Notice: Solicitors not from CPSB
We appreciate your support of Claiborne
Parish Schools through the years. I want to caution you before changes are
made to your child educational program or signing up for online or courses
being offered outside of Claiborne Parish Schools. It has come to my attention
that individuals are going door to door soliciting personal information on
students and offering electronic devices for student participation. These
persons are not affiliated with Claiborne Parish Schools. Anyone representing
the Claiborne Parish School Board will have an official letter either from the
school principal or the parish superintendent. Please use extreme caution when
giving out your child’s demographic information to door to door solicitors. We
encourage you to contact your child’s principal before making a commitment to
these solicitors as it could have a profound impact on your child’s educational
Williams, Superintendent, Claiborne Parish Schools
2013-14 CPSB budget up in the air
‘Unconstitutional’ education legislation leaves more
questions than answers
MICHELLE BATES, Editor
With Acts 1 and 2 being declared
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, those actions leave more questions than
answers where school systems’ budgets are concerned.
In Thursday’s Claiborne Parish School Board
meeting, Business Manager Fred Evans went over some revisions to the 2012-13
budget, and in doing so, board members raised the questions of how the courts’
decisions affect their budget.
Evans said he is working on a proposed budget for
2013-14, but he’s having issues with the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP),
which is the state’s allotment to school systems for salaries and benefits for
teachers and staff.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know what’s
going to happen with the MFP,” he said. “It’s totally uncertain. Act 2 was
declared unconstitutional and the MFP was declared null and void from the get
go. It’s being null and void, what’s going to take place? I don’t know. As the
weeks go on, my plan is to present a budget to you by the next meeting.”
Bob Hammonds, of Hammonds and Sills,
representing the Claiborne Parish School Board and others against the state,
explained some of the problems school systems are facing now that the court has
made its decisions.
“The situation is unparalleled in Louisiana,”
Hammonds said. “What the court said was the MFP that was approved for the
2012-13 school year -- the one that you’re operating under now -- was
unconstitutional, which is what we argued in district court. The district court
ruled in our favor and the Supreme Court, by a vote of six to one affirmed.
“The problem is the court said as a result of
our ruling, the 2012-13 MFP was invalid from the outset,” he continued, “that
2012-13 MFP called for the expenditure of about $3.4 billion, (and) that the
$3.4 billion was spent unlawfully. The question is, how do you get it back?”
With regard to the vouchers, Hammonds said,
there was $25 million that was sent out to private and parochial schools.
“And that’s the reason we filed the lawsuit
in the first place was to stop the money from going away from public
education,” he said. “We won, but how do we resolve that?”
He said Gov. Bobby Jindal promised to “come
up with the money from somewhere,” but every program that can be cut has been.
“In the State of Louisiana, they are
continuing to cut,” Hammonds said. “Now, the voucher program has grown by over
50 percent this year over last year. Last year was $25 million, and this year
is probably $35 million to $40 million. Apparently, he can find, just by
snapping his fingers, and find $40 million when he can’t find the money to fund
these other programs. To get that, though, he has to go back before the Legislature,
because he can’t get it from the MFP. That means it’s going to have to be a
line item appropriation, and if it’s a line item appropriation, that means it
has to be voted on as a part of the appropriations bill.”
Hammonds said, according to what he’s hearing
in Baton Rouge, this coming year’s MFP is “dead on arrival,” because it isn’t
getting much support from either the House or the Senate.
“If they don’t approve the MFP for this year,
then it goes back to the BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education)
Board to try again and see if they approve a revised version,” he said. “If
they don’t, then the law says you go back to the previous year’s MFP. Well, the
previous year’s MFP was the 2012-13 year, which is now been declared
unconstitutional. So that means, I’m assuming, that you go back to the 2011-12
“If you go back to the 2011-12 MFP, then the
money for the vouchers, the money for a number of the charter (schools) was not
in the 2011-12 MFP but was added to the 2012-13 MFP,” he continued. “If you go
back to the 2011-12 MFP, then all those payments that were made in 2012-13
should come back as well.”
