Saturday, May 31, 2014

Friday, May 30, 2014

Michael Henry Visits Natchitoches for a Book Signing

Look!  It's me and Willie Mitchell Michael Henry!

Author Michael Henry came to Natchitoches yesterday to sign books at the Kaiffe-Frederick General Mercantile , the oldest (and coolest) store in the state of Louisiana.

Steve and I made a special trip to see Mr. Henry and to pick up some books.  I'm a big fan of his Willie Mitchell series and with his new book, Finding Ishmael, there is a new character to love and follow.

Mr. Henry insists he is not Willie Mitchell, of course, and he isn't, but he is indeed a gifted and engaging writer.  If you haven't given him a try yet, what are you waiting for?  The movie?

The Disabled American Veterans Sponsor Memorial Day Services at Greenwood Cemetery and a Surprise Guest Attends

Today is officially Memorial Day and despite cloudy skies with off and on rain the traditional Memorial Day observance at Greenwood Cemetery today went off as planned.

The speaker this year was retired Air Force Major Carroll Michaud who is very active in veterans affairs.

His message today was one that is near and dear to his heart:  Memorial Day is more than a three day weekend.  It is a day to honor and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in their service to our country.  He stated that it is important to observe Memorial Day on the traditional day designated rather than the Monday before.  "The meaning of the day gets lost" in cookouts and shopping sales, he explained.

Parkway High School AFJROTC participated in the ceremony with their presentation of colors, a violinist who played the national anthem, and they served as escorts during the wreath presentations.  There was also a flag folding ceremony.

There were many organizations present today to present wreaths; the turnout was excellent given the soggy conditions.  Our good friend retired Major Ron Chatelain was there to present for the Military Order of the Purple Heart:

Steve presented for the 40 & 8:

The Sons of the Confederacy wrapped up the ceremony with a rousing gun volley...

... and then the haunting notes of Taps was played over the graves of the fallen.

Making an appearance today was also Anna Judd, the young woman who is running across America to raise awareness for veterans' issues such as PTSD and the suicide rate which she says is twenty-two per day.  Anna says she runs about 33 miles per day; she started her journey in Venice Beach, California and she plans to end in New York at the Freedom Tower before her 30th birthday at the end of July.  She thanked the veterans in attendance for their service and posed for some photos with the Sons of the Confederacy:

And she took a photo with Steve and Ron:

After the ceremony she stayed to help the DAV pick up flags:

The rain held off for the ceremony today and started to pick up a little as it was all ending.

Please take a note from Major Michaud's speech today and take time to honor the fallen today on this traditional Memorial Day.

(The Shreveport Times photo gallery of the event is here.)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014 in Shreveport

It has been a full day of Memorial Day events for us.   It has been a glorious day!

We began the day with the noon ceremony at the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Keithville where guest speaker Col. James A. Jackson spoke about his time in the service which elicited both laughter and somber moments from the crowd.  He pulled no punches on his opinion of the current state of the VA debacle; while he refrained from getting political, it was clear that his interest is with the veterans and that they get the care they deserve.  It was a message that was well received.

There was an extended round of applause for "the greatest generation" attendees which was simply awesome.  And then there was the presentation of wreaths from the veterans organizations.

Chef de Gare Shawn Bohanan presented for the 40&8 and Ed and Judy Lamb presented for Cabane 137.

After the ceremony Steve,our friend Jerry and I piled back into the Jeep and zoomed across town back to the American Legion for the Memorial Day observance by Branch 98 of the Fleet Reserve Association.  I made piles of chicken sandwiches which we destroyed on the way over to the Legion which is no small trick when you're in the back seat of a Jeep with the top down and your hair is blowing like a tornado in Kansas.

After the ceremony we all piled into the Legion lounge for cool refreshments.

The ceremony on the point was very well attended and was very moving.

Even the mayor attended!

 I wish I knew the story of every vet there.

 The wreath was cast upon the waters to the tone of solemn bells.

After it was all done Steve and I joined friends for a spontaneous cookout.  The setting was beautiful and the company was perfect.

