive. 
After twelve years of education, passing course work, years of standardized testing are all for naught if a senior does not pass Senior Project. 
If you are unfamiliar with Senior Project, here’s a quick primer:  it is taught alongside English IV, so while the student is trying to tease out the finer points of The Canterbury Tales and Hamlet, he is also writing an eight to ten page research paper on a topic related to his Senior Project.  That could be anything from carpentry to baking cakes.  The student is also working with a mentor on a product.  The guidelines say that the student must document twenty hours on the product and a minimum of five contacts with the mentor.  The student will compile all of this into a portfolio, along with at least ten required forms, and will make a PowerPoint presentation to go along with the speech he must give to an objective, outside panel.  The speech is supposed to be from eight to ten minutes.
This is where it gets subjective.  Apparently at some schools a student can speak four to six minutes while at others the student must speak eight minutes.  At another, ten minutes.  The product requirements vary, too, from school to school.  If baking is your topic, apparently one school requires three different samples for the judges to evaluate while at other schools a simple cake is fine.
Bottom line – it’s very subjective and very stressful for the student.
Now, let’s deal with a hypothetical. What if a student passes all of his classes, including the literature portion of English IV, and a teacher arbitrarily decides that they are lying about the work they have done on Project? Suppose that student has documentation and assurances from the mentor that this work was done according to the guidelines.  Suppose the teacher has accepted all the forms and documents all semester long, and then at the end of the process the speech isn’t quite long enough or the product board isn’t detailed enough. Is it fair that the student cannot graduate?
I’m aware of at least two instances this year where students were accused of lying about their project by a teacher without any real proof by the teacher in either case.  In one of those cases the parent threatened lawsuit and the student was allowed to pass. 
This is happening in our parish right now.  Right now there are kids who have ordered graduation invitations who will not be walking; these kids are considering new options – summer school, returning for another semester and graduating mid-term next year, or just going for the GED.
All because of Senior Project.
I have talked to lots of people over the last few days either personally or via Facebook (where I got a lot of interesting comments) as I’ve researched this.  I’m sure there are two sides to this, but I haven’t heard from one soul so far who supports it.
I won’t name schools – it’s a parish-wide problem so no need to single out individual schools – and from what I’ve heard, the teachers are not fans of Senior Project either for the most part.  But, what I’ve heard is this:
Each school supposedly has a Senior Project committee.  This committee secures the judges for the final panel.  The judges are supposed to be professionals in the community qualified to assess a portfolio and a speech.  At one school this year the committee charged parents of seniors to find judges.  I wonder what guaranteed that these judges were qualified or even literate.  I was told that some judges in those presentations realized that a student might be short on time so they drew them out with questions, thus helping the student make the time limit while other panels did not and students fell short. 
Is that fair?
In another case, I’ve heard that a kid was penalized for not taking enough pictures of his product; he had elected to do auto-body repair and found a mentor in an illegal chop shop.  He didn’t realize it was illegal, of course, but when a kid has to have a mentor, and there is maybe no attentive parent to guide him, this sort of thing is going to happen.  A student cannot use a family member as a mentor.
Is that fair?
In yet another case, a student did cooking for her Senior Project.  In order to make the required food for the judges to demonstrate her product, she used her family’s food stamp money. 
Is that fair?
Another student’s project got docked an entire letter grade because his speech didn’t open with an attention getting “hook” before he introduced himself to the judges.
That’s ridiculous.
One student had such a severe panic attack before her presentation that her nose started to bleed profusely and 911 had to be called.
Is this the kind of stress we want to subject kids to?  Is it necessary?
One student was called a liar by the teacher who just didn’t believe the student had done the project, despite guarantees by the mentor and plenty of documentation along the way.  That student will not be graduating this year. 
I’ve heard that some students actually do lie about their Project; they may lie about a step-parent being a mentor, or an aunt; they may lie about working with a certain mentor (what teacher has time to follow up on 35 mentors?).  Some students feel such stress and are so overwhelmed by the whole process, they feel this is their only option.
There is an appeals process for those kids, but it is practically never successful.  In the wide majority of cases it seems that the principal backs up the teacher and the superintendent backs up the principal.  The appeal process is intimidating and stressful for the student who might be hesitant to call out a teacher like that.
I’d like to know how many seniors won’t be graduating this year due strictly to Senior Project.  Someone left me a comment on Facebook that suggested this is just a vehicle to parade our kids out before the community and media. It doesn’t seem to serve the same educational purpose that a full course of English IV would.  I have real concerns that our students aren’t reaching college truly prepared because Senior Project consumed their entire English IV semester.