One of the arguments in court was there were
too many “objects” in the law, which is on the same basis as Act 1 being
declared unconstitutional. The district court said the topics were related
enough that it didn’t violate the State Constitution. Then, they also reversed
the ruling in district court against the school boards on the issue of whether
the MFP had the force and effect of law. One of the arguments made to the court
was that the MFP, which called for the expenditure of $3.4 billion and went
through the same legislative process, had the same force and effect of law.
“It created certain programs that did not
otherwise exist,” he said. “So the argument was how can a funding formula that
creates a program be any different from a state law that creates a program?
Either way, you’re creating a program and you should follow the same
Procedures he listed included filing it in
the legislature by a certain date, voting on by a certain date and it has to be
voted on by the majority of the House and Senate.
“We argued that [the MFP] should have been
treated as a bill, and it didn’t get filed timely, it wasn’t voted on timely and
it didn’t get the requisite number of votes,” he
said. “The district court ruled against us on that, but the Supreme Court
reversed and ruled in our favor on that too. So in addition to affirming the
ruling on the MFP, they also reversed the ruling against us on whether or not
the MFP really had the force and effect of law.
“And that’s really important, because what
they’re saying is the MFP has to be treated just like any other bill in the
legislature,” he continued. “All the processes in the passage of a bill are now
equally applicable to the approval of the MFP.”
Hammonds believes there are only two possible solutions
to this issue. One is all parties are going to have to come together and figure
out a way to resolve how it’s going to be handled. Those parties include the
BESE Board, the State Department of Education, the Commissioner of Administration
from the Governor’s Office and the school systems.
The other option is to file another lawsuit
to figure out what funding formula is in effect and who owes what.
“Who owes back for the $25 million that was
paid last year?” he asked. “Is it the schools that collected the money? Is it
the state who paid it illegally? We don’t have an answer to any of those
questions, but we’ll just have to look back to see.”
School Board President Will Maddox felt like
the money wouldn’t be seen again.
“I feel like once the money is gone, it’s
gone,” he said.
“If the governor can find $40 million to pay
for the vouchers, then why can’t he find the $25 million to pay you back for
the illegal expenditures made last year?” Hammonds responded.
“That’s a good point,” Maddox said.
Last year, the Louisiana Legislature passed
Acts 1 and 2, a sweeping education reform package that allows students who meet
the criteria to attend schools of their choice through the voucher system, and
also changed the way faculty is evaluated. It also changed many other things,
and once these legislative pieces were passed and signed by the governor,
lawsuits began popping up arguing the unconstitutionality of the changes.
During the 2012 legislative session, teachers from all
over the state flooded Baton Rouge in opposition of the education reform
package. While teachers agreed changes in the education system needed to be
made, this wasn’t the way to do it.
And since its passage, the Claiborne school
system has operated under the confines of the new legislation while they, along
with every other school system, awaited the outcome of the suits in court. Now
that it’s been declared unconstitutional, Central Office will have to just wait
and see what happens.
In other budget news, a motion to approve
Revision 1 of the 2012-13 operating budget was passed unanimously, with
District 4 School Board member Yolanda Coleman absent.
Evans explained some of the revisions in the
budget, including the reduction in the MFP by $369,000 due to the loss of 89
students from February 2012 until February 2013.
Salaries and benefits are still running at
roughly 88 percent, he said, with salaries decreasing by $100,000 and benefits
decreasing by $256,000.
Total revenue was $15,131,000 and total
expenditures were $15,840,000. The excess this year is about $291,000, which is
much better than what the school board has faced over the last three or four
Food service has decreased by $72,000, Evans
“We could only decrease expenses by $20,000, which means
we had a $52,000 turnaround,” he said. “At the end of the budget year that we
had budgeted previously, we were anticipating a fund balance of $32,309. With
this negative $52,000 turnaround, that means we’ll leave the end of the year,
hopefully, with an $84 balance.”
The reason for the decrease, Evans said, is
less participation. They aren’t serving the meals they were serving previously.