All in all, it was a perfect Memorial Day:  solemn observances, good friends, and good memories.

Please be sure to check out my post today at DaTechGuy about Shreveport's version of Saving Private Ryan.  And if you live in the area please plan to attend the traditional Memorial Day observance Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. at Greenwood Cemetery on the corner of Centenary and Stoner.  This event is usually so sparsely attended it just breaks my heart.  I would love to see a good crowd there this year.

If you can't come, please spread the word and invite others.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day Events Shreveport/Bossier 2014

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally "the start of summer" but lets take the time to honor the fallen this weekend.

Take a moment to read about the history of Memorial Day:
Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers. 
During that first national celebration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
Local towns picked up the banner and across America we have observed Memorial Day in our cities, small towns, and communities ever since.

Locally, there are several observances that we can join over the next few days.

American Legion Post 450 will have a salute to fallen soldiers at David Raines Park on May 24.  Following the observances, there will be food vendors, a voter registration booth, health screenings, a softball game, and arts and crafts activities for the kids.

Monday, May 26 will be a busy day with several observances throughout town.  

The first is at Hillcrest cemetery in Haughton at 9:00 a.m. at the Sunrise Stage Amphitheater.   Guest speaker this year is Ray Urban from American Legion Post 14.  

At noon on Monday, there will be a ceremony at the Northwest Louisiana Veteran's Cemetery in Keithville.  This is always a very moving ceremony as various service organizations, such as the Gold Star Mothers and the Order of the Purple Heart, place memorial wreaths.  Last year the Patriot Guard thundered in to begin the ceremony and the line of motorcycles seemed to go on for miles.  It was as moving a thing as I've ever seen.  

In the afternoon, at 2:00, head on over to the American Legion Post 14 for the traditional Wreath Laying Ceremony in the waters of Cross Lake sponsored by the 98th Fleet Reserve.  The tolling of the bells for lost shipmates is haunting.  If you're in attendance at that event, find me and you can be my guest in the Legion lounge for a cold beverage following the ceremony.  

Regroup, cool off and then head on over to Broadmoor Baptist Church for the 6:00 p.m. program headed by Sheriff Julian Whittington who will speak. The Young Marines will serve as Honor Guard. There will also be a choir and bagpipes to honor local fallen soldiers.

Close to my heart is the traditional Memorial Day observance each year at Greenwood Cemetery at the corner of Stoner and Centenary. The date this year will be Friday, May 30 at 9:00 a.m.  This is sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 30 and the speaker this year is former Air Force pilot Carroll Michaud.  Service organizations will again place memorial wreaths.  

Greenwood cemetery is where two of the Kelley brothers are buried; watch for a story on them in my weekly post at DaTechGuy blog this Monday.  One Shreveport family lost three sons in less than two years during World War II.  Their father wrote a local congressman begging him to spare his fourth son who then remained stateside for the duration of the war.  

So before you fire up your bar-b-que and put on your flip flops this summer, take time to remember the fallen.  Take time to learn about their sacrifices and the sacrifices of the families and the country that supported them. 

 Go here to watch an amazing video of the 507th PIR and their emotional return to Normandy years after their participation in the D-Day invasion. (Georgia Public Broadcasting link; it's safe.)  Here's a trailer:

Here you can listen to service songs of all the military branches. (PBS).

And this:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Promise of Summer

The promise of summer is finally coming.

My last week of school is this week: we get out Thursday, and up until yesterday my mind has really not been focused on summer plans.  When you're return date to work is actually the last week of July summer seems somewhat shorter than in the past.  (Don't tell me anything about how teachers have "all summer" off!)

Summer always starts with Memorial Day and Steve and I stay busy with Memorial Day activities for a few days.  Then summer fun really starts with the Cross Lake Floatilla.  We had a ball last summer and are looking forward to it again this year with huge dreams of winning the poker run this year (we were darned close last year!).

This time last year I had a huge bucket list of things to do over the summer -- really heavy things like spending a day in the hammock and getting my dog microchipped.  I spent weeks dreaming up fun summer plans and taking care of things that I just can't seem to get done during the school year.  But this year there has been no bucket list.  Nothing.