I hear rumors that the parish is considering modifications to Senior Project for next year but that does nothing for the seniors this year who will be sitting on the sidelines as their friends walk across the stage to receive their diploma.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Yo Quiero Taco Bell

This video has been making the rounds on social media. What makes it interesting is that it is based in Shreveport/Bossier. 
As one commenter on the video said, it is like robbing a bank to steal a roll of nickels.
Another couple of commenters on Facebook said that he had gone in and paid for the food, but no verification on that. I hope it's just a prank, the guy can obviously afford a meal from Taco Bell.
What do you think?
Language warning.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Clerk of Court Candidate Monica Hudson

Monica Hudson, Victim Advocate for the Bossier Parish District Attorney, has announced her candidacy for the Bossier Parish Clerk of Court. She is a lifelong resident of Bossier Parish and earned an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Bossier Parish Community College.  She continued her education and earned a B.A. from Minot State University. 

Hudson began her career in August 1982 with the Bossier Parish Clerk of Courts Office and continued with that office until May 1990.  Her duties there included: running Mortgage Certificates for sheriff’s sales, lenders, and the general public, issuing marriage licenses, assisting in the indexing of Mortgage and Conveyance records, microfilming mortgage and conveyance records, typing court minutes for civil and criminal cases, and training COE workers.
Hudson worked for The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for three years after leaving the Clerk of Courts Office.  At the FDIC she started in the file room and within three months moved to records management where she handled released mortgage notes and cancelled them at the various clerks offices.  She also maintained a data base with all closed files.  She then moved to Asset Management Department and performed various special projects as well as ordering appraisals, insurance, asset lien searches, and credit reports. She paid bills and re-inscribed mortgages at the clerk’s offices.  One year later she was promoted to the job of energy technician for the site.  There she wrote and implemented procedures for the oil and gas department and prepared monthly reports for upper management.  Her duties also included tracking all oil and gas revenue and expenses, keeping up with all accounts receivable and accounts payable records on each oil and gas asset, and researching and issuing division orders. 
Hudson’s experience also includes having been a legal secretary and paralegal for attorneys which involved the preparation of legal documents and filing them in the parish and federal clerks offices. 
Still employed at the Bossier Parish District Attorney’s Office, she began her career there in the incoming area and was quickly moved to the misdemeanor department where she worked cases and assisted attorneys with legal documentation,

subpoenas, motions, discoveries as well as other legal documentation. Her duties also included working with attorneys in trial preparation. 
Hudson has been the victim advocate for the past 12 years of her 15 years she has been employed in the District Attorney’s Office. She works with victims of crime ranging from domestic violence, sexual assault, robbery, and murder cases just to name a few. She works with attorneys in trial preparation and obtains certified medical records when needed. She assists victims in obtaining counseling and restitution. She assisted Representative Billy Montgomery in writing legislation to assist victims in obtaining restraining orders. She accompanies victims to court, prepares legal documents, and helps with statistical data for grants.
She is civic minded and has served as president on several non-profit boards. Her unique combination of career experiences has provided her with insight into the functioning of the Clerk of Courts Office as well as providing insight into needed enhancements to the services it offers by implementing streamlined procedures that increase efficiency. Her first priority is to ensure the integrity of the records as they are reported and expand currently limited online documents. She will begin to work backwards from 1982 to the present microfilming documents so all documents will be online. Another enhancement to services will be the ability to pay for services using debit or credit cards. She believes that a satellite office in Bossier is long over-due. She intends to save taxpayers money by making cuts in the budget without cutting services. She plans to expand technology and add more forms on the website. She will seek legislation to help with making e-filing a reality. She will seek grants to expand services for victims. She intends to implement records management procedures that will ensure a suit does not get lost or sit on a desk too long. In addition, she will have a transparent office and an open door policy. She will implement procedures tol meet attorney’s needs in 24 hour filing.
She is a Notary Public and with more than 27 years of legal experience. She wants to serve you. She is for the people and would like you to Hire Her for your Clerk of Court.
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Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Different Kind of Election