Paula Becker, food nutrition supervisor, said it also comes from a reduction in
the number of students they are feeding as well as the increase in cost of
food. With the new nutrition requirements, schools are now required to serve
more fresh fruits and vegetables, which has put a strain on the food service
Although the federal allotment has been
increased, Becker said it still wasn’t enough to fully cover the costs they are
In other news, the school board also approved
a ratification to all personnel actions from July 1, 2012 to present, which
means the school board approved personnel actions during that period of time.
Because Acts 1 and 2 have been declared unconstitutional, this means personnel
actions revert back to the need for approval by the school board.
After the passage of that legislation,
personnel matters were placed into the hands of the superintendent, instead of
by the school board.
Along those same lines, the school board was
happy to approve the appointment of Paul Bean as the principal for Homer High
School. The previous principal, the late Clifton Lewis, fell ill and Mr. Bean
stepped in as interim principal.
Also approved was the appointment of Rhonda
Hatfield as special education supervisor.
With the retirement of Homer Elementary Principal
Debra Winzer, the school board approved to advertise for the elementary
The next school board meeting will be at 6
p.m., June 6, in the board meeting room at Central Office, 415 E. Main Street
in Homer. For more information, or for questions, please call their office at
318-927-3502. Beginning Thursday, May 23, Central Office
hours will change to summer hours, Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. until 4
p.m., and the office will be closed on Fridays.
School board honors 2013 retirees
The Guardian-Journal photo/Michelle Bates
The Claiborne Parish School Board honored its retirees
this year with a reception at Homer City Hall. Each retiree was presented a
plaque in appreciation for their years of service to Claiborne Parish Schools.
All retirees gave a combined 226 years of service to education, with 76 years
outside Claiborne Parish. Pictured at right are, back row from left,
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janice Williams, Denice Owens, Connie Winn, Jack
Bays, and School Board President Will Maddox. Seated, center are Sovella
Thompson and Wanda Merritt. Not pictured are Debra Winzer, Joe Green, Debra
Harmon-Morgan, Bradley Smith, Marilyn Holyfield and Ted Waller.
Town’s health insurance reinstated
Health insurance has been reinstated for the
Town of Homer employees as of May 6.
According to a certificate from Blue Cross
Blue Shield, given to The Guardian-Journal by Homer Police Chief Russell Mills,
it shows the date of the certificate as May 6, 2013.
“This certificate is evidence of your
coverage under this plan,” the statement of HIPAA Portability Rights says.
In the monthly meeting of the Homer Town
Council, retired employee Linda Dean asked Mayor Alecia Smith about their
healthcare coverage, saying her husband had gone to get prescriptions filled
that day and learned they didn’t have healthcare coverage. When she said she
didn’t hear back from anyone at the town office after inquiring about it, she
called the insurance company, where she learned she and her husband had not had
coverage since March 31.
Lt. Roger Smith also spoke up during the
meeting, saying he didn’t have health coverage either.
Mayor Smith assured Dean the insurance
premiums had been paid and held up a piece of paper saying she had the
cancelled check in her hand.
It is not known at this time whether the
insurance termination was due to nonpayment or if there was an issue from the
Chief Mills has requested all the cancelled
checks to show where the premiums were paid, but according to the response from
Town Attorney Marcus Patillo, the chief is not allowed to view or receive
copies of those cancelled checks, stating it’s a violation of “HEAP” laws.
Handwritten on the chief’s request, Patillo writes, “Not public records,
violates ‘HEAP’” And next to the outlined documentation requests, the word,
“No,” is handwritten beside each one.
According to Chief Mills, it is presumed he
meant HIPAA laws, which protect the privacy of an individual’s medical records.
This issue is one in a laundry list of
questions the citizens of Homer have asked Mayor Smith and the council about.
There have been issues with nonpayment of bills, particularly patrol unit
repair services for the police department.
Matt Simmons, owner of Gordon’s Service
Center, has been before the council at least twice in reference to an invoice
that had not been paid. While it has now been paid, Chief Mills said he is now
required to bid out every repair and turn in a purchase order to get repairs
done on his patrol units.
Other questions have come in light of the
town’s budget, the mayor and council’s travel expenses as well as other issues.