Until yesterday.  Yesterday we went to the American Legion for Family Day and as I sat under the towering pines on the hill and looked over the lake it started to hit me.  Summer!  We ate hot dogs and sipped cokes, visited with friends and watched the boats.  The little kids took a ride on the 40 & 8 train and had their faces painted.  When it was over we went inside the Legion to the lounge, had a beverage, and watched the boats on the lake.

I bought my Floatilla t-shirt and that's when it finally hit me -- summer is really coming.  I woke up this morning and the bucket list items started coming.  Besides the fact that I will be spending a lot of time in the Watson Library in Natchitoches this summer, we are planning another Route 66 trip, an Iowa trip, another Rangers game, and a birthday party for the best looking kid in Texas.  I'm going to savor every moment!

There will be hammock days, yard work days, and days floating on a boat doing nothing. There are books to read and household chores to be done.  Landscaping, yard work, closet cleaning.  Scrapbooks and Smash Books to make, steaks to grill, and cold beverages to be enjoyed.  Time with friends and family.  Humid nights on the deck with the twinkly lights in the trees.  Meteor showers.  Top down days and day trips to take; fresh vegetables to be consumed and  good music on outdoor patios.  And without a doubt there will be a few surprises along the way because that's what is so great about summer:  anything can happen!

Let's get this party started!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On Mother's Day, Mysterious Old Boxes, and Old Photographs

It's Mother's Day again, and while I'm still actually mourning the loss of my own mother just over a year ago, I am actually a mother myself, so I'm going to enjoy the day.  In reality it won't be any different from any other day around here.  I'll get outside in a few minutes and work on the yard (so much to do!), and later will probably throw some steaks or something on the grill.  Watch some baseball.

Yesterday I was cleaning house and trying to clear out some of the clutter around here when I came across a box of mom's things that my brother had dropped off last year.  At that time, he had been cleaning out mom's house and had been bringing truckloads of furniture and stuff to me so I could figure out where it all needed to go.  That box was one of the last things he brought and I was just worn out.  Could not deal with it.  I pushed it aside, knowing it was full of photos and some other random things, and knew it could wait.

Yesterday, when I came across the box I wondered if it was time.  I tentatively stuck my hand in the box and pulled out a folder that looked harmless enough.  As I did this I wondered if Mother's Day weekend was really the best time to go tripping down memory lane, but it was safe.  It had some photos I had taken for mom of the old family cemetery in Rapides parish and it had a copy of an old photo from the 1940s of my dad and a group of his friends sitting in a nightclub after the war.  The picture is already framed on a table in my house, so it wasn't traumatic.

Emboldened, I pulled out another folder and found some small black and white pictures of mom as a teenager with her friends at a camp on Lake Bistineau; I'd seen the photos so many times in the past and she and I had looked at them together so often that again, it was okay.  She kept them in a small white envelope so they would all stay together; she kept them in a drawer in a spool cabinet by her sofa and periodically she would pull them out and reminisce.  I took the little envelope and put them in the same drawer in the same chest that now sits in my home.

Feeling really brave now, I pulled out a brown manila envelope that held lots of photos from a wide span of years; of course I'd seen them all before, but this one picture of my mom and her parents caught my eye.  I don't recall seeing it before but I'm sure I must have.  My mother was an only child and she adored her parents.  She was spoiled rotten and was very close to them both.

I'm not sure where the picture was taken; I don't recognize the house in the background.  But I love it
because she is laughing and her dimples show  She is smartly dressed -- my grandmother spent fortunes on my mom's clothes.  I love how she has her weight balanced on one leg, one knee slightly cocked, and her arms linked through those of her parents.  The tilt of her head, the laugh, and the sun glinting off her hair -- she is forever young.

I don't remember my mom ever looking like that of course.  This picture was taken easily ten or twelve years before I was born.