I’ve been deliberately holding off but it’s time to get busy. It’s election year, and a lot of offices are up for grabs.
Today I want to talk about the race for Bossier Parish Clerk of Court. A lot of people are a little unclear as to the duties of the Clerk of Court and they are manifold. This is one office that will definitely affect you if you live in Bossier Parish.
Do you vote? The Clerk of Court is the chief election official for the Parish. The Clerk is responsible for making sure those precincts are staffed and equipped, that they operate as prescribed by law for the hours prescribed. The clerk also tallies the totals to report to the Secretary of State.
Own property? Your deed and mortgage are recorded with the Clerk. The office has all property records from the inception of the parish in 1843, so the Clerk is also an archivist.
Getting married? Guess who issues your marriage license.
Getting Divorced? Guess where you file that lawsuit.
Need a Protective Order to deal with an abusive household member? You go to the Clerk of Court to get it in motion.
Criminal cases, ditto. Staffing each Civil and Criminal Courtroom and issuing subpoenas? The Clerk’s office.
Been summoned to serve on a jury? That too.
It goes on and on, and there is a lot of responsibility involved. My esteemed friend Marty Carlson had an article in the Bossier Press Tribune that also enumerates some of these duties. Marty is of the opinion that experience is a prerequisite to the office, and thus the title of this blog post. It is a different kind of election.
Before I get into it, please understand that I do not know at this point who I will support. This is a heads up election with three people whose qualifications are pretty well matched. In the past, this was a hand-me-down office. Since the 1930’s, in fact, the person elected had experience in that office.
Wilna Mabry was Chief Deputy to Mrs. Broussard, who was elected after her husband, the Clerk, passed away. By the time Miss Mabry ran for Clerk, she had decades of experience and had served for years as Chief Deputy.
Joan Carraway succeeded Wilna Mabry. Mrs. Carraway had decades of experience and had served for years as Chief Deputy.
Cindy Johnston, our current Clerk, ditto. Decades of experience in the office and years as Chief Deputy.
This is where the chain ends. There are three announced candidates for the office, and they are all good, capable people.
Cindy Johnston, for whatever reason, would not appoint a Chief. The current Chief Deputy, Jill Sessions, was just appointed in February at the time that Mrs. Johnston announced her retirement. She only has 8 years with the office, and has served in limited capacities, so it is not the level of experience that people have expected in the past.
Monica Hudson, who currently works for DA Schuyler Marvin as a victim’s rights advocate, also has almost 8 years experience with the Clerk of Court’s office, albeit in the past. She worked in the mortgage/conveyance end of it, and in the Civil and Criminal Departments.
The third candidate, Jimmy Franklin, is an attorney. He knows the functions of the Clerk’s office.
The experience that counts comes from the 35 deputy clerks who work in the office. For the most part, they are capable and some have the decades of experience that really does matter. These are the people who will make a new Clerk, whomever is chosen, a success.
I’ll be going into a lot more detail on the candidates, as well as candidates for the other offices that are in play, as time progresses.  In the meantime, I’ll keep an open mind. I hope you will too.
If you are a candidate for office and would like to address the voters with your platform for office, please send a few paragraphs to and we will publish it.  Attach a picture if you like and we’ll include it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bossier Clerk says no to re-election

Bossier Parish Clerk of Court Cindy Johnston has said that she will not run for re-election this year. I have heard a couple of rumors of people who are interested in the job. We'll take a look at it this weekend. 
Going to be an interesting election cycle.