It comes on the heels of a meeting in
February in which the town council voted to disband the police department and
do away with term limits for the mayor and council’s positions. An injunction
was filed which stopped the council from being able to enforce its vote to
disband the police department and in March, Second Judicial District Judge
Jimmy Teat ruled in favor of Chief Mills and his department.
Four days later, Chief Mills, in his capacity
as a voting citizen of Homer, filed a suit against the town citing open
meetings law violations in its attempt to do away with term limits. In 2002, a
referendum vote squashed the council’s earlier attempt to do away with term
Also, an amended petition is still pending in
court regarding the police department’s budget, where, according to the
petition, Chief Mills believes the town was attempting to slash his budget to
the extent to render the department inoperable.
The council withdrew its vote to disband the
police department, withdrew its vote to do away with term limits and also
withdrew its introduction of an ordinance regarding the police department.
The hearing on the pending petition is this
Thursday, May 16, at 9:30 a.m. at the Claiborne Parish Courthouse.
Homer Lions Chicken Charbroil set for May 24
The Homer Lions Club is selling tickets for
this year’s Chicken Charbroil! Tickets are $7, and plates include chicken,
beans, potato salad, bread and a dessert. Plates can be picked up in the
parking lot at Regions Bank 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. If you have not gotten your
ticket(s), please contact any Lions Club member to get them!
Police budget hearing set for this Thursday
The hearing regarding the amended petition
filed by Homer Police Chief Russell Mills against the Town of Homer and Mayor
Alecia Smith is this Thursday at the Claiborne Parish Courthouse.
Filed March 4, the suit alleges the town
council attempted to slash Chief Mills’ budget so drastically that the police
department would not be able to operate by introducing an ordinance to amend
the 2013 budget in regards to the police department.
While the council had tabled the introduction
of that ordinance later the same day in its regular meeting, it was completely
rescinded in the monthly meeting on April 4. The town then filed an exception
claiming the issues before the court at that time were moot. Pam Breedlove,
attorney for Chief Mills, filed a memorandum of opposition to the exception,
saying the actions weren’t moot as claimed by the town’s defense.
“Instead of immediately withdrawing the
ordinance, the Town continued its manipulations both before and after it
finally withdrew the ordinance,” she states in the memorandum. “The mayor is
refusing to pay standard police expenses and is attempting to prevent Chief
Mills from properly operating the police department by interfering with his
budget and expenditures in violation of state law effectively altering the
police department appropriations without [formally] amending the budget.”
On Saturday, March 2, the council introduced
Ordinance 13-003, the ordinance aforementioned, and then on March 4, the evening
of the council’s regular meeting, Town Attorney Marcus Patillo said the
ordinance would be tabled. However, the council never made a motion, seconded
or agreed to table the introduced ordinance. It was then in April the council
withdrew and recalled its vote to introduce the ordinance.
This hearing comes on the heels of the last
suit Mills filed when the town improperly tried to do away with term limits for
the mayor and the council. The council previously withdrew its vote to do away
with the term limits in a meeting before the hearing.
The term limit suit was filed March 8, just
days after the court ruled in favor of Chief Mills, effectively stopping the
disbandment of the police department. The council voted in February to disband
the police department, citing budget over runs, concerns of leadership and
numerous pending lawsuits. Within hours, an injunction was filed on Mills
behalf to stop the enforcement of the council’s vote until a hearing could be
Multi-agency investigation nets drug arrests
Seven people have been arrested following a
five-month investigation by the Claiborne Narcotic Enforcement Team (CNET).
On May 10, all seven were arrested for
distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, cocaine or marijuana.