But she is laughing, happy, and with her parents.  And that's how I want to remember her today.  It's almost as if she sent this photo to me on Mother's Day.  A treasure.  She is happy.  And so I stopped digging in the box.  It is enough for now.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

An Open Letter To Hal Braswell

Dear Mr. Braswell,

It was with great sadness and concern that I read your recent article in the Bossier Press Tribune entitled "The Future of Bossier High."  As I read, I could not help but wonder how long it has been since you toured our facility.  Can you tell me when, exactly, was the last time you came to visit us?

Were you at our recent Senior Awards Assembly where many of our graduating seniors were awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to schools all across the nation?

Were you at Jalen Oliver's signing ceremony when our champion wrestler signed with Bacone University?

Did you meet our principal, David Thrash, during your visit?  Surely if you took a tour of the campus as your article seems to indicate ("..."Bossier High School is sitting half empty.") you met Mr. Thrash.  You'd remember him.

In case you can't recall the details of your visit, let me refresh your memory.  After all, the thesis of your article is that Bossier High is doomed; the numbers likely aren't there to support the continued operation of the school.  That's what kids are to people like you and the demographers:  numbers.  I can understand that to a point -- the MFP funds schools based on numbers and student population.  But certainly an experienced reporter such as yourself knows that kids are more than numbers and you did your research which would include a site visit.

But let's tour the school together, virtually, shall we?

As you drive into our campus that building to your left is the gym.  Have you ever been to a basketball game there?  Maybe you couldn't find a place to sit because it is pretty crowded.  During the playoffs it's even more crowded.  Our boys have dominated high school basketball (in both 4A and again when we dropped to 3A);  they have made the playoffs every year since I've been a teacher there and I came to BHS in 2001.  Those kids are champions!

Did you see that playoff game this season where Devonte Hall played with the flu, fell to the floor at the end of the game, had to be helped off, but still hit a scoring record?  Talk about heart!  You may have heard that
Devonte signed with Northwestern a couple of weeks ago to play for them in college.

Our girls basketball team hit the playoffs at least eight years in a row.  Champions!

As you drive through our campus, Mr. Braswell, please notice how beautiful it is.  One of our teachers and her class planted the flowers around the light posts in our parking lot, and through the years have landscaped and planted various beds around the campus.  The roses along the front breezeway are beautiful this time of year.  Please notice how clean the campus is.  It's also clean at the end of the day because our kids don't want trash messing up their campus.

Our custodians are the hardest working folks in the parish.  When I get to school at 6:50 every day they are out there picking up trash so the campus is clean when the kids come.  You'll see that about our custodians when you enter the building, too, because those floors are buffed up and literally shine like glass.  There may be some peeling paint here and there but the campus is spotless.

When you come on campus be sure and stop by Mr. Thrash's office.  I'm sure he'd love to take you on a tour.  He can show you our ten computer labs (some of which are taking up space in those "empty" classrooms, right?);  we're very proud of our computer labs because so much standardized testing is done on computer now-a-days, and at Bossier High we like for our students to have access to the

best technology we can muster.  We have many teachers that have received rather large grants for technology and other materials.  If you look at our home page you will see that math teacher Marco Reyes won grants totaling over $3,600 and science teacher Amy Washington also has received a couple of very generous grants, just to name two.

Oh, and I guess you heard about that huge Department of Defense grant Bossier High just received from NMSI to help foster and support AP classes next year!  Great news, isn't it!  Our kids are very excited about the AP classes and I know personally that the English department classes filled up as soon as they were announced.  We will have AP in math, science, and American History also.

At any rate, be sure to enjoy your tour with Mr. Thrash; he's an excellent principal and I wish I had several days to tell you the many ways that he mentors and helps our students.  With all due respect, you can't even fathom what he deals with each day.  Yet he does it all with a grin and a hug for every single kid on campus. I've seen him pull a dollar out of his pocket for a kid who needs lunch and I've seen him drive a kid home from school when he missed the bus.

Be sure to go by the library on your tour; you'll notice more computers out there, of course.  The library is really the hub of the school.  In most schools I guess you would consider the office to be the center of activity but at our school it's the library.  That's because our librarian wears multiple hats as both librarian and senior class sponsor.  We call her The Oracle.  She and her team run not only the library but also prom and graduation.  Did you know that at Bossier High we have a tradition at graduation:  our teachers write personal notes of congratulations to the seniors and the librarian slips the notes into their diploma packets for graduation.  I can't begin to tell you how many kids have been touched  by those notes of love and encouragement.

If you hit the campus at lunch time you'll find our cafeteria full of kids and the food lines long.  Our cafeteria workers know every kid by name -- they aren't just numbers to them.  We have picnic tables outdoors and they stay full, too.   You will see our student population is incredibly diverse.  We have neighborhood kids and Barksdale kids.  Our kids are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and pretty much any ethnic mix you'd like to name.  Did you see the article in your own newspaper about our Alumni scholarship recipients?  You couldn't have a wider diversity there.  But you know what the beautiful thing is?  There really are no cliques at our school.  If you ask any one of them to tell you their favorite thing about Bossier High School a very large percentage of them will tell you that we all get along.  We are a family.

You see Mr. Braswell, that's one of the things your numbers and your demographic reports will not show you.  Our kids get along with each other and they look out for each other.  They help each other.  And they stick together.  For some, it's about the only family they have. There may be band kids, athletes, the "smart" kids, the special education kids, the average doesn't matter.  They stick together and look out for each other.  I've never seen anything like it and I have worked elsewhere.

Continuing with your tour, Mr. Braswell, be sure and check out our ROTC building where our ROTC instructors hold their students to the highest standards.  They work with our kids with after school archery practice and many other activities.  They take an end of the year field trip, usually, which offers these kids opportunities they may never have otherwise.

Of course you'll want to stop by the football stadium: you can't miss it on your way out.  The record of domination in Bearkat football is legendary.  Not every year is a winning year, but our kids play with heart.  They give it everything they've got.  Be sure and check out the new $200,000 weight room while you're
over there.  It's first class!  And the field house:  you see that Bearkat ripping through the wall?  Our athletic director's wife painted that one summer.  Pretty cool, I think.

I'm starting to run rather long here, Mr. Braswell, so I'll wrap this up.  I haven't even begun to tell you all the great things that happen at 777 Bearkat Drive each day.  I didn't tell you about the Family and Consumer Science department where they've completed projects making blankets for infants, the homeless, and flags for soldiers; they've made dresses from newspapers and quilts from t-shirts.  I didn't tell you about our awesome band and choir.  I didn't mention our Young Authors district level winners and our State Academic Rally winners.

In closing, I will share with you one of the proudest moments (there are so many...) I had early this year.  During lunch one day I was working in my classroom when I heard the rhythmic cadence of the drum line as they marched (in 100 degree heat mind you - it was probably late August or September) to the lunch common area where they spontaneously began to play.  Soon other band members saw them and dashed to the band room for their instruments.  Before long we had a spontaneous pep rally on our hands and the rest
of the students circled around and cheered.  The flag line even joined in.  I hate that you missed that!  You'd have seen our English I teacher, Mrs. Gunn, (aka Beyonce) out there dancing with the leader of the flag line.

But you know what really touched me about that day (and that scene was repeated for several weeks to come).  As I looked out my second story window and listened to the music, I saw one child standing alone, off to the side.  This child is autistic and pretty much non-verbal.  At a lot of schools a kid like that might be shunned, avoided, or even bullied.  Not at Bossier High School.  As the band played their song this student paced and walked circles around the flagpole, very excited, head bobbing and fist pumping, loving the music and the beat.  Before long, other kids joined around this student, including this kid in their dancing.  He grinned and fell right in with them; he might not have been verbal but he knew what love was.  And it was a joy to see.  I mean, it warmed my heart in a
way I can't even describe.  At that moment I felt a love for my school that transcended everything else.

You see, Mr. Braswell, again, these are things that a demographer's report will never show you.  Bossier High might be small in enrollment compared to some other schools.  But research shows that for a school with demographics like ours a smaller population is ideal for these students.   As I mentioned in my blog post last weekend which addressed your article, some of our kids struggle against circumstances that would buckle the strongest adult.  But they keep showing up every day, ready to learn, ready for help, ready to improve.  Don't ever tell them that Bossier Parish is going to abandon them too because I can tell you, the teachers and administrators at Bossier High School are there for the long haul.  We are in it to win it and we are never, ever going to give up on these kids.