In January, CNET initiated an investigation
into the distribution of controlled dangerous substances in areas east of
This investigation led to the arrests of:
• Evelyn Winzer, of 330 Franklin Estate Road
in Homer, for two counts of distribution of Schedule I CDS marijuana
• Clifford R. Crew, of 330 Franklin Estate
Road in Homer, for one count of distribution of Schedule I CDS marijuana
• David W. Casey, 23016 La. Highway 2 in
Homer, for two counts of distribution Schedule II CDS cocaine
• Charles Casey, of 23016 La. Highway 2 in
Homer, for one count of distribution of Schedule II CDS cocaine
• George E. Shelton, of 22949 La. Highway 2
in Homer, for one count of distribution of Schedule I CDS marijuana and two
counts of distribution of Schedule II CDS cocaine
• Denetria Patterson, of 238 Green Road in
Homer, for one count of distribution of Schedule II CDS cocaine, and
• Demarius D. Willis, for four counts of
distribution of Schedule II CDS cocaine.
Additionally, CNET served two search warrants
on the same date. The first warrant was served at 330 Franklin Estate Road, the
residence of Evelyn Winzer and Clifford Crew. This search led to the seizure of
the Schedule I controlled dangerous substance marijuana, two firearms and other
This led to additional charges against Winzer
for possession with intent to distribute marijuana and illegal possession of a
Clifford Crew was charged with possession
with intent to distribute marijuana. Winzer was later booked into the Claiborne
Parish Women’s Jail with bond to be set. Crew was later booked into the
Claiborne Parish Detention Center with bond to be set.
The second search warrant was served at 238
Green Road in Homer, the residence of Demarius Willis and Denetria Patterson.
This search led to the seizure of marijuana, cocaine and two firearms.
Willis was additionally charged with
possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine and illegal possession of a
Patterson was charged with possession of
marijuana and possession of cocaine.
Willis was booked into CPDC with bond to be
set, and Patterson was booked into the Claiborne Parish Women’s Jail with bond
to be set.
Sheriff Ken Bailey stated that
operations like this take a lot of time, determination, hard work and money.
These cases were initiated and worked by Agent James Spillers, Detectives
Adrian Malone and Darren Keel.
Additionally, Sgt. Van McDaniel, of the Homer Police
Department, was a major asset to this investigation.
“As I have said many times in the past, the
cooperation that occurs daily between law enforcement agencies in Claiborne
Parish is a major tool in our fight against crime,” Sheriff Bailey said. “The
other tool in this fight is public assistance. Information that we receive from
the good citizens of Claiborne Parish is why law enforcement can succeed in
investigations like this.”
Sheriff Bailey, Haynesville Police Chief
Anthony Smith and Homer Police Chief Russell Mills encourage the public to
notify area law enforcement agencies of any suspicious or illegal activity that
is going on in their neighborhoods.
Concerned citizens can call CNET at
318-927-9800, the Homer Police Department at 318-927-4000, the Haynesville
Police Department at 318-624-1355, or the Claiborne Parish Sheriff’s Office at
Any and all information is considered
confidential and is greatly appreciated.
School board a step closer to ‘unitary’ status
The Claiborne Parish School Board is one step
closer to being declared a unitary school system.
In Thursday night’s board meeting, the school
board unanimously granted permission for Attorney Bob Hammonds, of Hammonds and
Sills, to move forward with asking the federal court to declare Claiborne
District 4 School Board Member Yolanda
Coleman was absent.
“We met on April 30 regarding this matter,”
said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janice Williams. “There was a lot of
discussion regarding unity status, and we’re here now for the board to make the
final decision as to whether or not they wish Mr. Hammonds to proceed with
filing unitary status. We have worked diligently since 2009 to try to keep
everything in force and in place per the agreement.”
The motion was made by District 7 School
Board Member Tommy Davidson and seconded by District 4 School Board Member Dr.
Robert Haynes. The motion was passed with a roll call vote, with 8 yeas, one
nay (by District 10 School Board Member B. Stewart Griffin) and one absent.
District 2 School Board Member Linda Knox
asked what will be done about setting policies once the case goes before the
court. School Board President Will Maddox suggested getting all its policies
and procedures in place before it goes before the court; however, Hammonds
suggested waiting to do that until a final ruling has been made. Hammonds said
it would take some time to set those policies, suggesting it would take at
least three months, if not longer.
“I don’t think you have to be in a huge rush,
because it is going to take a little bit of time,” Hammonds said.
Griffin asked about the kind of policies that
would have to be put into place.
“We need to need to know what we’re doing and
how it’s going to work in our system,” he said.
Hammonds cautioned that even though he will
file a motion to declare unitary status, it doesn’t mean the court will grant
“If you do all that work to change the
policies and the motion is denied, all that work was for naught,” Hammonds
said. “So it may be better to see if you can get it first and if you can get
it, then you can sit down and start looking at the policy changes that you want
to make for the future.
“What this will do, if the court approves
your motion, then your long-standing lawsuit is over and dismissed,” he continued. “And at
that time, the control of the school system is returned to the board. Then at
that time, the board can adopt the policies and procedures that they feel are
best for the children of Claiborne Parish.”
Currently, in order to change policies and
procedures, the board has to have court approval. If unitary status is granted,
that will no longer be the case.
Some school systems were never sued in a
desegregation case, he said, which means they never lost the power to set
policies and procedures. If Claiborne’s motion is granted, then it will cease to
become an issue of “race” and will become an issue of what’s best for the
students of Claiborne Parish schools.
The issue of the teacher ratios was brought
up, and Hammonds said with the unitary status, those ratios could no longer be
based on race.
“The ratios (black/white teacher ratios)
can’t be based on race,” Hammonds
said. “What you have to do is look at the issues of diversity and other things.
Once you’re declared unitary, no decisions can be based on race. You have to
look at what’s best for the system, what’s best for the schools and you can’t
look at it from the perspective of white or black.”
In 2009, the Claiborne Parish School Board
worked diligently to begin complying with a court order that it desegregate its
schools. The order stems from a lawsuit filed in the 1970s, in which the courts
ruled the school system segregated, and in order to become a unitary system, it
had to comply with certain criteria.
Staff at Central Office worked hard to make
sure its residency requirements met the requirements of the court order and
that the teacher ratios were in compliance at each school in the parish --
among other things.
Claiborne schools had to comply with this
order for three years, and it has gone above and beyond, following those same
guidelines into a fourth year, of which it will continue to do so until the
motion to be declared unitary is approved by the courts.
The agreement was written in order for the
court to be able to give any objections from year to year, and it has yet to
object to anything Claiborne has done to meet the guidelines of the agreement.
However, the school board will still have to file its reports until a ruling is
made in the matter.
Talent Expo this Friday
The BCG Talent Expo will be held this Friday,
May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Claiborne Parish Fair Complex in Haynesville.
Local celebrities that will be performing are
Julie Bray - local singer, songwriter, guitarist; Tim Crittendon, local
saxophonist; and Charles Hudson - poet, author.
Finalists that will be performing are Elisha
Robinson, Andrea Kirkindoff and Destined, Sierra Willis, Praise Dancers
sponsored by Marco French, Kaiya Jones, Jakiriya Hunter and Lorin Taylor.
Tickets are available from any finalist and
from BCG workers for $5.
This event is sponsored by the Boys and Girls
Club of the Timber Ridge.
Jubilee is Memorial Day weekend
Artists, Chairs, Quilters and Vendors Sought for the
The Claiborne Jubilee will be held May 25 on
the Courthouse lawn and in the Homer City Hall. Art exhibits, vendors,
musicians and a special Memorial Day Weekend observance will all be held
outside weather permitting and in the City Hall in case of rain. The quilt
exhibit will be inside in any case. Viewers’ Choice judging will be closed in
the City Hall at 2 pm and quilts may be taken away between 2:30 and 4 pm.
Music and presentations will be held on the
northeast corner of the lawn where seating will be available. Those entering
art works to be judged should bring them between 8 and 10 am to the south lawn
for judging at 10:30. Art in all media and by all ages is welcome. Children may
enter up to three pieces for no charge. The entry fees for those 18 and older
are $6 each or $20 for four pieces.
The popular art chair auction will be open
for silent bids until 2 pm. Anyone who would like to decorate a chair to donate
for the auction may use their own or request one to use. All completed chairs
must be submitted by Wednesday, May 22.
For more information on the Jubilee please
contact Cynthia Steele at 927-2566 or .