Come visit our school, Mr. Braswell.    Come met our students.


Pat Becker
English II, IV, and Creative Writing
Sophomore Class Co-Sponsor

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Big News for Bossier High

As alluded to earlier this week, here is the press release regarding a huge DoD grant for two Bossier Parish schools:

Bossier Schools to Expand AP Program at Military Connected Schools 
Bossier Schools has become the first district in Louisiana to be chosen by the National Math and Science Initiative to receive a $919,618 grant to expand the Advanced Placement (AP) program at two military connected schools; Bossier High and Parkway. 
The grant, made possible by the Department of Defense Educational Activity Fund, will serve as the catalyst for NMSI’s College Readiness Program, which includes open enrollment in rigorous AP math, science and English classes for all eligible students at Bossier and Parkway, whether military dependents or not. 
By giving students the opportunity to take college-level courses and master the material by equipping them with needed resources, they gain not only college credit but are also more likely to succeed in college. The NMSI College Readiness Program has proven to be transformative, both in closing achievement gaps and fostering increased interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines. 
In addition, the NMSI program provides training and support not only for educators at Bossier and Parkway High, but also their feeder schools to create a pipeline that prepares students for the rigor of AP course work. Another facet to the grant is financial incentives are awarded to teachers, students, administrators and schools for measurable achievement. 
“We are honored and very excited that the National Math & Science Initiative has selected Bossier and Parkway High Schools to participate in this unique opportunity,” said Bossier Schools Superintendent D.C. Machen. “This collaboration will not only provide the venue for each of these schools to dramatically increase the number of students pursuing Advance Placement Courses and achieve the highest rankings on their accompanying AP Exams, but will provide enhanced training, resources, and initiatives to improve the quality of instruction for a large pool of educators within our system. We appreciate the on-going partnership the Bossier Parish School system has maintained throughout the years with Barksdale Air Force Base and their assistance in helping us to receive this grant.” 
Gregg Fleisher, NMSI Chief Academic Officer, added “NMSI’s College Readiness Program has been proven to increase students’ chances of a college degree in STEM related fields, and we couldn’t be more pleased to support Barksdale Air Force Base and the Bossier and Parkway communities.” 
You can read more about NMSI grants here.

Very exciting news!

Close the doors?   Not even close!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The REAL Future of Bossier High School

Bossier Press Tribune reporter Hal Braswell needs an education.  I don’t mean a formal education – he received his formal education in Illinois and in Mississippi.  Mr. Braswell, who lives in Minden and has worked for the Bossier Press Tribune since 2007, needs to come to Bossier High School and see what we do every day. 

Mr. Braswell published an article in the Bossier Press that has ignited a firestorm on Facebook this weekend.  His article, “The Future of Bossier High,” reports on an upcoming demographic report about projected enrollment numbers for Bossier High School.

I’d link to the article, but as of this writing, the Bossier Tribune’s site is still down – it crashed sometime yesterday. Karma?

The article says:
“A demographer’s report being finalized for the Bossier Parish School Board will project student enrollment from 2014 to 2014 and could provide a glimpse into the future.”
Mr. Braswell goes on to report what we all know:  Bossier City is growing outward, north, south, and east.  New schools have been approved and built in those areas; Legacy and Parkway are both shiny, new schools that help accommodate those populations.  Mr. Braswell also reports that Bossier Parish’s two largest high schools, Airline and Parkway, are both scheduled for big money enhancements that the voters approved in 2012:
“Airline High School, already the largest in Bossier Parish, is scheduled for a $22.65 million enhancement that will bump its capacity to 2,000 students. Parkway High School, only a few years removed from locating to an entirely new campus in south Bossier, is slated for a 12-classroom addition in Phase Two of the $210 million bond issue approved by voters in April 2012.”
This is all true and I have no objection with what Mr. Braswell reported up to this point.  It is in the next paragraph of his article that things start to get fuzzy: 
“At a time that millions of dollars are earmarked for expansion and other improvements at Airline High School and Parkway High School, figures provided by the school district show Bossier High School is sitting half empty.”
Mr. Braswell reports that the school has the capacity for 1,361 students.  Now, let’s pause there for a moment.  The school might have been built with that many classrooms in 1938 (the date the current campus was designed), but today some of those classrooms have been turned into computer labs to accommodate modern day
technology requirements and instruction.  We have at least four wired computer labs in the two main buildings as well as several mobile laptop labs, and the library has two computer labs.  There is also a mini-lab in the counselor's office area.  In all, we have about ten computer labs on campus.

Note also that last summer Bossier High received a major electrical upgrade from bond money approved by voters.  The school also has a $150,000 auditorium upgrade coming.  The auditorium at Bossier High is used for many parish functions including the annual parish musical, Lions Club functions, Bossier Council on Aging functions, and parish wide food service training annually to name a few.

Mr. Braswell’s statement that “Bossier High School is sitting half empty” is very misleading.  Tell that Geometry teacher with thirty-three kids in her classroom that her class is “half-empty” and see what happens.  There are no empty classrooms in Bossier High School, and I invite Mr. Braswell to come see what goes on in those classrooms.  I also invite any alumni, especially those on Facebook who are suggesting we lock the doors in 2017 and have a huge alumni party, (imagine!) to come see what we do at Bossier High School every single day.  Come embrace and support our hard work rather than give up on us.

I wonder if Mr. Braswell was at the Senior Awards Assembly last week.  Bossier High School students received thousands of dollars in scholarships to schools all over the country.  We also recognized students who are planning to go into the military after graduation.  The Bossier High School Alumni Association, in fact, gave several very generous scholarships at that assembly.  Our students are achieving great things which should be supported and celebrated.

We just completed Senior Project last week; our seniors (both semesters) have done incredible work with their projects and achieved things they never thought they could.  And I don’t mean just the physical project that each student did; many of these kids did these projects under incredible hardships that I can’t even begin to share. 

Part of Mr. Braswell’s thesis is that Bossier High School’s population is an inner-city, declining, poverty ridden population.  That is demographically true but it doesn’t take into account the personal aspect of our population.  These kids aren’t numbers.  They’re people.  They’re students, and they’re kids with heart, drive and pride.

Some suggest that we just blend these kids into Parkway (already with a population of about 1,200) and Airline (population about 1,700).  One of the comments I saw this weekend in the discussion about closing Bossier High School is that it’s a numbers and demographics issue, not an emotional one.  Well of course it’s an emotional issue.  I’m here to tell you that as a teacher at Bossier High School since 2001, I have personally seen kids who have had that “grass is greener” mentality; they’ll transfer to one of the bigger schools and then come right back.  They get swallowed up at those big schools.  It should also be noted that when the kids at Barksdale were given permission to leave Bossier High and attend another school in the parish if they wanted, almost all of them chose to remain at Bossier.  We continue to have a large population of Barksdale kids.

Many of our neighborhood students come from homes where they receive very little academic support.  In that respect, if we have “under capacity” classrooms, what that means is that in an English class of 25 students, many of whom need one on one assistance, it is possible to mentor and help those kids.  

Our school has a population that is 72% free/reduced lunch.  (Airline is 38% and Parkway 32%).  Who picks up that slack for these kids and functions as a family or mentor?  The teachers and administrators at Bossier High do; we love and mentor our students on a scale that other schools can’t fathom.  I have known faculty members that will pick kids up and take them to church if they want to go.  When a student is stressing out and crying because she doesn’t have $1.00 to buy page protectors for her senior project portfolio who do you think reached into her pocket and helped her?  When a student is sleeping through class because he’s had to work at night to keep the electricity on at the house (because both parents have left), who helps that student?  I could go on and on.

What I’m telling you is that there are great things that go on at Bossier High School; it is so much more than demographic numbers and projections.  You might say that education is a business and best use of taxpayer dollars must be adhered to, and that may be true.  But our mission statement at Bossier High School says it best: 
“The mission of Bossier High School, in partnership with parents and community, is to foster the development of an environment that will facilitate learning for all students, promote self-esteem and respect for others, and launch learners on a quest for high standards, all of which will lead them to be self-sufficient adults.”

It’s that part about “self-sufficient adults” that you taxpayers that want to close the doors need to pay attention to. 

One last note as we wait for the demographer’s report.  Rusheon Middle School, the main feeder for Bossier High, has its largest eighth grade class in recent years, leaving in May.  The majority of those kids will come to Bossier High School which will certainly boost enrollment there.  The numbers at Rusheon are big in the seventh grade as well which should also predict a large ninth grade population for Bossier in the next year.  In addition, there will be a big news conference this week where great news for Bossier High will be announced.  Watch for it. 

Mr. Braswell seems to have written our obituary at Bossier High and paid the undertaker, but it’s not over at 777 Bearkat Drive.  Not even close.  The best is yet to come!  Come embrace and celebrate what we are doing rather than giving up on us.  Locking the doors in 2017?  Are you KIDDING?!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Take a Trip to the Barksdale AFB First Annual Luau

In celebration of  Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage month, Barksdale Air Force Base held its first annual Luau yesterday.

The Luau was well attended and the tables were nearly full when Steve and I got there around 5:30.  Luckily we found some friends that we could sit with!

I have to admit, I got a little teary when we parked behind Hangar 2 and I walked past Joy's parking place and of course there was no little silver Miata convertible there.   I still miss our Joy.  

We got our arm bands for the food and a couple of drinks; we said hello to our friends Tay and Rose.  I didn't get my usual picture with Rose because she was busy getting food ready but here is me (needing to lose a few pounds) and the beautiful, sweet Tay:

I'm going to put this on my refrigerator so I can get motivated to start running again.

They had long rows of tents set up where you could sample more than forty food items from the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, Korea, and Hawaii.  It smelled fabulous!  They also had a couple of pigs roasting!  Margaritaville Casino donated much, if not all, of the food for the event.  Great supporters of the military at Margaritaville!

It was a tasty pig.  I ate some.

Luckily we got in the food line pretty early because that line snaked all through and around the festival site.  It was a crazy-long line, but moved pretty quickly.

I didn't get a sample of everything that was offered but I did get a full plate.  I loved the spicy cole slaw and there was some chicken or pork on a stick that was really good.

Yes, I had two beers sitting there; I didn't want to stand in the uber long beer line again.

We ate and visited with friends for a while and then went to watch the entertainment.  While I was in the food line there was one of those cool Chinese dragons in the performance area but I missed it and the Lion puppet, too.  The dragon was beautiful -- gold and sparkling in the late evening light.  I hate I missed it.

I did catch the Japanese taiko drum performance, though:

By this time the crowd was huge.

The food line went on for hours.

After the Japanese drummers there was a beautifully costumed lady dancing and tossing rose petals.

Later there was a hula dance that was awesome; the ladies danced, then these guys came out and danced, and later they all danced together.

I wish I knew the names for these dances but I don't.  They were fascinating to watch, though.

There was a cool fire dance:

After the cultural performances, our favorite DJ, Larry, opened the floor for dancing while all the volunteers worked to clean up after the festival.  Of course once he started to play "Wobble" the floor filled up!

One of the performance dancers came out and danced for a while; I got a great video of him dancing the Wop.  He was like a rubber band!  Great dancer!

Folks eventually began to dwindle away and go home.  By 10 or 10:30 it was just these cool kids doing the "Thriller" dance:

Steve and I hung out until the last song, or close to it before packing it up and heading home.

It was a great night and a really fun festival.  The staff at BAFB did a great job considering this was the first Luau; they will tweak some things for next year I'm sure.  This was no Oktoberfest -- there was one beer truck and a location to get mixed drinks, but for the most part this was a true family event with lots of things for the kids to see and do.  And there were indeed lots of kids there.

We had a great time and look forward to next year!  Meanwhile, there is Oktoberfest coming'll be here before you know it!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation